March 20th, 2012
10:38 AM ET
11 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. Squigman

    Newt: Take that stepford wife clone of yours, and both you and her jump into a fully functional stump grinder. No one's gonna miss ya..

    March 20, 2012 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  2. The GOP opens mouth and inserts foot

    Gingrich is blasting The Godfather himself?

    And Obama should apologize for DeNiro? Does that mean Boehner should apologize for the crap spewed by Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and O'Reilly?

    Really, Newt, just go away. You're an embarrassment to Georgians every time you open your mouth.

    March 20, 2012 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  3. kevin

    Shut up don't matter.

    March 20, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  4. Robert Gruber

    Just imagine if someone said that the country is not ready for a black first lady. Oh my, would the sparks fly after that one!! But then double standards are totally acceptable by liberal thinking since liberals' are on the right side of all political disagreements. At least thats how they act.

    March 20, 2012 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  5. LA Man

    Seriously?? He's grasping at straws now. Anyone with a brain gets De Niro's joke. Its a play on what was said about President Obama (and MIchelle) before he was elected. I think its time for Newt to face the music and get the hell out of this race.

    March 20, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |

    "I think the country is ready for a new first lady and he doesn't have to describe it in racial terms."
    How can newt not see the humor in Deniro's comments? He's just being anal and trying to stir up controversy. The President doesn't have to apologize for jack squat. There's a difference between what Rush said and what Deniro said. All of the previous First Lady's were white. That's a fact and Deniro was simply stating that. Rush called a private citizen deragatory names on public airwaves with the intent of denegrading women. Big difference.

    March 20, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  7. Irish189

    This feels like grasping at straws and is just plain sad

    Newt's outage would be more justified if all previous first ladies hadn't been white

    Its clearly a joke played a poll that came out of Pennsylvania I believe that said many people "werent ready for a black president"

    March 20, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  8. getoverit

    Of courae there will be no backlash from this...

    March 20, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  9. Obama wins

    Where is this man Geingrich coming from?!
    With all the hate speech that has spewed from his lying mouth all this time about our president he has the gall to ask our president to apologize! Gringrich is one dispicable man
    Who is quite in love with his persona.
    Ship all the Repubs including the TPs Palin family to Siberia and never to be heard from ever again!!!

    March 20, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  10. michaecae

    Why is it rich, politicians put people down for the opinions they express and they do it in a manner that makes it appear they are middle class, just barely getting by like the rest of us. Come on Newt, I think De Niro notices the price of gas about as well as you do. What's your net worth? Oh, please!

    March 20, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  11. Nobodies Pon

    His outrage is so childish he should be ashame there is no comparsion to what Rush said and what Deniro said. This comment was clearly a joke. Ms. Obama is the first and only black first lady. 43 of 44 are white female dominance at that position is a fact. Having one black first lady is what Newt is really outraged about.

    March 20, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  12. Kevin

    Gingirch is such an opportunist. Can nobody even make a joke anymore. Before Obama was elected, I heard comments from mostly voters alluding that we weren't ready for a black president or first lady. It was a tongue in cheek joke. Get a sense of humor Newt Gingrinch.

    March 20, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  13. Veridico

    Mr. Gingrich, you should know by now that nothing but ignorant, stupid and low class comments from the silly and uneducated libs/Hollywood crowd. As for Obama's apology, don't hold your breath, it ain't coming because he needs their campaign donation and also an ultra liberal.

    March 20, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  14. sonny chapman

    Apologize ? I thought Repubs. NEVER want a Prez to apologize.

    March 20, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  15. Ginette/Mexico

    For heaven's sakes, get a life, Newt!

    March 20, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  16. JohnW

    How dare an entertainer make a statement that's obviously a joke? I am full of faux outrage!

    By the way, this quote right here: "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." See, this is how most of America feels about you and the rest of the GOP pretenders to the throne.

    March 20, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  17. RCS

    Get a sense of humor Newt!

    March 20, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  18. Lolo

    Really Newt?? It is okay for you to call the President a food stamp president which is along racial lines because we all know that your comment was towards blacks and other minority people, like no whites are on the government role. Your GOP/Tea Partiers stated this crap and now the people with common sense will end it.

    March 20, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  19. Housport22

    It's hilarious when either side of the political scrap heap feigns indignation. Gas prices are high. We're still in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our deficit is exponentially ridiculous. I don't give a d*mn what Robert DeNiro, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Moore, or George Clooney have to say. How about we elect someone who will actually identify, address, and correct the problems we're facing, rather than listen to the same tired refrains about some idiotic remark that is alegedly the most foul thing ever said by anyone?

    March 20, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  20. Russ

    OMG Newt, this bothers you why? Obama should apologize for an actor's meaningless comment, but not opologize for desecrating someones religious books or murdering innocent civilians? Get your priorities in order Newt. This is why you are so far behind. You have nothing worthwhile to talk about. You're a loser. You should be apologizing for every other comment you make. But you don't.

    March 20, 2012 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  21. Amazing

    So where was Newt when Rush made his rude remarks about Mrs. Obama backside? Newt's outrage would be more acceptable if he was conistent in his approach regardless of the political party the offender is associated with. That said, DeNiro's comments were over the top.

    March 20, 2012 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  22. Jaybie

    It's called irony, Newt! Ever heard of it!? Thanks for demonstrating, once again, why you're not fit to be president.

    Folks, whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, Liberal or Conservative, would you ever vote for a candidate who can't recognize ironic humor..and who takes himself and his wife WAY too seriously!

    March 20, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  23. Jim

    It must be hard, Newt. Third place and fading fast, no one really wants to hear your blather anymore, so you try and make a relatively innocuous remark seem incendiary. DeNiro's remark about first ladies is about as inflammatory as yours about actors. Good luck with this approach.

    March 20, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  24. Sam

    Since everything to him is the worst ever, surprised he did not inform us that this was the worst statement since the Lincoln address.

    March 20, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  25. Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)

    I think the country is ready for a new first lady and he doesn't have to describe it in racial terms."
    I think you know where you can stow your fake outrage. Rush, and many others have described this current First Lady in despicable racial terms, as well as her husband. DeNiro is not a member of this administration he is a private individual, as such the President doesn't have to apologize for his remarks, which don't merit an apology in the first palce. This country HAS ONLY HAD WHITE FIRST LADIES, so whatever DeNIro meant (?) is irrelevant. I'm enjoying the change of scenery, intelligence, and the vibrant authenticity that Michelle Obama has brought to the position. Give somebody else a turn.
    Obama 2012. Seriously America.

    March 20, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
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