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. Jeffsd

    Its actually a pretty funny and thought provoking comment. Many commentators said the same thing about Michelle Obama. It was not considered racist at all at the time. How can the reverse be considered racist. It isjointly a brilliant attempt at sarcasm.

    March 20, 2012 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  2. LydiaLydia

    Oh gee, what do we have here? Another leftwing liberal racist pig from the perversion that is Hollywierd?

    March 20, 2012 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  3. Rsprings

    If one of the GOP candidates had joked like that there would be an uproar like you would not believe. Jusy like when those on he left picked on the Palin and Mcain kids. You'll note no GOP have said one word about the First Lady or the two kids. It ought to stay that way.

    March 20, 2012 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  4. U-Joint Jerry

    Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)
    What comments on Fox. Quote them. Really when did they say we were not ready. The asked a question which CNN and MSNBC asked. So agin, specifically what did they say that was racist???

    March 20, 2012 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  5. Joe Pell

    I'm confused. Gingrich wants Obama to apologize for something someone else said? Go figure will ya!

    March 20, 2012 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  6. Andy

    i don't understand how this is racist. The same question was practically asked everyday while Obama was running for office, 'is the country ready for a black president?,' 'is the country ready for a black first lady?' it wasnt racist then, it isn't now. What makes it humorous is that now that the shoe is in the other foot the rediculous question is more irrelevant since we have had plenty of white first ladies.

    March 20, 2012 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  7. jennifer in Houston

    Gingrich needs to get a life..

    March 20, 2012 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  8. Ricky L

    It was a very mild joke/

    Not a very gppd one, but also not an offensive one.

    March 20, 2012 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  9. Timmeh

    The same people here saying that it's no big deal, or Newt should shut his mouth, would be the first to want him shut up or be screaming bloody racist at the tops of their lungs. Liberals ARE the biggest hypocrites on the planet. Too bad DeNiro is another limousine Hollywood liberal, who plays a tough guy in movies, but is another sissyfied liberal moron in real life.

    March 20, 2012 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  10. Name

    I dont understand what was racist about his statement. last time i checked micheal obama was still black and not white so by saying "america isnt ready for a white first lady yet" (since there's no other candidates with black wifes) all he's really saying is he wants obama reelected how is that racist.

    March 20, 2012 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  11. GTA

    Santorum's tactics are transparent. He knows that it would be political suicide to openly bring race into any campaign. However, he apparently has no problem pandering to the religious right by questioning Obama's "theogoly", which is just code for "he is not really a Christian like all Americans should be, so don't vote for him".

    March 20, 2012 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  12. Ricky L

    It was a very mild joke.

    Not a very good one, but also not an offensive one.

    March 20, 2012 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  13. Libby


    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!

    Big bad Hollywood elite fault! Wow sounds like you got that from a script by Beck-Rush and that dead MOFO Not-so-BrightBart

    Lets get one thing straight. If you judge the movies you watch based on the actors when they are not acting, then you dont like movies.................Poor robert is going to miss you, you are so important, you are going to stop watching one of the greatest actors of our time because of a comment in a non acting enviornment?

    Wow you fake patriots amuse me!


    March 20, 2012 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  14. U-Joint Jerry

    Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)

    The "little Indians" was a great comment as well.

    March 20, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  15. Diane K. Kovacs

    Who cares with Gingrich thinks? He's not even a joke anymore... why are you bothering to cover this?

    March 20, 2012 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  16. SCAtheist

    I'm trying to be consistent here, but I just can't. That was way too funny.

    March 20, 2012 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  17. Marc in Texas

    Give me a break – DeNiro made a VERY modest joke. Barely even a joke – and he was obviously being ironic, and did not engage in the kind of personal attacks that the right wants us to overlook. The truth is that the GOP has ZERO ideas, so they keep pulling this nonsense to cover the EMPTINESS of a campaign that has no ideas. None. All of the rhetoric is empty. I am sick of humorless nincompoops.

    March 20, 2012 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  18. Roger

    I like Gingrich and De Niro and sometimes trying to be funny flops. I don't get the joke so I'm not mad because I don't get it. I have listened to each of the candidates wives speak and any of them would make a fine first lady.

    March 20, 2012 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  19. Joe C.

    It's amazing how many Holllywood and entertainment industry spokespersons this Obama campaign has (and has to reign in). And yet, this campaign is supposed to appeal to the "have nots".

    March 20, 2012 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  20. Fair + Balanced

    Yes, very inappropriate. Actually DeNiro would have been much more relevant if he mentioned the Calista Gingrinch hairdo, which has obviously been styled after the Jetson's space helmets in honor of Newtie's Moon Colony plan for wasting tax payers dollars. GIVE ME A BREAK.

    March 20, 2012 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  21. Republicans - "The Not Intended to Be Factually Accurate" Party

    1st of all, Mr. DeNiro is a grown man. The President doesn`t have to appologize for him. 2nd, What Deniro said doesn`t warrant an apology given the history of 43 "white" first ladies which preceeded AND the obvious intent of the comment that Mr. Obama should be re-elected.

    This is "dog-whistle" racism politics by Gingrich to bolster how long he can stay in the race. Newt CAN NOT win the nomination, and certainly not the Presidency. But he can, SELFISHLY, extend his 3rd or 4th "15-minutes-of-fame" and extract personal gain [ speaking fees & political punditry].

    Want to impress me Newt? Weigh in on the race-based shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida. Have your own "Sistah Soulja" moment and condemn the NRA-card holding, gun-toting, white man that executed a bright, beautiful, 17-year old black kid. Mitt, Pretty Ricky, Ron Paul ? America is waiting.

    March 20, 2012 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  22. Ed Kay

    "beyond the pale" lol
    I luv ya Newt, but that was funny!

    March 20, 2012 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  23. 1_person

    After reading through several pages of responses to this story all I can say is De Niro, Gingrich, Obama, and 99% of you are flipping idiots.

    "do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?"

    This isn't a joke, America is a joke.

    March 20, 2012 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  24. Joe

    From Italo-Americano to another BASTA your comments are very lame and offensive to us caucasians.

    March 20, 2012 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  25. NVRAT

    As long as it`s not a White Female Democrat unless it`s one that stands for the USA and not a Progressive, that takes Hillary Clinton out of the picture.

    March 20, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
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