Robert De Niro Admits Back Scratch Request, Berates Ex-Assistant in $12M Trial

De Niro faces intense scrutiny in discrimination trial.

by David Coppini
Robert De Niro Admits Back Scratch Request, Berates Ex-Assistant in $12M Trial
© Kevin Winter/GettyImages

In a high-stakes court battle that has captured the public's attention, Robert De Niro has conceded that he did, in fact, ask his former assistant to scratch his back. The admission came during a heated exchange in a Manhattan courtroom as the 80-year-old actor defended himself against accusations of discrimination and mistreatment.

The legal confrontation, which has been ongoing for four years, reached a boiling point on Monday as the trial officially commenced. Graham Chase Robinson, De Niro’s former employee, has accused the actor of gender discrimination during her time at Canal Productions, De Niro’s company.

The firm initially brought a lawsuit against Robinson, alleging she had misappropriated company funds. However, the tables turned when Robinson filed a $12 million counterclaim, accusing De Niro of abusive behavior, including making misogynistic comments and subjecting her to unwanted physical contact.

De Niro's Heated Testimony

On Tuesday, the courtroom saw De Niro’s temperament flare as he answered questions about his alleged misconduct toward Robinson. The actor, known for his powerful on-screen presence, did not hold back as he addressed the court, vehemently denying the majority of the allegations.

However, he did acknowledge that he had asked Robinson to scratch his back on two occasions, though he insisted it was never done with any malicious intent. Robinson, who began working for De Niro in 2008 and eventually rose to the role of vice-president at Canal Productions, claims that she was treated like an “office wife” and was subjected to demeaning tasks, such as washing De Niro’s sheets.

She further alleges that she was paid less than her male counterparts. In contrast, Canal Productions’ lawsuit alleges that Robinson misused company funds, accusing her of transferring airline miles worth over $450,000 to her personal account, among other improper expenditures.

Tuesday's trial proceedings were intense, with De Niro spending over five hours on the stand. He admitted to asking Robinson to fetch him a martini via Uber from Nobu sushi lounge late at night and defended calling her a “spoiled brat,” explaining he was upset she had failed to wake him for an appointment.

As both sides presented their arguments, moments of tension were interspersed with lighter interludes, including De Niro making a quip about impeachment that elicited laughter from the courtroom. Nevertheless, the trial’s high-profile nature and the serious allegations at its center ensure that it will remain under close scrutiny as it continues to unfold.

Robert De Niro