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'I have to say something': Robert De Niro talks 'dire' political situation at the SAG Awards

Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY

Robert De Niro used his Screen Actors Guild Awards speech to explain why he's never one to shy away from using his platform to make political statements.

Accepting the 2020 Life Achievement Award, De Niro thanked SAG-AFTRA for "fighting tirelessly for our workplace and economic gains and respect. And he said that especially bears remembering these days when there's so much hostility toward unions. 

"Political leaders who support unions are more likely to support the Affordable Care Act, equitable taxes, humane immigration regulations, a safe environment, a diverse citizenry, reproductive rights, sensible gun control and fair wages and benefits," the actor said to applause. 

He added: "We owe them our support and we owe them our vote." 

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Robert De Niro accepts the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.

De Niro, 76, acknowledged that not everyone watching would be thrilled with his discussing politics. 

"But we're in such a dire situation, so deeply concerning to me and to so many others, I have to say something," he said. "There's right and there's wrong and there's common sense and there's abuse of power. And as a citizen, I have as much right as anybody – an actor, an athlete, a musician, anybody else – to voice my opinion. And if I have a bigger voice because of my situation, I'm going to use it whenever I see blatant abuse of power." 

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Though he didn't address him by name at the SAG Awards, De Niro is a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, frequently speaking out about impeachment and declaring he "can't wait to see (Trump) in jail.

"We have a gangster president who thinks he can do anything he wants," De Niro told The Guardian in October. "The problem is, if he actually gets away with it, then we all have a problem. The gall of the people around him who actually defend him, these Republicans, is appalling, and we must do something about it.”

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: SAG Awards 2020: Robert De Niro talks 'dire' political situation