March 20th, 2012
10:38 AM ET
3 years ago

Campaign calls De Niro comment 'inappropriate' after Gingrich blast

UPDATE 3/21: On Wednesday, Robert De Niro released the following statement through his representative: "My remarks, although spoken with satirical jest, were not meant to offend or embarrass anyone - especially the First Lady."

(CNN) – President Barack Obama's reelection organization said Tuesday it was "inappropriate" for Robert De Niro to joke at a campaign fundraiser in New York Monday that America wasn't "ready for a white first lady."

"We believe the joke was inappropriate," Olivia Alair, Campaign Press Secretary to the First Lady, said in a statement.

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The campaign's comment came after Newt Gingrich delivered a scorching response to De Niro's comments at an Obama for America fundraiser, which was attended by first lady Michelle Obama.

While Michelle Obama headlined the event, she was introduced after De Niro's remarks. The event was also attended by a number of other prominent Obama supporters, including Harvey Weinstein and Beyonce.

"Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?" De Niro asked to cheers from the crowd. "Too soon, right?"

Speaking Tuesday, Gingrich labeled the comments "inexcusable," and called on Obama to apologize.

"I do want to say one thing, both on behalf of my wife and on behalf of Karen Santorum and on behalf of Ann Romney, I think that Robert De Niro's wrong," Gingrich said. "I think the country is ready for a new first lady and he doesn't have to describe it in racial terms."

Gingrich immediately clarified he thought Michelle Obama, along with the wives of his fellow GOP presidential candidates, were all "fine ladies."

"But this is not about the first lady," Gingrich continued. "It's about the president. That's where De Niro missed the whole point. De Niro is rich enough he probably doesn't notice the price of gasoline. He's successful enough he probably doesn't notice the unemployment rate. As the Hollywood actor, he might well be shortsighted enough he doesn't understand what it might do to our children and our grandchildren."

Gingrich called on Obama to apologize for the remarks, since they were made at an event raising money for his reelection.

"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, it divides the country," Gingrich said, adding that the left was quick to call out conservative talk show hosts for offensive comments but silent when the vitriol comes from the left.

"If people on the left want to talk about talk show hosts, then everybody in the country should hold the president accountable when someone at his event says something that is utterly and terrible unacceptable as what Robert De Niro said," Gingrich said.

Speaking on the Laura Ingraham Show Tuesday, fellow presidential candidate Rick Santorum largely avoided weighing in on De Niro's comments.

"It's just someone from Hollywood or someone from the entertainment industry just spouting off as they do," Santorum said. "It's sad, but I'm not going to bite on that one. It's just sad. The idea of looking at politics through eyes of race should be over. That's just over. I don't know where he thinks he's coming from."

CNN's Chris Welch and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

Also see:

Romney can't escape birth control questions in Illinois

Obama leads GOP in battleground Virginia

Rubio to headline major South Carolina GOP fundraiser


Filed under: 2012 • Newt Gingrich • President Obama
soundoff (844 Responses)
  1. You talking to me?

    Everyone knows DeNiro has a thing for black women; I don't think he meant any harm in what he said.

    March 21, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  2. bnchy

    I am a conservative and think that was a FUNNY line. There was NOTHING wrong with that joke and DeNiro should not need to apologize for it. We ALL need to stop with the PC crap and get a sense of humor. Yes, there are "over the line" comments like Rush with Fluke and Maher with practically everything he says but, cmon, it is getting ridiculous with everyone being offended by almost everything. We have a right to be offended but we do not have a right to shut down free speech just because we are offended.

    March 21, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  3. Libby Daniels

    Typical liberal slip up that shows their true racist core... they can't help but see class/race/gender in everything, unfortunately this out of touch liberal forgot their PC rule that he cant say things like that because he is white.

    March 21, 2012 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  4. Anonymous

    Um, if Robert De Niro is racist against white people, wouldnt he have to hate himself?

    March 21, 2012 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  5. Jeremy

    Anyone care to elaborate to me what is racist about it? I mean if he had said I don't think the country is ready for a redhead as First Lady, I can't imagine the same uproar. Talking about race is not the same thing as being racist. I think Newt just needs an issue to keep his name in the headlines.

    March 21, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  6. Expat American

    Republicans should know better than to feign outrage on discrimination issues involving Race, Gender, Religion and Gay/Lesbian Rights – Given the track record of the GOP – granted that’s a battle they started, but a war they are never ever going to win. Thank God for that.

