With no context or setup, the venerated actor walked out on stage and said, "I'm just going to say one thing: F--k Trump!" his outburst was met with a standing ovation, and De Niro quickly added, "It's no longer 'Down with Trump.' It's 'F--k Trump!" He then casually introduced Bruce Springsteen.
"Fox & Friends" host Brian Kilmeade was quick to criticize De Niro's outburst, saying, "Robert De Niro -- probably a good actor -- [used] last night's platform at the Tony Awards to leave the prompter to say this about the president." He then replayed the moment.
"Good job. Another reason not to watch 'Meet the Parents' or 'Meet the Parents 2,'" Kilmeade added before asking Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright if he thought De Niro's remarks were "over the top."
"I probably wouldn't [have] used the choice of Sunday school words that he used last night; however, I do think he speaks to the frustration and anger of a lot of people in this country on the left and the right.
"But if you are surprised or pissed off about the language he used, then you have to look at the President of the United States and some of the language he's used, calling NFL players 'SOBS,' 'Shithole countries,' 'rapists and thugs' for Mexicans. I mean, this type of language is accepted in Trump's America."
"What about the tone?" Kilmeade asked Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe. "Does this show he has a limited vocabulary if you don't give him a script?"
"Absolutely," she replied. "It just shows how feckless the resistance movement is. They offer no solutions, they offer no substance, and so what they do is resort to using the F-bomb and the C-word, like what we saw with Samantha Bee. I think it's pathetic, and all it does is embolden President Trump and bring more people into his camp."
MSNBC's "Morning Joe" followed suit, with Joe Scarborough calling De Niro's comment "the lowlight of the evening." As he spoke, Mika Brzezinski shook her head in disapproval at De Niro.
"If people that applauded De Niro's statement last night don't understand that they are helping Donald Trump's reelection every time they do something like that, they don't understand," Scarborough said, claiming that they were misunderstanding Michelle Obama's "when they go low, we go high" for weakness.
"If your goal is to take down the president, it's the wrong way to do it," added MSNBC correspondent Kasie Hunt. You're playing right into his hands in many ways.
MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle
The MSNBC anchor dove into the controversy Monday morning, and concluded that De Niro's approach to bashing Trump is not very effective, even though she admitted she understands the president's critics' frustration and added, "I'm sure I shout some of those words in the shower."
"But when you think about what Americans care about, they care about the economy, they care about health care, they care about issues. And many of them believe, whether he is or isn't, that he's delivering for them. When you see celebrities say I hope the economy bottoms out to get rid of Trump, I think that helps Trump," she said.
She also shamed comedian Bill Maher for saying on his HBO show Friday night that he's hoping for another economic crash so Americans will vote Trump out of office.
"People stop believing what the media tells them when they see media superstars say things like let the economy fail," Ruhle said. "My family can't afford for the economy to fail. They could hate the president but they need to support themselves."
As expected, Meghan McCain came out swinging against De Niro on Monday morning during her daytime talk show's Hot Topics discussion.
"I thought it was gross and I think that when you're talking about how Trump is degrading our national discourse with his language, this is not the way to combat Trump," she said
"It only helps him," McCain continued. "You have Bill Maher over the weekend saying I think one way to get rid of Trump is crashing the economy, so please bring on the recession. Samantha Bee's comments about Ivanka Trump, it rallies, it's like a siren song for the right."
"Turn on Fox News right now, I'm sure this is just on repeat," she rightfully added. "It gets very tribal and this is not the way to combat it. If he had something to say about Trump, he's an eloquent, well known actor, I'm sure he could say a lot of things about Democracy and freedom -- much like we did a the top of this show -- that would have been a lot more effective."