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. DDanny1

    Interesting. Santorum flip-flopped on the answer he gave when Rush made several comments much, much worse. Whatever happened to “He’s being absurd, but that’s you know, an entertainer can be absurd. He’s in a very different business than I am.”
    I guess Rick's comment on Limbaugh should have been “He’s being absurd, but that’s you know, an entertainer THAT SUPPORTS THE GOP can be absurd. He’s in a very different business than I am. OR THE BUSINESS OF ENTERTAINERS THAT SUPPORT DEMOCRATS.”

    March 21, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  2. Rikits

    Depends on the white woman real Question are we wanting another Black woman in the White house

    March 21, 2012 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  3. Michael Q

    What another issue to add to the campaign? Seriously, America, get a life! The whole election process in the USA (an industry and job creator in itself) is as William Shakespeare so aptly put it, "Much ado about nothing".

    March 21, 2012 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  4. ulyssesmsu

    It wasn't a joke. When idiots are caught saying something really stupid, they always say, "It was just a joke," Right.

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

    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.

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

    limbaugh isn't from Hollywood. He broadcasts out of his oceanfront mansion in south Florida. Your statement is tantamount to stating, "There has just got to be something in the water at gated communities and country clubs that causes wealthy people to become instantly vulgar, rude and thoughtless towards the public at large." On second thought, my comment is far more valid than your's.

    March 21, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  6. Jim

    If DeNiro was supporting any of the republican candidates and said this in front of them...this would be a MAJOR news story and the liberal media would be crucifying DeNIro....BUUUUUUT it is ok when he is supporting Obama....We will just make a small reference to it.

    March 21, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  7. Malory Archer

    Rikits, I'm cool with the black woman who is already there, and will work to ensure she will be there until January 2017.

    March 21, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  8. Mike.

    Maybe Gingrich is upset because he's keeping the identity of his next wife a secret.

    March 21, 2012 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  9. Dave

    Does Gingrich have ANY idea how ironic it is that he talks about DeNiro being too rich to know how tough it is for average Americans? Gingrich probably has more money than DeNiro. I don't know anyone who has as much money as Gingrich does in his Tiffany's account!

    Conservatives are desperate to find anything they can be offended about, since Rush Limbaugh finally said something scummy enough to embarrass even them. DeNiro's comment was stupid, but thieir "outrage" is completely transparent.

    March 21, 2012 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  10. DeeNYC

    Why should Obama apologize for something Robert De Niro said? Gingrich is just trying to attack anything he can because he doesn't have a leg to stand on in this race.

    March 21, 2012 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  11. petemg

    Goes to prove how racist people were when they voted in an inexperienced person just because he would be the first Black president. Cute part of it all is he is not Black but he is mulatto, half Black and half White. Not true black at all. So Congress should not be called racist if they reign him in on his not leading our country. Instead he apparently is pushing to bring America to its knees.

    March 21, 2012 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  12. Malory Archer

    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 .

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

    For starters, DiNero ISN'T a candidate. He is a guy at a party. BTW, the current first lady has been attacked incessantly by the right since day 1. Additionally, limbaugh called 12 year old Chelsea Clinton the White House dog and played a sound clip of a barking dog while holding up her photo. You're offended yet you're still part of the crowd. Ironic or hypocritical? You decide.

    March 21, 2012 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  13. Dede

    Doesn't matter how you spin it, what DeNiro said was wrong. Remarks like that keep the hate going.

    March 21, 2012 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  14. ragu4u

    If DiNiro makes enough gaffes he COULD replace Biden as the V.P.

    March 21, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  15. DLH

    They want the president to appologies for this remark but not for the Quaran burning?According to the Republicans the President should not appologies because it shows weekness.Republicans make up your mind and then get a life!!!There are more important things to worry about than a remark by Robert De Niro.

    March 21, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  16. Eagle Eye

    Everyone has to understand the ultra Hollywood liberals can say anything they want and not get into trouble. The liberals are not going to pay any attention on the remark that Robert DeNero said. The Hollywood liberals are going to give Robert DeNero a slap on the hand. And don't be surprised if DeNero gets a phone all from Obama on the remark he made. There's an old aying "I guess they can't take a joke"

    March 21, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  17. Rickey

    This is just ridiculous for several reasons, one, I didn't hear Gingrich sound off when Mrs. Obama was plastered in the media. Of all the things to find to point out in a the election with all the other things this nation needs to address. Again the name calling and really unimportant issues. Come on people, we're acting like a bunch of little children instead of adults and addressing the issues our nation is facing.

    March 21, 2012 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  18. DIANA

    This in no way compares to what Limbaugh said. He was only pointing out that obsurity of the 2008 election when people were asked if they were ready for a black woman in the White House. Like somebody said before – Rick defended Limbaugh by saying he was just an entertainer. Mr. Dinero is also an entertainer and I'm sure he didn't clear what he said with the President or First Lady so how are they responsible?

    Personally, I'm very happy with the black woman who's in the White House and am not ready for any of these white women who want to live there.

    March 21, 2012 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  19. Dashpie88

    De Nire only meant he wanted (we want) the current first lady to remain for four more years. His roundabout way of saying it wasn't so funny, another reason actors read lines written by writers so they always sound great. His comment had no evil in just a bit of stupidity. He should apologize for his comments curtness and state he just would like the Obama's to remain to finish the good work they have started. I should be his damage control publicists I could fix this quickly and the public focus would return to more important issues like the campaign

    March 21, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  20. Skegeeace

    Spare me the mock outrage, GinGRINCH! It was a joke made by a celebrity, not a political official. If that's the case, you should apologize for Rush Limbaugh, Neil Bortz, and all the other yahoos with the MILLION offensive statements they make every year. You're just mad nobody wants your stupid Stepford wife #3 in the office- OR YOU.

    March 21, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  21. Malory Archer

    Dede, was it hate when the repubs and their media mouthpieces ALL piled on prior to the 2008 election, asking if the country was ready for a black president? Is it hate when limbaugh calls the First Lady "Moochele"?

    March 21, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  22. Rickey

    This is just ridiculous for several reasons, one, I didn't hear Gingrich sound off when Mrs. Obama was plastered in the media by a Republican Senator. Of all the things to find to point out in a the election with all the other things this nation needs to address. Again the name calling and really unimportant issues. Come on people, we're acting like a bunch of little children instead of adults and addressing the issues our nation is facing.

    March 21, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  23. thomas

    Newt needs to apologize to his ex wives !

    March 21, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  24. Expat American

    What is the reason for this Republican outrage? Those people so offended by DeNiro’s comments should just say ‘Yes’ and be done with it. No need to get into the reasons why. Keep those safely hidden away.

    March 21, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  25. Anonymous

    He trying so hard to not be a racist, he can't see that he is and so is this comment.

    March 21, 2012 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
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