De Niro, hosting a fund-raiser for President Obama in Manhattan on Monday night, commented that the United States might not be ready for a white first lady, while naming the wives of three Republican presidential candidates.
In the presence of first lady Michelle Obama, De Niro announced, “Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?”
Among the roughly 85 guests who heard the remark, according to the New York Post, were Beyoncé, producer Harvey Weinstein and actor Ben Stiller.
The New York Daily News reported that those in the crowd roared in approval. The Post said De Niro responded, “Too soon, right?
But the comment triggered a quick rebuttal from Newt Gingrich.
“I think Robert De Niro is wrong,” said Gingrich, campaigning in Shreveport, La., according to the Daily News. “I think the country is ready for a new First Lady, and he doesn’t have to describe it in racial terms.”