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.

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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. Doughasses Rule Washington

    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. Now THIS was funny. Santorum should be a comedian...Just change the word "race" to "bigot" and his soundbite is dead on...

    Whole thing is ridiculous and not 'news' worthy. Lighten up peeps.

    March 20, 2012 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  2. belindar

    DeNiro should have said that the white house is not ready for an adulterer as a first lady. Now that is no joke!

    March 20, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  3. Expat American

    The wives of the remaining GOP candidates put aside – the country isn’t ready for another Liar and Criminal (Republican) in the White House. 8 years of the Bush Brownshirt Regime was quite enough for a long long time.

    March 20, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  4. Stephen in VA

    *gasp* an inappropriate joke? Say it ain't so!

    And Newt–what's up with the "the economy is horrible and Mr. DeNiro doesn't realize it" line? Didn't he get the RNC memo that the economy is no longer any big deal? Last election the (R)s promised us a laser-like focus on "jobs, jobs, jobs!" and instead we got political infighting on how to cut the budget to lose jobs, jobs, jobs. Now, at least, Prince Reibus and Santorum are being honest. Newt, ya missed the memo, didn't ya?

    March 20, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  5. Bella

    Santorum is tired and delirious .....Go home .

    March 20, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  6. setnommarih

    DeNiro, good actor, should just go with that. Hollywood types is what Obama wants on his team. I am interested in good, sound government and I have been looking for that for over 3 years now. President, please campaign on your own time, everyone else is. I am tired on the pres. campaigning on my dime.

    March 20, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  7. Ralebol

    Did Gingrich (or Santorum, or Romney) ask Rush Limbaugh to apologize for his "slut" rant? Nope, because they are too scared of him.

    March 20, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  8. dnokc

    Let's look at it this way...had the comments been reversed...how would the shoe have fit then?
    Similar to African Americans for Obama..what if Caucasian Americans for Smith? If you are voting for Mr. Obama solely based on color I believe you are a bigot, no less than if you vote for another candidate whose qualifications are solely on race.
    Kind of funny for someone who campaigned as being capable of working with people on both sides of the isle. Looks kind of divisive to me.

    March 20, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  9. JDubya

    Cool! De Niro has aspired to follow the ranks of other, smoldering turds like the late greatly defamed racist, Tom Hanks, a premiere narrator you do not want to lose, especially if you are using him in your narrative about how 3.5 years of do-nothing leadership is all to blame on the prior president. Pathetic.

    I guess there is another actor I will boycott. Sure, the rest of the Progtards can demean my comment here with the same boring, retarded narrative; however, I have also found that the original books are much better than these pathetic left-wing talking-point drones (or more appropriately: pawns), and I am no longer giving money to these pathetic one-dimensional thespians.

    Good luck, Hollywood! You are steadily moving forward towards dissolution!

    March 20, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  10. Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)

    This is the ONE thng that I disagree with Obama about, him forever taking the freaking high-road. Write it down Truth, and take a picture. I HATE IT when my President treats these turds with the respect and digninty that they DO NOT deserve.
    I didn't hear anyone saying anything about the pictures of hundreds of watermelons on the White HOuse lawn, the black face, monkey and witchdoctor depiction of our President for the entire world to see during your Tea Party rallies. No comment about the jokes about the size of our First Lady's buttocks, Obama's purple lips, his African heritage. Let's not forget calling him a Nazi, Socialist, Muslim, Non-Christian. Having the unmitigated and classless gall to actually QUESTION the decision of the Nobel Peace Prize committee.
    Why waste an unnecessary apology on these two-faced troglodytes Mr. President? I would've rather you'd apologized to Charles Manson.

    March 20, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  11. kboogie

    there are harder issues to weigh in on newt like how about putting a foot in the florida justice dept **** and arrest the killer of treyvon martin.

    March 20, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  12. sylvia

    Newt, Trump and the other repubs owe the President and the First Lady anapology for their racism.

    March 20, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  13. Malory Archer

    dnokc, the comments WERE reversed during the 2008 campaign. Except they were far worse. Selective amnesia perhaps?

    March 20, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  14. Rudy NYC

    dnoke wrote on page 8:

    ... If you are voting for Mr. Obama solely based on color I believe you are a bigot, no less than if you vote for another candidate whose qualifications are solely on race. Kind of funny for someone who campaigned as being capable of working with people on both sides of the isle. Looks kind of divisive to me.
    -------------
    Let's play connect the dots on this one. Game over. They don't connect.

    March 20, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  15. Andy Hunter

    DeNiro is an adult and is accountable for his own words. The President should not have to apologize for anything. Newt needs to get a grip. He wants to drag Obama's name into everything. If DeNiro doesn't apologize so be it. He probably meant it to be funny in the first place. So what, he's not a comedian.

    March 20, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  16. Goodfella

    Whack em all out, remember Stacks Edwards?

    March 20, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  17. Chris Synfield

    This is a news item? It was a joke. Over-react much?

    March 20, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  18. Migue

    come on, who cares. Eat it GingRICH. I just heard an interesting story on how 82% of Gingrich's money comes from a Jewish Vegas gambling magnate. Now there's the REAL story. I'm sick of these politicians calling Hollywood types rich and disconnected, what about the politicians themselves?

    March 20, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  19. Me IN HOUSTON

    hmmm...this seems much ado about nothing to me...moving on

    March 20, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  20. Chris Synfield

    What was Newtser calling on Obama to apologize for? Having a black wife? Kind of ironic, considering Gingrich's "marriage" record. This is really stupid. We don't have enough problems right now without manufacturing this kind of junk?

    March 20, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  21. Charlotte

    No one affilated with the GOP has room to speak on the issue of race in politics, the least of which are those currently participating in the greatest clown show of all times. They bring this discussion to the table every time one of them runs for office–locally or nationally. Republicans think they can spew all over people, no matter the culture and not reap the ramifications or pay back. Their backbiting and backstabbing marathon campaign, under girded by the likes of Palin, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, FOX News, etc. should have opened the eyes of those who have been in denial. I can't imagine a first lady wearing a helmet such as Mrs. Gingrich, and we've had fake smiles such as the one worn by Mitch McConnell from first ladies in the past.

    The United States has no right going into foreign countries and trying to tell them how to run their governments when our own house is so laden with social and cultural issues.

    March 20, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  22. parkmore

    DeNiro, you are disappointing. You comment is ridiculous and show kind of hate. I guess that the result of long time brain wash in entertainment

    March 20, 2012 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  23. nina

    DeNiro was much to comfortable in this campaign event and thereby made this statement.
    Racial divide. Nice.

    March 20, 2012 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  24. Steve

    Give me a break. That was very funny, jeeze get a sense of humor.

    March 20, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  25. Obama100

    LOL, it amazes me that a party that has thrived on hidden racisms and has spoken of working with people from "both sides" can complain about a joke. Apparently Newt thinks 2x adulter is an OK thing for the White House. Maybe to him that makes him a "multi-tasker." Bottom line is that none of the current losers campaigning for the Republican nomination have a clue as to what it takes to make the economy better or to create more jobs. They definitely don't have any intention of being and all-inclusive government and making sure that all Americans are considered and not just their upper class, fake-holy supporters. Newt, no thank you! Obama has more than proved himself to me!

    March 20, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
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