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. miscreantsall

    "……….is rich enough he probably doesn't notice the price of gasoline. He's successful enough he probably doesn't notice the unemployment rate. ……………………..., he might well be shortsighted enough he doesn't understand what it might do to our children and our grandchildren."

    lol………….I thought he was describing HIMSELF!!!!

    In a public setting the comment, however intended, was inappropriate. In retrospect, it pales the disgusting vitriol that pours out of the mouths of many republicans and christian fanatics.

    Apologize and move on!!!!!!!

    March 21, 2012 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  2. Garrett

    Are you talkin' to me? Are YOU talkin' to ME?

    March 21, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  3. Jim in PA

    Good lord, people are imbeciles. The joke was made at an Obama fundraiser, and clearly was a dig at anti-Obama racists. The only problem with DeNiro's joke was that you have to be smart to get it; meaning that most reporters and politicians won't get it.

    March 21, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  4. cluelessinky

    Another Hollywood lib whose movies I will boycott. I wish the election were in April so we could vote Barry out sooner.

    March 21, 2012 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  5. DLG

    Well I for one will not vote for anyone who says stupid racist things. So Deniro is out. As are all the republican candidates...

    March 21, 2012 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  6. Anafiel

    America has lost it's sense of humor, especially from the right. When we lose the ability to laugh at ourselves, we're screwed. Gingrich's outrage is completely manufactured, as another poster put it, and I agree.

    March 21, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  7. bressanvido

    Anyone who finds DeNiro's comment offensive instead of just a sarcastic statement is a racist bigot & Newt (aka Peter Griffin) is the biggest in the bunch. One of the main rules of trying to be funny is that it's perfectly OK to make fun of your own race which is what DeNiro did. It's also OK to make fun of other races as long as you make fun of all races including your own such as what Don Rickles does. DeNiro's comments is only offensive to the bigots who will never vote for Obama anyway. Newt's comments show everyone what a true racist he really is.

    March 21, 2012 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  8. Geoff

    People really need to lighten up...

    March 21, 2012 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  9. Jeremy

    Come on. This is a sarcastic joke with no hint of racism.

    March 21, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  10. Yikes

    This is hilarious, the right calling on people not to talk about race.

    March 21, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  11. rachel

    oh my God, get a sense of humor people.

    March 21, 2012 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  12. scmom

    "Kocabill" you are the reason we still have all this hatred and racism. Not only is Robert and Newt out of line, that reference you made was so inappropriate. You want to get nasty, we don't need Gingrich's parrot as our first lady"

    March 21, 2012 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  13. nicnic

    Well, Santorum probably doesn't want to "bite" on the racial issue because his focus is undermining women regardless of their race.

    March 21, 2012 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  14. bob

    Why does the president have to apologize? That makes no sense what so ever The g.o.p. does not have to apoligze for rush limbaugh either!

    March 21, 2012 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  15. JameyCarothers

    Didn't realize a blowhard like Newt was so sensitive! No sense of humor there- except in his policy speeches!

    March 21, 2012 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  16. JDA

    This is a dead pan joke making fun of racist people. He is making fun of racists. He probably doesn't notice the price of gasoline because he doesn't drive. He's successful enough that he did notice the unemployment rate and did something about it by creating over 1000 + jobs between 2002 and 2012 in Lower Manhattan. As a human being with a large family and roots in New York City I think Mr.Deniro has a very good idea of what "it" might do to our children and our grandchildren and he's standing up to make sure "it" don't come in the form of bigots, megalomaniacs and christ crusaders.

    "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."

    March 21, 2012 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  17. deuce

    I thought it was great! FOUR MORE YEARS CONSERVATIVES! Better get used to it :)

    March 21, 2012 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  18. worktolive

    The problem is there is only a sense of humor when it comes from the leftist liberals-if the Conservatives make a crack like this it is racist. Go Newt-call them on every little boo boo they utter.

    March 21, 2012 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  19. Bub

    I don't even get the joke.

    March 21, 2012 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  20. Hope

    OMGosh, people get a grip it was a joke. And a good one I might add, BUT YES MR DE NIRO I believe America IS ready for a white First Lady! No racisim intended, We just need a better President and all the other guys are white! :~)

    March 21, 2012 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  21. Tina

    People need to take a chill pill! Loosen up and get a sense of humor! Get a grip people and get over it! There's more important things to concern yourselves with! How about the economy!

    March 21, 2012 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  22. munkittrick

    Listen, this is a completely fictional, even contrived disgust about a comment that was meant in jest. If you do not get the joke, it doesn't behoove you to stand-up and say "racist" when it's plainly obvious that the man who spoke the words was not attempting to demean or specifically insult anyone.

    The larger problem here is that no one is truly free to say anything without some manner of rebuttal from a person who doesn't understand the context or message of the person speaking. More often than not, these "soliloquy apologies" are made publicly to create distrust and anger among others, when it would be far better to just have the voices in their heads sort it privately. If there is an justification for anger, MAKE YOUR POINT KNOWN, but don't prove to the world that you have no comprehension of a person's intent by trying to demand an apology.

    Finally, it's asinine to tell the president that HE should apologize to anyone for words spoken by another grown man. I was under the distinct impression that the Republicans didn't want President Obama to apologize for the Country anymore. Have they lost their train of thought...or just their sense of humor...maybe their backbone?

    March 21, 2012 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  23. johnsonj3

    I think what he said was a great comment and to the white folks now you see how our President and his family has been treated since he has been in office. The way people have been talking and the disrespect he has had to handle while being in the White House that people think is for white presidents only.

    March 21, 2012 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  24. Kate

    I am sorry for being so easily offended, but I think this is a pretty telling statement both by De Niro and the way people are reacting to it. It may be a "joke", a bad one at that, but it really does enlighten one to see who is really obsessed with race in this country, and who apologizes for this kind of thing over and over and over....

    March 21, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  25. Sheshie

    It is, " only a joke", when a liberal says it,huh? I am sure had the "joke" been from a conservative everyone here would be just fine with it? Now that is funny!!!

    March 21, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
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