Robert De Niro joked that America isn't "ready for a white first lady" at a fundraiser for President Obama, which got presidential candidate Newt Gingrich up in arms.
De Niro and his wife Grace Hightower hosted the fundraiser on Monday night in New York City and the actor asked the crowd, "Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney... Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?" Following the applause, De Niro joked, "Too soon, right?"
"What De Niro said last night was inexcusable and the president should apologize for him. It was at an Obama fundraiser, it is exactly wrong," Gingrich said at a campaign stop in Shreveport, La, according to ABC News. "The country is ready for a new first lady, and he doesn't have to describe it in racial terms."
Gingrich believed that the president himself should be accountable for the comment, remarking, "When someone at his event says something as utterly and totally unacceptable as Robert De Niro said last night. And I call on the president to apologize for him."
While Obama didn't apologize, Michelle's press secretary said in a statement, "We believe the joke was inappropriate."
Meanwhile, De Niro's publicist told the Associated Press, "It was obvious satire."
Proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit the Obama Victory Fund, which gives money to both the Obama campaign and Democratic National Committee. De Niro donated at least $3,300 to the democratic campaigns of Barack Obama and United States Senator Al Franken in 2008.
De Niro, 68, and his wife Grace Hightower welcomed a baby girl via a surrogate mother in December. The baby is the couple's second child together. De Niro and his wife, who is 56 years old, also have a 13-year-old son named Elliot.
The two-time Oscar winner is known for movies such as "The Godfather: Part II," "Taxi Driver," "Goodfellas," "Casino" and the recently-released, celebrity-packed romantic comedy "New Year's Eve."
In 2011, De Niro and Michelle Obama were both named in the list of America's 25 Most Trusted Celebrities.