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Robert De Niro’s girlfriend claims assistant was a ‘psychotic single white female’

Tiffany Chen said the employee had an ‘imaginary intimacy’ with the famous actor in fiery testimony

Bevan Hurley
at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan US Courthouse
Friday 03 November 2023 10:17 GMT
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Robert De Niro admits he 'berated' his former assistant

Robert De Niro’s girlfriend Tiffany Chen declared his former personal assistant “psychotic” and “dangerous,” and said the employee had an “imaginary intimacy” with the famous actor in fiery testimony on Thursday.

Ms Chen testified in a $12m (£9.9m) workplace discrimination lawsuit brought by Graham Chase Robinson that accuses the Oscar-winning actor of causing her “extreme emotional distress and reputational harm”.

The Goodfellas actor is counter suing Ms Robinson for allegedly stealing cash, gift cards, electronic equipment and $450,000 worth of air miles from his company Canal Productions, before she quit in 2019 after repeatedly clashing with Ms Chen.

Ms Chen took the witness box on Thursday in the Manhattan courtroom, where she admitted issuing De Niro with an ultimatum to get rid of Ms Robinson after the two women had repeatedly sparred over catering arrangements on private jet flights, refurbishments at their townhouse and a perceived lack of respect.

Ms Chen likened her boyfriend’s former assistant to the lead character from the 1992 psychological thriller Single White Female.

Ms Robinson was “obsessive, psychotic and dangerous”, Ms Chen agreed.

Robert De Niro and his girlfriend Tiffany Chen (AFP via Getty Images)

She was visibly angered as the court was shown screeds of her personal text and emails with De Niro, where she effectively told the actor he had to choose between her and Ms Robinson.

Repeatedly asked if she had in fact written the texts, Ms Chen replied: “Yeah, I wrote it.”

The situation deteriorated when the couple moved into a new townhouse in 2018, the court heard. De Niro publicly separated from his ex-wife, Grace Hightower, in November 2018.

Robinson, pictured, sued De Niro, with the actor countersuing (Getty Images)

In a 2019 text to De Niro, Ms Chen wrote: “Her possessive manner over the house makes me very uncomfortable. Her sense of entitlement stems from this imagined intimacy she has with you.”

Adding: “She thinks she’s your wife and decided to be the lady of the house.”

Asked if she thought Ms Robinson believed she was in a relationship with De Niro, she told the court: “I think she knows she’s not but that’s what makes her angry because she’s striving to be.”

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“She definitely thinks she’s in charge of everyone,” Chen said.

In an exchange on 3 March 2019 shown to the court, Ms Chen told De Niro she had “had it with Chase’s bulls***”.

“This is all because CHASE is a straight up Nasty B****,” Chen wrote.

“If you keep her you and I will eventually have problems because you have allowed her to become disrespectful to you and now she’s telling you what she will do and what her job is.”

Ms Robinson appeared unmoved in court as Ms Chen launched her astonishing verbal assault. The pair avoided eye contact throughout her nearly four hour-long testimony.

Ms Chen told how she clashed with Ms Robinson while planning a birthday party for Martin Scorcese, De Niro’s longtime friend and collaborator, at their townhouse in November 2018.

Ms Chen said she asked for help setting up the party, and found Ms Robinson “very angry, very territorial”.

Ms Chen said she was aware Ms Robinson had a longstanding relationship with De Niro, and she didn’t want to “get between whatever their relationship was”.

“I didn’t know how well she knew his friends.”

In a separate 2019 text exchange, Ms Chen told De Niro: “I’m not gonna be happy until you tell me she is looking for her replacement. I’ll wait to see what you do but keeping her around is just a slap in my face.”

A courtroom sketch of De Niro’s testimony earlier this week (AP)

Ms Chen also texted Michael Kaplan, a former employee of Canal Productions who testified in the trial, that Ms Robinson had gone into the bedroom of the couple’s townhouse and unplugged all of her electronics.

“The whole situation has become very Single White Female,” Ms Chen wrote.

Asked to elaborate, Ms Chen said she was referring to a woman who is “obsessive, crazy, and dangerous”.

She testified that she believed Ms Robinson fantasised about being in a relationship with the actor.

“I believed she lived her whole life as a fantasy,” Chen said.

“If her fantasies are going to infringe on my personal life… I’m going to make it difficult for her.”

Ms Chen told the court: “She was attached to the control she thought she had in this dynamic.”

She added that Ms Robinson was a “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hide” character, who would change completely in De Niro’s presence to “confuse the situation”.

Ms Chen was also asked about a private jet flight home from a holiday in Antigua in early 2019 when she and De Niro learned Ms Robinson had specifically ordered the flight attendants that no catering be provided.

In a text to De Niro, she said: “I’m concerned that her nasty alter ego will cause serious future problems if she isn’t called out now.”

“She’s a mean, insecure, territorial girl and her behaviour hasn’t just affected me, she does it to everyone in your life in different ways,” Chen wrote.

Ms Chen had to be reined in by Judge Lewis Liman on several occasions after giving long-winded answers that didn’t relate to the question.“Please try to confine yourself to answer what is asked,” the judge told her. 

Ms Chen met the Oscar winner in 2015 on the set of The Intern, but the pair didn’t go public with their relationship until 2021. The court heard that they had wanted to keep the relationship quiet.

Ms Robinson is expected to take the stand on Friday.

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