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. john

    Wow Newt...better get a bigger sport jacket...your desperation is starting to peek out from underneath...see Newt...a joke..that's all, he's an entertainer, just like your Bud...Rush....

    March 20, 2012 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  2. Cynthia

    Seriously, Newt, jump on the fact that Rick Santorum just said he wasn't concerned about UNEMPLOYMENT in this country.

    March 20, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  3. Doris

    The things Republicans say..........get a life, GOP

    March 20, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  4. Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)

    Mr. Obama and Mrs. Obama should send a clear message that this was unacceptable behavior on the part of DeNiro and those who applauded him. But they won't. And that's the saddest thing of all.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Unh-huh. You'd have better luck with that if you started out by addressing them as President and Mrs. Obama, or maybe (gasp!) President Obama and the First Lady. But you won't, and THAT is the saddest thing of all.

    March 20, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  5. WhereIsPalin

    Really stupid comment by De Niro. But Newt.....the president should apologize for him? Get a grip.

    March 20, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  6. John

    Santorum said. "The idea of looking at politics through eyes of race should be over." I was very surprised he forgot to add, unless you happen to be gay then its fine to discriminate all you want. The pressure must be tripping him up!

    March 20, 2012 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  7. Dave

    Whatever happened to "America never apologizes" Newt?

    March 20, 2012 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  8. Behonest

    Just because they are a movie stars or singers, don't really meant they are bright enough to fully understand the circumstances. They act and they go home. What the President deals with daily won't stop just because he goes to sleep. To them it's just a silly joke, they are unable to see the unintentional message, and what other people can spin off from that.

    March 20, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  9. Daniel

    I think Romney is paying for Newt to stay in the race, to hold off support for Rick S.

    March 20, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  10. Daniel

    I think Romney is paying for Newt to stay in the race, to hold off support for Rick S.

    March 20, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  11. Robin

    Why should Obama apologize? The President didn't make the comment, De Niro did. I do feel the comment was inappropriate and it's De Niro's responsibility to make the apology. I can't believe someone actually made the statement that Obama should apologize. That statement was ignorant.

    March 20, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  12. Jack

    I'm sure De Niro cares that Professor of Pomposity apologized for him. OH PLEASE! Get that Moon Colony started asap.

    March 20, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  13. carly

    another idiotic distraction by the right wing nuts. keep it up you fools since you have nothing to talk about. no ideas just BS.

    March 20, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  14. DonJuan1943

    Much ado about nothing. Unfortunately it's the only issue the Republikluxers have to talk about. NEWT, MITT, RICK, RON; show us your jobs plans!

    March 20, 2012 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  15. Dr. Loomis

    Maybe it just went way over my head but I don't get why anyone would be upset at that remark.

    March 20, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  16. Aw C'mon

    Hey, Iit was funny! It was a JOKE made by an actor. Rather than a statement being made BY a joke, (Newt, sic) Maybe Newt would like to apologize for his ideas that black kids should work in the schools as custodians and lunch line ladies to learn how to work. THAT was racist, and it was said by the JOKE himself. Aho.

    March 20, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  17. Laura

    You would think that Callista would tell him to not comment on that one.

    March 20, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  18. Name

    Ron paul 2012 its the only shot america has of surviving

    March 20, 2012 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  19. Laverne

    Newt is so desperate right now he will take on anything to try and get some attention and spotlight his way. It was clearly a joke, Michelle is the only "ONE" non white first lady in what 100 years, get a life porky!

    March 20, 2012 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  20. No apology needed

    Was the joke inappropriate? Yes. Does Obama owe anyone an apology? No. DeNiro maybe should apologize for being a bit tasteless, but blaming this on Obama is yet another sign of Newt's desperation for news coverage. Go back to your lobbying business, loser.

    March 20, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  21. George Washington

    Nothing a liberal ever says can ever offend. Their end justifies their means.

    March 20, 2012 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  22. myron monk

    These leftists just can't get off their obsession with race! They are ridiculous! Let us all hope that Michelle Obama is not representative of every black woman... or every black future first lady. DeNiro is just too stupid to know that he really is okay with her profligate lifestyle on the public dime.

    March 20, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  23. U-Joint Jerry

    Gay is not a race. Please stop comparing. What blacks went thru is a whole different league than homosexuals. If you really think they are comparable do some reading. The right to vote, own property, and not to be a slave are freedoms homosexuals have never had to fight or die for.

    March 20, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  24. jaintn

    OMG could Gingrich be any more stupid? Apologize for what exactly? We get it, the GOP has a huge stick up it's bum and has zero sense of humor, but do they have to keep proving it to us?

    March 20, 2012 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  25. a in austin

    All he did was speak the truth – see how quickly these candidates can respond when the shoe is on the other foot. Sandra Fluke ring a bell?

    March 20, 2012 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
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