Barack Obama honours gives Medal of Freedom to Robert De Niro, who recently said he wanted to punch Donald Trump

Tom Hanks, Bruce Springsteen, Ellen De Generes and Michael Jordan are also being awarded

Olivia Blair
Thursday 17 November 2016 11:15
Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro

As his final weeks in office approach, President Barack Obama has announced the name of the people who will receive the presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian honour a president can award.

On the list of 21 key people from entertainment, sport, entrepreneurship activism and academia is Robert De Niro – the man who recently said he wanted to punch incoming president Donald Trump in the face.

Ahead of the US election, the Taxi Driver actor was asked to feature in a non-partisan video encouraging young people to vote. Instead, he turned it into a minute-long rant against the Republican candidate hurling a range of insults at him before culminating with: "I'd like to punch him in the face".

After Mr Trump's shock victory, De Niro conceded he would not be punching Mr Trump given his new status as President-elect, saying he respects the position of presidency.

Other high-profile recipients of the award include outspoken Trump critics Tom Hanks, who previously said the real-estate mogul's lewd comments about women offended him personally and Bruce Springsteen who called him a "moron" and branded his political rise "a tragedy for democracy" before he was even elected.

Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, Motown legend Diana Ross, former basketball champions Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Redford will also receive the accolade at a White House ceremony on 22 November, the White House said on Wednesday.

“The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation's highest civilian honour - it's a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better,” Mr Obama said in a statement.

The medal is awarded on an annual basis to people who have made outstanding contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavours.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda will be awarded for their philanthropic foundation. The group also includes noted figures such as the late Native American community leader Elouise Cobell and NASA computer scientist Margaret H. Hamilton.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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