    March 21, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  7. Jason

    This is utterly confusing. Robert De Niro is white. He said something that may be roughly construed as bigoted against white people? I think people are reaching here to say that Robert De Niro must not think highly of white peoplle or he would have to really hate himself.

    March 21, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  8. rkt210

    I am not a fan of this administration, but DeNiro's line was pretty funny. Anyone who didn't get the joke is clueless, and anyone who adds to the uproar with righteous indignation is a hypocrite. Worry about the kid who was gunned down in Florida if you want to decry racism, not a non-story about a joke.

    March 21, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  9. Anon

    Lots of people giving DeNiro a free pass on this one. Typical of the Left. Imagine this; At a fundraiser or some other event, the MC introduces Mrs. Romney and says; "I think America IS ready for a White First Lady". What do you think would spew forth from the salivating gobs of the Leftist minions, propagandists, and, lap dogs? No need to answer. I already know how it would play out.

    March 21, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  10. Gaylon Barrow

    It was "inappropriate" for De Niro to have said this. But then you have to realize that actors are just that, actors and have no sense of realism. The same would have been very "inappropriate" if someone had said that Michelle Obama could maybe not be prepared for her role as First Lady. I am a GOP and do not see any manner in her not being appropriate. She has filled the job admirably. It's just that Obama is Like George Jr. "A FISH OUT OF WATER". BUT THEN HE COULDN'T HELP THAT. HE HAS NO EXPERIENCE IN RUNNING ANYTHING A MAGNIFICENT AS AMERICA.

    March 21, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  11. Investment Advisor

    I've listened to Robert DeNiro discuss politics before....Not the sharpest tool in the shed. Why not stick to what you are good at (acting) and let politics be. You've got the blind leading the blind here.

    March 21, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  12. Grimes

    Liberal hypocrisy at its best. We see it frequently but unless it is usually just liberal men calling conservatiive women names they would never say to their face just on TV. I say to their face because it is always these physically weak men with big mouths that would get stomped on if they said it to someone's wife out of the camera's view.

    March 21, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  13. Neil Rauch

    Newt Gingrich is an opportunistic horse's petootie
    Robert DeNiro's off-hand, tongue-in-cheek attempt at comedy is just a poor choice of words
    Gingrich using it as another lame attempt to spin something small into a speech
    What a blowhard

    March 21, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  14. Mrs. ABO

    Anonymous - I'm pretty sure it's self-hatred that causes people to think like that. He probably should try and get some help.

    March 21, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  15. RunnerMD

    I am also not a huge Obama fan but there does not appear to be any ill intent here at all. He was just being funny! Geez.

    March 21, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  16. GopLogic

    "But this is not about the first lady," Gingrich continued. "It's about the president. That's where De Niro missed the whole point. De Niro is rich enough he probably doesn't notice the price of gasoline. He's successful enough he probably doesn't notice the unemployment rate. As the Hollywood actor, he might well be shortsighted enough he doesn't understand what it might do to our children and our grandchildren." - Didn't you make $600 million dollars from Fanny & Freddie? Wouldn't that make you this person, Newt?

    Oh, and here's the difference between what Rush L. spouted and what DiNero spouted: the wives of these presidential hopefuls step into the spotlight and stay there. The girl from Georgetown stepped into that spotlight just ONCE. Those wives know that their husbands are judged by the media daily, and that they will be included in that judgement. The girl from Georgetown planned to present her argument, and go home. One day versus 100+ days. That's why when a comedian or celebrity bags on a wive of a "possible" president, it's because they've been out there in the spotlight, standing up REPEATEDLY for this husbands. It's not their first time.

    March 21, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  17. miamigrrrl

    There is no "uproar". No one gives a damn about this harmless little joke.

    March 21, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  18. mikrik13

    DeNiro is just a burned out old actor. What did the oversensitive expect him to say.

    March 21, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  19. LynneSki

    Personally, I think the joke was only so-so funny. But on the political side how many years have we heard that the country wasn't ready for a Black President, a Hispanic President, a Catholic President, a Female President???? So, DeNiro turned the tables around a cracked a joke about having a white first lady as if there had never been one.

    You know before Michelle Obama these "oh so offended" conservatives were thinking deep down in heart of hearts that America was not ready for a Black first lady!!!!

    March 21, 2012 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
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