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. Jude

    I second Sherri's post:

    Sherri

    First Lady? No, but I AM ready for a white female president.

    March 20, 2012 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  2. Afi

    President Obama and First Lady Michele Obama did not make any negative comments about GOP candidate's wives; De Niro did and De Niro apologised. Rush Limbaugh called a female student a slut and prostitute; did the Republicans apologise? No!

    March 20, 2012 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  3. mensunionorg

    It's not a joke that under America hating Obama, we have 16% unemployment, double digit inflation, skyrocketing interest on our national debt, and a declining standard of living. The Rich like Obama and DeNiro, are helping the poor wipe out the middle class with the highest taxes in the world and regulations that are killing our jobs and sending them to China. Where's the joke? When people in Minnesota can't afford gas or heating oil because it's $10 a gallon, and they lose their job to China, are they suppose to quietly freeze to death? Get organized against this or you'll be in a breadline or work kamp before long.

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

    These are the people who are leading us to our doom.................. one by one the lemmings follow these leaders in their own minds, blindly to our downfall. It is getting harder and harder to be a proud American anymore, an embarrassed one, yes. Hopefully, we can find a timely true leader to help us, but realistically, that will not happen the way money runs our campaigns, and nobody has the balls/guts to change that!

    March 20, 2012 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  5. whomever

    What kind of degenerate in this day and age worries about the color of a persons skin?

    March 20, 2012 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  6. Scott

    Just because de Niro is married to a black woman, does not justify the denegration of white women. He is obviously upset none of them would have him so he had to marry outside his race. As an Italian-American, i am ashamed of him –he is not one of us.

    March 20, 2012 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  7. Palin2112

    All politics aside, consider this:
    The complaint comes from a man who wants to make a proven adulteress our first lady.
    What's wrong with this picture?

    March 20, 2012 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  8. astralweeks

    So sad that liberals can't get over race.

    March 20, 2012 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  9. whomever

    Racisim is over as of, TODAY.

    If you don't believe that, YOU'RE a racist

    March 20, 2012 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  10. carl swiger

    I have yet to see a republican official apologize for Ted Nugent telling future president Obama to suck on his machine gun barrel at a republican fund raiser several years ago.

    March 20, 2012 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  11. Numyorangay

    To Linda about the decor. . .how would you know. . .and this from someone who probably lives in a shock-gun shack somewhere between Peoria and Huntsville.

    March 20, 2012 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  12. DanW

    Perhaps Santorum (or Gingrich) is so color-blind that he has never noticed the fact that Michelle Obama is black. Or perhaps he is so PC that he is afraid to acknowledge the fact. Going along those lines, perhaps he is so PC that he would consider it out of bounds to acknowledge that his spouse is a woman. But this is silly. I'm a senior citizen and my friends and I joke about it. So do my kids. People are different. There is nothing wrong in noticing that fact and commenting on it. What is wrong is to treat each other badly or unequally simply based on these differences. I thought that political correctness was an outcome of liberal politics, but it appears that the conservatives will jump on the PC bandwagon if they think it will somehow score them points. They just don't get it! Maybe if they would get out of their enclaves and mix it up with people who are different than they are they would figure this out.

    March 20, 2012 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  13. Al

    He should have said another geriatric barbie!

    March 20, 2012 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  14. Nobodies Pon

    @whomever tell trayvons martin family that. Because if racisim was over why is trayvon dead and the guy that murdered him is a free man. How can a grown man get away with killing a minor and claiming self defense. Not one white person on this blog can tell me if trayvon was white and zimmerman was black that a black man would be free like mr. zimmerman is tonight.America we got a big race problem in 2012

    March 20, 2012 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  15. Mustbeblind

    If you believe racism is over then you must be blind

    March 20, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  16. Joe citizen abroad

    Gingrich, again waaaayyyyy wide of the mark. No one on the left asked Newt or any other cadidate to apologize for Rush. No need for Obama to apologize for De Niro.

    March 20, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  17. Tony

    Gingrich, again waaaayyyyy wide of the mark. No one on the left asked Newt or any other cadidate to apologize for Rush. No need for Obama to apologize for De Niro.

    You're right, they just asked that all of his sponsors drop him and that he was to be fired. Very understanding as usual from liberals.

    March 20, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  18. Nick-o

    Everybody gets s damn sensitive when the joke's on them, but doesn't mind spewing their own racist comments. Hey Gingrich, do you still believe spanish is the "language of the ghetto?"

    March 21, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  19. Margaret

    Mr. De Niro's joke was in poor taste, but at least he did not call any of the ladies sluts. He made the joke not the President. It is hardly 3 days of disgusting personal vitriol. De Niro should work with a script. I would be more impressed if Gingrich had told Limbaugh that he had crossed the line, and what he said was offensive to not only Ms. Fluke but to all women, Gingrich's wife included. It should not matter if it is a talk show host or an actor they should be held accountable for what they say.

    March 21, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  20. scootie

    De Niro has a point. "Once you go black it's hard to go back..."

    March 21, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  21. joey

    america just got a whole lot dumber

    March 21, 2012 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  22. gregory21

    gingrich is nothing but a blow hart. If anyone beleaves he can get $2.50 gas, is as stupid as he is.

    March 21, 2012 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  23. Ina Propriate

    "Inappropriate" to what? That's Dumbed-Down talk. Is underwear inappropriate? You don't know until one clearly states the context. It is a matter of concern on the ground what imapact such language has outside the box in the zeitgeist. Don't cave when you know the window might make you uncomfortable. Thanks Dept. of Ed..

    March 21, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  24. Anonymous

    God forbid if someone made a similar comment where this country was not ready for a black anything. They would be labeled for life as a racist and a bigot. The double standard in this country for minorities is a joke.

    March 21, 2012 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  25. jiggy

    Just more proof that liberals are intolerant disrespectful people. And as for the first lady going on Letterman after his famous and disgusting jokes about Palins daughter, I can find no respect for this family whatsoever.

    March 21, 2012 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
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