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. U-Joint Jerry

    Being gay is not race, Come on. Many people thought what Rush said was funny but dummies still want the fcc involved. What if race baiting jokes don't seem funny to some, they can't complain???

    March 20, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  2. Taylor

    Mr G please you are a fine one to one care what you say. You need to get on RUSH

    March 20, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  3. fauxhawk70

    Really? They are stressing about this remark? Come on!

    March 20, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  4. Lorri

    When will people (BOTH sides) learn that two wrongs don't make a right? It doesn't matter who/how many times someone else made an inappropriate comment – admit that wrong is wrong and quit just pointing fingers. It was an ignorant, inexcusable comment, and the President and his wife agreed – PERIOD.

    March 20, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    I guess I'm a little slow, but I just realized that Politico is a stump for the Liberals and is not worth reading any longer. You people are so blind to the truth that you wouldn't even recognize it when it knocks down your front door and takes you all to the rehabilitation camps..

    March 20, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  6. conservative face palm

    You cannot hide your hatred and bigotry by trying to call out people who are making light hearted jokes. they are digging their own graves trying to justify rush's awful display of vulgarity on air because they just dont seem to have the balls to own their own comments...i dont know what is more fun to watch: their own self destruction on the campaign trail, or using their 3rd grade problem-solving skills in an attempt to try and tie every off color comedian/ joke to something they said that was hateful and racist for justification purposes. just wonder nobody likes the right.

    March 20, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  7. Really!

    Did any of you give Rush a pass on the Fluke thing? (Nothing to see here...move along). Yep. didn't thnk so. That's exactly the point.

    March 20, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  8. chance

    Robert made a racist joke, plain and simple. He should apologize and get it over with.

    March 20, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  9. FedUp

    If the comment had been reversed, there would have been a big uprising. I've seen my last DeNiro movie. Thanks, Robert. That saves me some money. Very cute!

    March 20, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  10. Sam Freeman

    I can’t stand Obama or Michelle, but this is just absurd. (The reason I don’t like Michelle is because of her nanny-state Nazi efforts to regulate people’s consumer choices and because of her comment about her husband’s nomination being the first time in her life she was ever proud of the U.S.—otherwise, she seems like a nice person).

    De Niro’s comment was clearly intended as a joke. The joke sought to show his approval for Obama and Michelle while pointing out and making fun of the pathetic drivel the MSM poured out in the last presidential election when they kept asking whether America was ready for a black president, in a blatant effort to smear anyone who did not support Obama as someone who could only be motivated by race. There is no risk that this joke will reinforce demented views of people who dehumanize their fellow man on the trivial basis of race.

    March 20, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  11. tor5

    What’s obvious to everyone is that Republicans, especially Newt, use racial code all the time to attack the president, but they don’t mention race explicitly. But when DeNiro mentions race to make a joke that’s not about race, Newt is the first one to start lecturing the planet about political correctness. By analogy, the joke could be that if Newt were the only choice, the country’s not ready for a white president. Get it? It’s an insult, not a slur.

    March 20, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  12. Kevin B

    Why can't these jackalopes allow for the subtly of humor? It was funny, it turned the racial comments of Obama's foes against them – No one should be apologizing for this.

    March 20, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  13. elizabethrc

    DeNiro is guilty of race discrimination, joke or not. The real joke here is all of these Hollywood 'dilitantes' who think they are heroes because they play them on screen. They also play bright people. Sad that most of them are anything but.
    Hey Bobby, America is not ready for another 4 years of a black first lady. How does that sit with you?

    March 20, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  14. jo an

    It was a joke and an 'apology' is easy....make it.

    March 20, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  15. Pot calling the kettle .......

    I old race baiting Newt forgot about all of the racial incencitive statements that he has made such as. " black poeple should ask the president for jobs and not feed stamps" and "inner city children should be given janatorial jobs in there schools and union workers fired". There have been a lot more racial comments from the right than the left.

    March 20, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  16. U-Joint Jerry

    The thing is this wasn't true. He wasn't speaking the truth. Somewhere between 52-56% of Americans want a new first lady. He was telling a joke. I remeber libs going after machaca and s. thurmond while loving Byrd and now this. I say we stop blasting everyone or having the fcc investigate calling people sluts(listen to any drive time radio show in your town)

    March 20, 2012 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  17. Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)


    If the comment had been reversed, there would have been a big uprising
    I'm not his P.R. person but I'm here to tell you that the comment WAS reversed, and there was NO uprising. As a matter of fact, FedUp (which I am too) DeNIro made the comment as a role reversal on ALL of the comments that were made in 2008 by members of the right wing and the media in general (specifically FOX) regarding whether the country was ready for a Black First Lady, and/or a Black President. Those comments were so prevalent they would've been hard to miss. Nobody cried foul for fear of being accused of playing the....RACE CARD. So we took it like good little Indians, and let it go.
    Did you stop watching FOX? Or supporting the GOP? I haven't seen a good DeNiro movie in quite sometime, by the way.
    Obama 2012.

    March 20, 2012 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  18. McDivott

    America is losing its sense of humor, irony and historical perspective. Kissinger once said that the politics at Harvard was so fierce because the stakes were so small. In this and other like instances on both sides the minds are so small. Good manners and humor were once the lubricant that made politics work more effectively. We need more of it.

    March 20, 2012 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  19. TH

    DeNiro was out of line, but Obama should not apologize. DeNiro should.

    March 20, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  20. U-Joint Jerry

    It wasn't the truth it was a joke. A majority of Americans think it is time for a white first lady. (Because there are no black options except for Michelle)

    March 20, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  21. Hibernian Faithful

    The faux talentless "actor" has displayed a real understanding, unlike Soledad of "Prof" Bells Critical Race Theory. The only thing inappropriate was that it was expressly stated so even us rubes can understand it.

    March 20, 2012 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  22. Logic N LA

    You are kidding me that this is an issue? I wasn't there and I can tell you he meant we needed to keep Obama in office and nothing more. This is not racist at all.
    He didn't call anyone a name. He didn't address anyone specifically.Stop trying to make more of this than it is.

    March 20, 2012 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  23. ncsteve

    Very telling, reading these comments. If the shoe had been on the other foot, with an actor saying we ARE ready for a white First Lady at a Republican candidate's fundraiser, the press would have been all over that like white on rice. The double standard among Dems is truly pathetic. The most bigoted people I know call themselves "liberal". They demean any disagreement with their position as sub-human, and excuse every insanity by their Chosen One. Can anyone remember Jeremiah Wright? No racism there, eh? How about Bill Ayers? Or Derrick Bell? Check Snopes "Barack Obama Coils of Rage".

    March 20, 2012 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  24. Terez

    You go, Bobby!!!

    March 20, 2012 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  25. U-Joint Jerry

    What comments about Obama's race??? Specific examples...

    March 20, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
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