Actor Robert De Niro speaks before introducing Bruce Springsteen's performance. (Xinhua/REUTERS)
NEW YORK, June 11 (Xinhua) -- The Tony Awards, the highest honor for Broadway, witnessed additional drama Sunday night when Hollywood legend Robert De Niro dropped an expletive about U.S. President Donald Trump, triggering wide controversy.
Coming out swinging like former world middle-weight boxing champion Jake LaMotta, the role he played in "Raging Bull", the two-time Oscar-winning actor came on stage to introduce another icon, singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen, but paused to launch a right hook at the president during a live broadcast.
"F--- Trump!" he roared, even though foul language and profanities are prohibited on public airwaves in the United States.
"I'm gonna say one thing," he said. "F--- Trump! It's no longer 'Down with Trump.' It's f--- Trump!"
His remarks were met with a standing ovation from Broadway artists and Hollywood insiders at New York's Radio City Music Hall.
De Niro went off script in the Tony Awards telecast, and the offensive language was deleted from the broadcast, the CBS reported.
In today's nose-thumbing Twitter age, the reaction to De Niro's outburst was swift and polarized, making the controversy mount.
One of the evening's big winners, Tony Kushner, writer of "Angels in America" and screenwriter of Steven Spielberg's Academy Award-winning "Lincoln", agreed with De Niro.
Kushner denounced Trump's presidency as "the Hitler mistake" that let a "borderline psychotic narcissist in the White House."
But Kevin Sorbo, star of the hit faith-based movie "God's Not Dead", took exception to De Niro's speech.
"Some Broadway guy saying 'Who's gonna argue with De Niro?' Ah, tens of millions, maybe. Just because he plays tough guys, doesn't make him one," Sorbo tweeted.
ABC's talk show The View's co-host Meghan McCain also critiqued De Niro: "When you're talking about how Trump is degrading our national discourse with his language, this is not the way to combat Trump, it only helps him."