Robert De Niro’s ex-assistant calls his back scratch requests ‘creepy’

Graham Chase Robinson (left) and Robert de Niro (right) are pictured each departing federal court on 30 October 30, 2023 in New York City (David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)
Graham Chase Robinson (left) and Robert de Niro (right) are pictured each departing federal court on 30 October 30, 2023 in New York City (David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

Robert De Niro’s former employee, Graham Chase Robinson, took the stand on Friday and recalled several instances in which she says the Oscar-winning actor made requests that made her physically uncomfortable.

Ms Robinson said she protested against De Niro’s requests that she scratch his back a few times, reminding him that he had a back scratcher. She claimed that he had responded by telling her: “I like the way you do it.”

Ms Robinson said she found De Niro’s requests “creepy” and “just disgusting.”

Her testimony was part of her $12m (£9.9m) workplace discrimination lawsuit, in which she’s accused the Goodfellas actor, 80, of gender discrimination, retaliation, “extreme emotional distress and reputational harm”.

De Niro is also countersuing Ms Robinson, for allegedly stealing cash, gift cards, electronic equipment and five million air miles from his company Canal Productions, before she quit in 2019 after repeatedly clashing with his girlfriend Tiffany Chen.

While on the witness stand on Tuesday, De Niro said the back-scratching requests possibly occurred “twice”, adding: "You got me! I’m saying this is nonsense” and stating that the requests were “never done with any disrespect.”

On Friday, Ms Robinson also alleged that De Niro called her a “b***h”, which she found upsetting.

“It’s very demeaning and hurtful when you’re just trying to do your job,” Ms Robinson told the court.

She alleged that the Oscar winner criticised her by saying that her job title wasn’t as important as his public opinion of her. “Titles don’t matter, it’s what I say about you that does,” she said that De Niro told her.

During her testimony, she detailed to the court the gendered tasks she was required to do, which included handling De Niro’s New York City townhouse rental and fetching gifts for his children and family, among other things. She further claimed that a male colleague, whose job was equivalent to hers, was paid more than her.

De Niro has denied Ms Robinson’s claims, with his lawyers stating that when the plaintiff was promoted in 2017, her duties of handling his personal and professional life stayed the same.

Ms Robinson was hired by De Niro in 2008 as an executive assistant. Over the course of her 11-year employment, she was promoted to Director of Production over his company Canal Productions in 2011, and to Vice President of Production and Finance in 2017, before she quit in 2019.

When asked what she’s lost in the four years since she left her role, Ms Robinson told the court: “I lost my life, my career, financial independence. I lost everything.”

On Thursday, De Niro’s girlfriend Ms Chen took the stand and called Ms Robinson “psychotic,” comparing her to the character from Single White Female.

The proceedings are continuing in Manhattan federal court.