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.

– Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

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. DJ in Texas

    It was good of the campaign to apologize for De Niro's comment. They were inappropriate. But for Newt and Santorum to say something about race, when the comments they've made on the campaign – Santorum with his "blah" people (learly he said black) and Gingrich's comment about blac's and food stamps................laughable.

    March 20, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  2. enkephalin07

    That was lame, and it wouldn't be funny at all if it weren't for Gingrich's reaction.

    March 20, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  3. Louis

    Newt, you are living a pipe dream. Obama won't debate you because you are not going to win the republican nomination. If De Niro wants to apologize than let him, he's a big boy. Stop hiding behind the PAC money and drop out and let Santorum and Romney fight it out to see who is going to lose to President Barack Obama.

    March 20, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  4. Rob

    Obama will probably do like all the cool black actors, musicians and athletes and trade Michelle in for a white woman once he's out of office.

    March 20, 2012 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  5. Doug in NYC

    Is Gingrich going to apologize for the comments by Rush Limbaugh? Mr. DeNiro is an entertainer, isn't that the excuse Rush uses?

    March 20, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  6. Linda

    Since when is Obama responsible for what other people say? When Gingrich, Romney, Santorum and the rest of the republican party start apoligizing for Rush Limbaugh and the trash he spews from his mouth, then maybe the President should say " He's right the White House isn't ready for a white woman yet because I'm going to have another 4 years,,,,,,thank you.....

    March 20, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  7. Phillco

    Was not a racist comment but actually funny and thought provoking.

    March 20, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  8. Rob

    Why is it that all the sucessful black actors, musicians and athletes go for white ladies?

    March 20, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  9. Ron

    Will Newt apologise for all the lies. And the racist things he said. If not who cares except for newt apologist what he has to say.

    March 20, 2012 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Why not, they took a half breed foreigner didn't they????????????????????

    Obama is my shepherd; I shall not work.
    He keepth jobs out of the hands of the people,
    Which leadeth the country to class warfare and polarization.
    He encourageth sloth; he leadeth the government to new heights in deficit spending.
    Yea, though I walk in the shadow of Economic collapse,
    I shall fear no depression: for Obama is with me.
    His handouts and monetary indiscretion supplement my income.
    He maintainest spending increases in the presence of insurmountable debt;
    He punisheth businesses with excessive regulations;
    And giveth the hard-earned fruits of labor to the unproductive.
    Surely, handouts and stimulus payments shall follow all the days of his administration;
    And I will stay unemployed forever.
    Lack of leadership, the first-ever federal credit downgrade, a failed debt deal, unemployment nearing record levels, fresh warnings of a double-dip recession, and the most toxic political climate in Washington history . . . can you trust President Obama?

    March 20, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  11. funny

    I don't think they get what De Niro was saying. Or they do and are intentionally misconstruing it.

    March 20, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    We know that what he said was silly because that is all we have ever had is white first ladies. It was just a silly comment meant to be funny but wasn't. Newt is grabbing at straws because this is all he has. He will do or say anything for free press. He should apologize for calling Obama the food stamp president. He said that. Obama didn't say it and can't control what everyone says at a fund raiser.

    March 20, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  13. Republican Class Warfare

    I didn't think it was funny until I read Gingrich's reaction. I guess it is too soon!

    March 20, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  14. stoley eisenhower

    It's an stupid comment by DeNiro and I'm glad the administration apologized. However, for the GOP clowns to say it should never be about race is ludicrous. They're the ones who are always mentioning race to fire up their bigot base (the religious nuts, tea party people, southern rednecks, right wing nazis)

    March 20, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  15. Rosslaw

    De Niro actually made a slightly humorous counter-intuitive joke that any primate with two grey cells to put together could figure out was not racially motivated. Maybe the Republicans will run primates with two grey cells to put together in the next election cycle, but then I'm always the optimist.

    March 20, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  16. Fritfrat

    No more De Niro movies for me.

    March 20, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  17. StreekyD

    Why not a woman? They voted in a half breed foreigner, didn't they????

    Obama is my shepherd; I shall not work.
    He keepth jobs out of the hands of the people,
    Which leadeth the country to class warfare and polarization.
    He encourageth sloth; he leadeth the government to new heights in deficit spending.
    Yea, though I walk in the shadow of Economic collapse,
    I shall fear no depression: for Obama is with me.
    His handouts and monetary indiscretion supplement my income.
    He maintainest spending increases in the presence of insurmountable debt;
    He punisheth businesses with excessive regulations;
    And giveth the hard-earned fruits of labor to the unproductive.
    Surely, handouts and stimulus payments shall follow all the days of his administration;
    And I will stay unemployed forever.
    Lack of leadership, the first-ever federal credit downgrade, a failed debt deal, unemployment nearing record levels, fresh warnings of a double-dip recession, and the most toxic political climate in Washington history . . . can you trust President Obama?

    March 20, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  18. The Veteran

    Why should the President apologize for Robert DeNiro? Robert DeNiro is a good guy. He's loves people of all races. He probably realized that it didn't go over well. Let us keep it moving. No story here folks...

    March 20, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  19. c

    I think some white people have lost their minds.

    March 20, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  20. steven harnack

    Do Republicans all get a list of things each day called Things To BE Outraged About? I swaer, the only thing that doesn't outrage them is a Whites Only sign.

    March 20, 2012 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  21. Paul

    The left doing what it does best - making everything about race - keeping the flames of separation and discontent burning bright.

    March 20, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  22. coyoteliberty

    Obama only apologizes FOR America, not TO America.

    March 20, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  23. Lynn

    I would ask this question about the government mandate issue: If employers and individuals have the "right" to not buy healthcare coverage, do hospitals and doctors have the "right" to refuse them access to healthcare. If not, who gets stuck with the bill-the state, the federal government, or the struggling healthcare system?Or all the people and employers that believe healthcare coverage is an essential responsibility which is another way to stick it to hard working citizens. In Texas, 25% of people don't have healthcare coverage. Many just want others to pay for it and know they can't be refused healthcare if they show up at an ER because it is unethical.

    March 20, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  24. Lefty IDIOT!

    Republicans – "The Not Intended to Be Factually Accurate" Party

    You are an idiot!!! Talk about not be factually accurate....NOTHING has been proven in the Troyvon case, infact the suspects family are laughing and saying he is a Spanish speaking Hispanic sooooo is every race again African Americans??? Your comment is very IRONIC and IDIOTIC!!!!

    March 20, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  25. GaryB

    Dang Republicans have thin skins. The joke is funny because it's a play off one of the main questions (is America ready for a black president) that the press continually asked the last election cycle. It didn't say anything mean about the Republican candidates wives... didn't infer that their skin color somehow makes them less motivated or less qualified (unlike some of Gingrich's early comments about minorities lacking work ethic). What a bunch of humorless whiners.

    March 20, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34