March 20th, 2012
10:38 AM ET
2 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. Christine

    I hope, super hard, that no matter what anyone else does, Robert DeNiro DOES not apologize.

    March 20, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  2. ZnHcats

    It's a great joke from my favorite actor. Why did Obama apologize for it? DId any Republican apologize to him for the insulting the first lady from Rush the fat constantly? Their languages are more harsh and totally unacceptable!

    March 20, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  3. JJ

    It's a freakin joke. Holy Cow ROnald...what a tool you must be. It would still be a joke even if a black guy had said it...but it's funnier from a white guy. This is the first black first lady...don't you get it?

    March 20, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  4. The Real Tom Paine

    How is this hate-filled, ROnald? DeNiro's wife is black, and for those who knew that and understand that, its funny. If you want to talk about ahte-filled, look at Victoria Jackson, or Dennis Miller, Jon Joight, Kelsey Grammar, etc. See if they are filled with love for their fellow man.

    March 20, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  5. mms55

    evadently the right doesn't know what sarcasim means,there just trying to use this as a cover for rush.

    March 20, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  6. cigarman

    Actually, DeNiro is correct.

    March 20, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  7. U-Joint Jerry

    It doesn't matter if De Niro apologizes, the POTUS did. Get your head out of your brown eye.

    March 20, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  8. Bart

    One: De Niro's comment was funny and not a big deal (the humor is in all but Michelle have been white). Enough with the phony outrage. Two: the humor in Gingrich's comment that it is not about the first lady but about the President. If it is really about who is to be President, why is he still around? Third: He brings up riches as to disqualify De Niro's remarks – isn't Gingrich what many Americans would call rich?Does he know the cost of a gallon of milk? Doesn't he have a 1/2 million dollar account at Tiffany's? He is a disgusting hypocrit, and no, he is not as brilliant as everyone says he is. If so, why is he still around?

    March 20, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  9. Naija

    De Niro makes a comment and they are asking Obama to apologize,It's like asking them to apologize for Rush's comment,I am not comparing De Niro to Rush but I won't ask anybody else to apologize for comment they make.

    March 20, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  10. robert

    irony is lost on people.

    March 20, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  11. Mauibucky

    "When the left is involved it is satire, protected comedy... when the right is involved it is racist and hateful. I see the double standard ... what makes anyone so blind that they can't see it as well?"

    The difference is when the left does it , they deliver it as a joke. When the right does it, it's right-wing racism; they only call it a joke when they get called on the racist rant.Right wingers don't know humor. It's like a foreign language to them.

    March 20, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  12. Rachel

    Making a mountain out of a molehill. How dang typical of the opposing side. They make me ill.

    Robert DeNiro is one of the classiest people on the planet which a huge amount of dignity. Robert can say anything he'd like, iin my opinion, and will always have my utmost respect.

    I LOVE Robert DeNiro and I'll also say........... OBAMA 2012!!!

    March 20, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  13. Sright

    I do not like the Obamas or the Democrats. However, it struck me as a pretty funny line. Everyone on both sides of the isle need to loosen up a bit.

    March 20, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  14. U-Joint Jerry

    While we are all here... What the hell was the "Special Rport" thing on Maddow. Do we we really wonder why idoiots buying storage rooms have 4 times as many viewers as her. War Piers Morgan being the best of the worst television primetime shows!!!!

    March 20, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  15. Scott S.

    Gingrich is the last person on the planet who should be pointing fingers at ANYBODY asking for an apology.

    March 20, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  16. Terri

    Wow is this a non issue. Gingrich has always loved to play the victim to make political points, but this is just silly. Just another reason voters are ignoring Gingrich.

    March 20, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  17. lB Colorado

    Mrs. Obama has been a great First Lady, she is sophisticated, intelligent, fun and she appears to be a real person. White or Black, she makes us look good. In spite of her husband, cowering to the middle east. Republicans of 2012 are not PRESIDENTIAL MATERIAL of any kind. Hillary, where in the world are you lady.

    March 20, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  18. JohnDHater

    You go Bobby D!!!!!

    March 20, 2012 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  19. daniel

    who and why would someone be offended by the comment? i don't get it.

    March 20, 2012 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  20. bc runner

    For people to compare what De Niro said with wha Rush said is pure nonsense! That said, I think the president should come out and say. "Those are not the words I would have used"

    March 20, 2012 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  21. martin

    ZNHCATS- Obama DIDNT apologize, Newt asked him too, but Obama hasnt yet to my knowledge, and I hope he doesnt. DeNero is a joker and it is what it is. GET OVER IT PEOPLE.

    March 20, 2012 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  22. AgrippaMT

    Robert DeNiro was right on the mark when he said America isn't ready for any of the blonde bimbos associated with the Republican candidates. The zombie woman, Callista Gingrich, is best example of this. Let Newt choke with anger. Nobody cares what he thinks.

    March 20, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  23. Xan

    No that critical of a comment! De Niro is an entertainer and I have heard WAY worse (even though I don't see this as bad since the consensus was that America wasn't ready for a black president). Plus... doesn't De Niro date black women? I think that it is his way of saying "I like looking at Michelle...". Relax and breath every one.

    March 20, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  24. Canadian point of view

    Following the debates and the candidates very closely. U.S. politics affect Canadians greatly. I would have to agree with Robert.

    March 20, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  25. John Brown

    You can't compare one joke from DeNiro to the constant daily drumbeat of hate from right wing talk show hosts.Ridiculous comparison.Where is the outrage from Newt when Limbaugh calls our first lady moo-chelle?Maybe Deniro should have said we are not ready for a shellacked bleach blonde for first lady.That would be funny to me.

    March 20, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
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