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.

– Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

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. weareallfkd

    Race is an obvious as a fist in you face. To pretend it doesn't exist is a farce.

    March 20, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  2. Death To Muggles

    Speaking Tuesday, Gingrich labeled the comments "inexcusable," and called on Obama to apologize.

    Why would Obama apologize when De Niro made the remark ?
    I also dont get why people are upset.
    Before Michelle Obama became the first "black" lady of the white house,
    every single woman before her was white.
    Its a fact, and a harmless joke.
    Lighten up people.

    March 20, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  3. Baranga the Great

    Michelle is a fine, beautiful, sumptuous choclate skinned goddess...that is all...

    March 20, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  4. Karen

    the liberal war on white women must stop. Shame on Michelle Obama for not speaking out when DeNiro uttered his ignorant statement and attacked Ann Romney, a breast cancer survivor and MS sufferer, BY NAME! DeNiro doesn't likes strong white women.

    Anyone who saw the last fockker movie already hates DeNiro.

    March 20, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  5. Arch

    when De Niro lies, for 3-straight hours, for 3-straight days, while simultaneously being the head of the democratic party, i will begin to take this criticism seriously. until then, read your bibles and suck on your guns, you dead-end losers.

    March 20, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  6. weareallfkd

    R-a-c-e is as obvious as a fist in your face. Why pretend it doesn't exist?

    March 20, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  7. boing

    IIf De Niro's remark is "inexcusable" - what is the point of demanding an apology from Pres. Obama? Besides logic, after cheating on all his wifes Newt is not in the position to lecture others on decency.

    But the main point is this : Where is the evidence that the ladies mentioned are not and were not palling around with terrorists? Where are their birth certificates? Where is the proof that they are not as "angry" and "bitter" as Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann.

    Keep going Robert, you're on the right track when morons like Gingrich insist on the victimhood, paranoia, and double standards of the conservatives.

    March 20, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  8. Lean6

    These Republicans need to grow up. Was it a smart thing to say? Of course not. I'm sure every seasoned politician within hearing either cringed or salivated depending on party, but NOBODY with any business trying to get the job of the guy that presses the "red button" had better have skin that thin. We are living in a time where context of speaker, occassion, and any other mitigating factor or circumstance is irrelevant or at least a distant second to scoring cheap poltical points...at the people's expense.

    March 20, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  9. boing

    IIIIf De Niro's remark is "inexcusable" – what is the point of demanding an apology from Pres. Obama? Besides logic, after cheating on all his wifes Newt is not in the position to lecture others on decency.

    But the main point is this : Where is the evidence that the ladies mentioned are not and were not palling around with terrorists? Where are their birth certificates? Where is the proof that they are not as "angry" and "bitter" as Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann.

    Keep going Robert, you're on the right track when morons like Gingrich insist on the victimhood, paranoia, and double standards of the conservatives.

    March 20, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  10. C. Risley

    newt, newt, newt, really I would think America is far more accepting of a beautiful black first lady, instead of your pointy nose third woman....who in no way will ever be a "first lady"...

    March 20, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  11. Katie

    The Obamas 2012!

    March 20, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  12. lance corporal

    the king of mean calling on someone else to apologize...... how often does the GOP say horrid things they later describe as a joke, just palin alone...... I think the comment is more about JUST how white these GOP candidates and their wives are and dinero has a point moreover I don't see how the comment was THAT insulting, it was ridiculous and delivered AS a joke

    March 20, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  13. BLKMANinAmerica

    Newt.............................REALLY? Get a life, I mean De Nero made the comment so really what's wrong? It kills me that only white people can make comments about white people? R U serious? De Nero said it, you don't like it, SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO WHAT!

    March 20, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  14. billy davis

    Speaking Tuesday, Gingrich labeled the comments "inexcusable," and called on Obama to apologize.

    What De Niro said is inexcusable. However, Newtie, hasn't demanded that Limbaugh apologize for calling Fluke a slut and a prostitute. But, he wants the POTUS to apologize for what someone else said. What a tool.

    March 20, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  15. cathstar

    Newt Gingrich is beyond stupid! Why should President Obama apologize for something DeNiro said? Why didn't Newt demand that DeNiro apologize? Probably afraid to! And Newt should recognize that there is no way in hell that his "current" wife will be First Lady of this country. He should pull out of the race now and save himself further embarrassment.

    March 20, 2012 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  16. 32mMD

    The liberals are always playing the race card. They continue to divide this country.

    March 20, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  17. bettyboop33

    America is NOT ready for any of the GOP candidates to become elected as POTUS. Romney: flipflopper, Gingrich: in love with himself, Santorum: Religious extremist who is trying to undermine women's rights, Paul: ideas could return us to the days of Hoover and nobody liked Hoover. Currently our POTUS Barack Obama will be re-elected as a result of the fact that the GOP do not have a candidate capable enough to defeat him. Beautiful and classy Michelle Obama will continue to be our FLOTUS! Great news for America.

    March 20, 2012 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  18. dave

    Phony thy name is Republican

    March 20, 2012 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  19. mb2010a

    The picture looks like he's trying to touch her hair to see if it's really as hard as it looks.

    March 20, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  20. Mike B

    Enough with the phony outrage. It was a harmless joke.

    March 20, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  21. NooYawkah

    Everybody knows De Niro has perpetual Jungle Fever.

    March 20, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  22. dave

    Gingrich should have nothing to say – He treats women worse than McCain does

    March 20, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  23. Andrea

    @Demarco, you are so on point. The sarcasm in DeNiro's comment was completely lost on most people...I don't recall anyone being appalled and asking for apologies when the question of "Is America Ready for a Black President" was being asked. And why is Newt asking Obama to apologize for a comment that DeNiro made? So petty and not relevant...focus on your campaign, Newt...and find something more constructive to do...like figuring out (and then telling us) exactly how you plan to get gas down to $2.50/gallon.

    March 20, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  24. Michelle

    I'm not ready! He is right, he must of been speaking for me, I AM NOT READY!!!

    March 20, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  25. MaxNatoma

    What I find interesting is how quickly Newt jumped on this compared to how slowly he criticized Limbaugh for his attack on Sandra Fluke. What does that say?

    DeNiro was clearly trying to make a joke. Obviously, it makes people uncomfortable.

    March 20, 2012 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34