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. Don Nino Chavez

    Ut-Oh... Looks like the "Idea Man" of the Republican Party is having trouble coping with his utter irrelevance in the political landscape. And in support of De Niro's (Joking) point, I think America can do better than a 3rd Lady who bares a striking resemblance to the disguised alien assassin to the White House in the film "Mars Attacks".

    Mrs. Gingrich (The 3rd): Fakest, most disturbing smile in politics.

    March 21, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  2. GOP Observer

    Gee, do you think Obama getting $1 million from Bill Maher after Maher used a vile filthy C word to describe Congresswoman Bachmann and Governor Palin was appropriate - we did not hear anything on the left on this topic??

    Double Standards and Hypocricy abount in the Obama White House

    March 21, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  3. Utapao Long Ago

    Sure, it was inappropriate – once the Working Chumps heard about it; not until then. Funny to Whoopee and company at the Fu$d Raiser. But they are exempt from the rules that Working Chumps have to follow!!

    March 21, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  4. Jay Belt

    The bottom line is the indifference shown by the media when a "media darling liberal" makes a comment like this vs a conservative. In truth, the comment was funny. However, it would not have been funny to CNN if Rush Limbaugh had said it. When will we ever get back to common courtesy by word or actions?

    March 21, 2012 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  5. Wonder

    So, would this joke have been "humorous" at a Republican fundraiser four years ago if instead of "white" first lady it was "black" first lady?

    March 21, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  6. george

    I wonder if Gingrich has the same "rich enough" analysis of his benefactors. Being too rich to care about gas prices and unemployment seems to be a major contributing factor behind Republican support. I doubt the ideas man can even comprehend the irony in his own remarks, especially after failing to recognize the satire in De Niro's. Is America ready for Presidential luxury Greek cruises?

    March 21, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  7. chris

    typical libs here,defending inappropiate comments, as long as it comes from their looney left.

    March 21, 2012 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  8. wakiash

    At least not that white!

    March 21, 2012 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  9. James PDX

    Anyone who finds DeNiro's comment to be racist is one (or more) of the following:
    1. A Kool-aid drinking Republican who is going to react however he has been told by his party to react.
    2. A Republican desperate for votes.
    3. Seriously lacking in the ability to understand even the most obvious nuances of the English language.
    4. Receiving public funds for a mental disability.
    5. Someone who will never be elected President of the United States.
    6. Rush Limbaugh.

    March 21, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  10. James PDX

    I keep reading people saying it's hypocrisy because if a conservative had said it the liberals would be up in arms. But that's an idiotic statement since no conservative would ever say it because it wouldn't have made sense, seeing as how it was a sarcastic comment mocking the pundits 4 years ago asking if our country was ready for a black 1st lady. It wasn't even a divisive or partisan statement. It's amazing how many people in this country can't understand anything that isn't clearly stated in black and white. Are we all communicating on a 2nd grade level these days?

    March 21, 2012 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  11. SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

    Disregard ANYTHING serial adulterer Gingrich says. De Niro is right. America will never be ready for a GOP white first lady – ever again! It would be different if the women were Democrats because they are far more intelligent. These white GOP women are stupid because they are eager for Santorum and his medical plan to check out their eager beavers. Newt is a fat GOP idiot and his 4th wife, Calista looks like she wakes up every morning and puts her plastic on triple coated. Michelle Obama is a very smart woman, with wisdom and grace and beauty and strength – something the other wannabe white GOP empty headed women can never hope to attain.

    March 21, 2012 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  12. Frank

    Geesh, Robert DeNiro was obviously employing a little something called "satire" although I do appreciate that we can't have a double standard for making remarks about one race and not the other. What's really funny though is that Mr. Gingrich is now, suddenly, a great fan of political correctness. The bigger issue for him, I would think, would be which of his white wives America may or may not be ready for. And of course, I believe that Mr. DeNiro is married to a black woman, which adds a whole other dimension to this story.

    March 21, 2012 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  13. James PDX

    In response to wonder: The whole point was, 4 years ago this question was being asked about a black 1st lady. And DeNiro was mocking those who foolishly asked it.

    March 21, 2012 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  14. GROVER NORQUIST IS A ENEMY OF THE STATE

    Wonder
    So, would this joke have been "humorous" at a Republican fundraiser four years ago if instead of "white" first lady it was "black" first lady?
    ----------------------------------------------–
    Fact of the matter is, Michelle Obama is the 1st African American First Lady, so you tell me.

    March 21, 2012 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  15. SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

    Obama will certainly be re-elected in November.

    Na na na na na. The GOP are losers.

    March 21, 2012 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  16. Malory Archer

    Don Nino Chavez

    Ut-Oh... Looks like the "Idea Man" of the Republican Party is having trouble coping with his utter irrelevance in the political landscape. And in support of De Niro's (Joking) point, I think America can do better than a 3rd Lady who bares a striking resemblance to the disguised alien assassin to the White House in the film "Mars Attacks".

    Mrs. Gingrich (The 3rd): Fakest, most disturbing smile in politics.

    ***********************************************************************************************************************************************

    IMO, she looks like a demon pretending to be human and doing a really poor job of it.

    March 21, 2012 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  17. Malory Archer

    GOP Observer, Bill Mahr didn't give $1M to President Obama; he donated it to the DNC.

    March 21, 2012 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  18. Tom from Kansas

    Don't believe the first lady is on the ballot so why the big deal

    March 21, 2012 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  19. willie

    De Niro is a clueless dope.

    March 21, 2012 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  20. SMJ

    Michelle Obama is a wonderful first lady – regardless of race. She is intelligent, humorous, and appears to be an excellent wife and mother. Haven't seen the likes of her since Hillary was our first lady. GOP first ladies are just there as arm candy...waiting for the money to go shopping.

    March 21, 2012 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  21. Triple A

    The Admin came out and denounced it as they should have now move on. We have nut cases on both sides of the spectrum that when they open their mouth it is just bad for America. We have real things to worry about.

    March 21, 2012 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  22. LLeone

    Good grief...There has just got to be something in the water in Hollywood that causes people to become instantly vulgar, rude and thoughtless towards the public at large. Although, I had always hoped DeNiro would prove immune to it.

    Way to go, Bobby...You can now my family's movie ticket money addios–for the rest of your natural life. You incredible putz.

    March 21, 2012 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  23. Jon

    I am a Republican, and i do not think it was funny and I would hate it if any one of our candidates said
    that. I am against attacking children and the wives .

    March 21, 2012 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  24. Immy Jay

    I thought it was a funny joke that reverses what we were hearing before the last election. Good one, Robert.
    Gingrich jumped on it because he needs the face time since we can't remember that he is running for... uh, something I think.

    March 21, 2012 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  25. Fred

    Gingrich is the joke! What a laughable example of GOP leadership. Oops! My bad. LOL. Comparing De Niro to Limbaugh is just plain ridiculous. What Linbaught said wasn't the least bit funny – IT WAS INSULTING. What De Niro said was funny within the context in which it was presented. The nation finally has a female African-American first lady. It took way too long for that to occur. The GOP is laughable for making an issue of De Niro's joke. LMAO. The GOP is the joke!!! They will find out just how big of a joke they are in the election.

    March 21, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
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