Actor Robert De Niro erupted on the witness stand on Tuesday, forcefully chastising his former personal assistant who’s suing him for allegedly being an abusive boss.
“Shame on you, Chase Robinson!” the Oscar-winning actor shouted across the packed Manhattan federal courtroom to his former employee, Graham Chase Robinson. The outburst came after Robinson’s lawyer asked De Niro whether he’d ever audibly urinated while on the phone with his executive assistant.
“Give me a break with this stuff. You got us all here for this?” he added, according to Deadline. “I don’t take liberties with people who work for me.”
In the New York civil trial, eight jurors are tasked with determining the validity of two lawsuits pertaining to Robinson’s 11-year stint with the Raging Bull actor. In a $12 million lawsuit alleging gender discrimination, Robinson claimed that De Niro treated her as an “office wife” and subjected her to everything from unwanted physical contact to verbal harassment to vulgar comments. She finally quit her post as De Niro’s vice president of production and finance in 2019 after an alleged dispute with the Taxi Driver star’s girlfriend, Tiffany Chen. Afterward, the lawsuit alleges, De Niro refused to give Robinson a reference because of her clashes with Chen.
De Niro and his company, Canal Productions, also filed a lawsuit against Robinson, alleging that she improperly used the corporate card on personal vacations and other expenses. That lawsuit also alleges that Robinson transferred approximately $450,000 in frequent-flier miles to her personal account after she quit her job.
Both De Niro and Robinson have denied the allegations against them.
“This trial will be like a movie but forgive me, there is no popcorn,” Richard C. Schoenstein, a lawyer for De Niro, told jurors during his Monday opening arguments. “This is not the story of a helpless woman subject to discrimination by her employer.”
As the trial’s first witness, De Niro was subjected to a slew of questions about his workplace policies, including allegations that his former assistant was always “on call.”
On Monday, De Niro insisted that he only called Robinson during “civilized hours” and that her job description included arranging his travel, managing gifts, and organizing his schedule. He later admitted that Robinson was once his emergency contact, a responsibility that not even his ex-wife had when they were married.
“I asked her to do anything within reason—within the confines of her job,” De Niro said. He described Robinson on Monday as a “good worker” who he “relied” on for years until she abruptly quit her job amid an internal investigation into her company spending.
De Niro insisted on the stand that Robinson’s allegations—and her lawyer Andrew Macurdy’s questions—were “nonsense.” Robinson’s attorney then asked De Niro about specific instances of alleged misconduct, including claims that he hurled insults at her and asked for a back scratch.
The actor admitted on Tuesday that he may have called Robinson a “spoiled brat” or a “bitch” over the years. He also admitted that, maybe, he called Robinson once at 11 p.m. to order him a Nobu martini.
As for the back scratch, De Niro insisted, he only made the request twice—but only because the itch was in an unreachable spot. But he argued that he was never abusive toward his long-time employee.
“She implies that she’s out in front of the building on her knees, scrubbing the floor,” he said on Tuesday. “There was never any lewdness, or disrespect, or weirdness that you’re trying to imply.”