Robert De Niro’s former assistant has said she was “really scared” to speak out about alleged gender discrimination at his company because she was “afraid of what he would do” in retaliation.
Graham Chase Robinson, 41, held a tissue to her face and appeared emotional as she said she also worried no one would take her word for it against the Oscar-winning actor during their $12 million lawsuit on Tuesday.
Jurors at Manhattan Federal Court heard more details about her feud with De Niro, 80, who testified earlier in the trial, and his girlfriend Tiffany Chen, 64, who Robinson previously called a “psycho.”
Under cross-examination by her own attorney Brent Hannafan, Robinson said she “feared” the potential consequences of speaking out about alleged discrimination she faced in her $300,000 role as De Niro’s vice president of production and finance.
Graham Chase Robinson is pictured outside Manhattan Federal Court on Monday. During Tuesday’s hearing, she claimed she was too afraid to report her former boss Robert De Niro’s alleged abuse for fear he would destroy her career.
When Hannafan asked why she didn’t file internal complaints about gender discrimination at Canal Productions before resigning and filing a civil suit in the fall of 2019, Robinson said, “I was really afraid of what would happen if I did that.”
‘I was afraid that filing a formal complaint would be tantamount to loading a gun and then pointing it at me.
‘I feared for my reputation. I was very scared.’
Robinson claims De Niro made her do stereotypically feminine work while paying her less than male colleagues, making “creepy” requests for her to scratch his back.
The Taxi Driver star has denied her claims and has filed a $6 million counterclaim as Robinson claims she abused company benefits by racking up five million air miles for her personal vacations just before she left after watching Netflix during work hours.
De Niro is pictured giving evidence in court last week. On Tuesday, his lawyers suggested the star’s request for back pain was not sexist
The court previously heard that Robinson asked De Niro for a hefty compensation package after she resigned in April 2019 – including a $600,000 severance package, five letters of recommendation and a press release about her departure.
On Tuesday, Robinson said her request for the press release was an attempt to protect her future in the entertainment industry.
“I was worried about my reputation,” she said.
“Bob said my career was in his hands. I was afraid he might make good on his threats to give me a bad recommendation.
“I felt that the way I left Canal, I could have been discredited by Tiffany (Chen),” Robinson added.
“I wanted to make sure it was clear that I wasn’t fired.”
Robinson began working for Canal in 2008, after starting as an executive assistant with a salary of $75,000, before rising to vice president of production and finance with a salary of $300,000 at the time of her departure in April 2019.
De Niro leaves the court last Thursday. Robinson is suing him for $12 million, claiming he is a sexist, retaliatory boss. He denies the allegations and is suing her for $6 million
During her final months with De Niro and as their relationship deteriorated, Robinson secretly recorded more than 40 hours of phone conversations she had with other employees.
On Tuesday, she defended her choice to make the secret recordings as a means to catch witnesses who weren’t telling the truth — but De Niro’s lawyers used one phone call to expose an apparent lie of their own.
Robinson previously characterized De Niro as a boss who flew off the handle and regularly yelled at her.
But under cross-examination by De Niro’s attorney, Richard Schoenstein, a snippet of her own audio recording was played Tuesday, which revealed that she told a colleague in 2019 that “Bob has yelled at me before, but not in the last four or five years’ .
“The reason you made those recordings was to catch people when they were lying,” Schoenstein said.
“It was one of the reasons,” Robinson admitted.
“That’s all,” said Schoenstein.
The former assistant claimed that in the audio recording she referenced a “specific type of shouting” that De Niro allegedly made on behalf of someone else, such as Chen.
Robinson also admitted that the recordings were “embarrassing” and she “regrets” calling Chen a “psycho” and “drunk on power” to other colleagues during the audio played earlier for jurors.
“I don’t know what to say other than I wish I hadn’t said those things,” she said.
“But I also wish I hadn’t been put in the position of having a nervous breakdown.”
Robinson said she made the recordings because she felt like she “wouldn’t be believed.”
‘A big fear of mine was that Bob would be believed because he is Robert De Niro.
“Part of me is very happy that I did this (filed the lawsuit), but it has come at a huge cost to me and my friendships.
“I didn’t want it to be a ‘he said, she said.’ I wanted proof of what happened.”
De Niro will be photographed in Manhattan on November 3. The lawsuit has proven to be extremely embarrassing for the famous actor
Jurors also heard from expert witness Dr. Robert L. Goldstein, who diagnosed Robinson with generalized anxiety disorder related to her work at Canal.
The practicing psychiatrist said Robinson suffered from the “severe and often debilitating mental illness” after evaluating her in January 2019 and reviewing more than three years of medical records.
He said she suffered from symptoms such as insomnia and memory loss, and “experienced a lot of psychological pain and emotional discomfort,” which began while she was employed by De Niro.
When asked what the trigger for this mental condition was, he said, “Her perception of discrimination and retaliation at her workplace.”
Dr. Goldstein said Robinson would need long-term psychotherapy combined with medications to “improve her level of functioning.”
On Monday, Chase Robinson’s lawyers said she received a text message over the weekend labeling her a “dirty little animal” for targeting the 80-year-old star.
They said the message came from an unknown number, but that a feature on Chase Robinson’s iPhone suggested it was sent from a phone belonging to one of De Niro’s children.
The trial will continue and jurors will hear evidence from Robinson’s mother later on Tuesday.