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. Doug Dean

    The comment was not so much offensive as (typically for Hollywood) incoherent. I think he was making a joke somehow, but I can't for the life of me figure out what the joke was.

    March 20, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  2. watergirl

    Libby FedUp said that 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!

    Libby the comment De Niro made has been reversed. That is why he said is American ready for a "white" first lady. Wen Obama was running for president some in the media were saying is American ready for a black president or a black first lady. De Niro was making fun of the media for making those comments about Obama & Michelle.
    Lighten up...Newt is just trying to make an issue out of it because he's trying to get attention. I am sure Robert won't miss you not watching his movies......because us real fans will keep watching.

    March 20, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  3. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    Race baiting and diversionary divisive psuedo-issues... well to the Obama leftist smoke and mirror show. They want to take your eyes and mind of their 4 years of total failure and the 24 million unemployed.

    Don't be suckered by the smoke, mirrors and snake oil America. Obama was a one trick teleprompter dog, steal from somebody he dislikes to give to somebody else that he likes.

    Obama, the originator of the Bernie Madoff style of government.

    March 20, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  4. ChrisNScottsdale

    Calista Gingrich looks like a character straight out of Mars Attacks. Nice platinum bucket, babe!

    March 20, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    I think what DeNiro was really saying is that the country still isn't ready for a black POTUS, much less a black first lady. Could you imagine the uproar in the extreme right wing if, heaven forbid, we had a black POTUS and white first lady?

    March 20, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  6. JPX

    Apologize? Oh please, not a day goes by when republicans aren't insulting anyone who isn't a bloated, whiite male. How is what DiNiro said "offensive"? I'm offended by people who preach hatered towards women, gays, and minorities (i.e. Republicans).

    March 20, 2012 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  7. Tina

    Does anyone really take this stuff seriously? We are a joke...plain...simple...such things just prove that no matter how seriously we take ourselves...we really area joke- left, right, middle. Get over it already. We'll be gone and next generation can carry on with the SNL dialogues as they tell the rest of the world what is right and wrong.

    March 20, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  8. steve

    What does Obama have to do with this that requires an appology? Newt is a has-been. Let's move on.

    March 20, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  9. Cricket11

    Why on Earth would Obama apologize for something DeNiro said? Yet again, let's "blame Obama" for everything and anything. Stubbed your toe? It's Obama's fault. Milk expired? That darn Obama. Can't get a girlfriend? Stupid Obama. It's ridiculous and showcases the pettiness coming from the GOP. Good luck and have a nice life Newt. You'll be forgotten very soon.

    March 20, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  10. superbombastik

    Wait a minute, DeNiro is a Hollywood actor and married to a black lady. The rulebook states clearly in the 2nd sentence of the last paragraph on page 17 that he can say whatever he wants.

    March 20, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  11. Reasonably

    And the GOP Candidate Hypocrisy Train rolls on unhindered by it's own growing weight.

    March 20, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  12. seanster5977

    So this they make a stink about? But Bill Maher and his million dollar comments no biggie. I'm conservative and thought De Niro's comment was a funny zinnger. It was not offensive, but plays on they idea America was not ready for a first lady that was black. De Niro is married to a black woman (or maybe they are just a non-married couple) so I don't see this a WILDLY inappropriate. Hey Mr. De Niro I think your friend Obama is a hypocrit. I bet he would have laughed if you had just handed him a million dollars though.

    March 20, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  13. edwardo

    I guess every demonrat is a comedian! BS, they are all racist.

    March 20, 2012 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  14. Mike

    Yeah, right. Stinkgrinch doesn't have the guts to call out DeNiro.

    March 20, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  15. Doyle Wiley, MI

    Since Michelle Obama is the country's first non-white first lady, I believe this can be simply considered a joke, nothing else to see here folks. Newt if you want something valid to complain about look it your own past statements.

    March 20, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  16. Jim

    I'm sorry but this is a non-issue. I don't understand why the media tries to stay neutral by following the most non-trivial news imaginable. It's an insult to the American people's intelligence but it's all about those ratings I guess. Rush Limbaugh attacking a citizen was one thing, and was well deserved by the outrage the people themselves had, but this, this is just insulting. Just to keep it liberal one day and conservative the next to stay neutral? Lets focus on real issues or real controversial matters and leave this bull out of it. CNN's politics section is such a joke I can barely look anymore. There are real politics at play, real political issues such as privatized prisons, the wars and talk of wars, the economy and healthcare including the fight against women's reproductive systems by male only counterparts..but this..what the hell is this?

    March 20, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  17. cameo

    .................. Well, Mr, Deniro right , America love Michelle Obama and we want four more years of her. No harm done from our goodfella saying the truth........................................................

    March 20, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  18. 1_person

    BRAVO Tina!

    March 20, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  19. Scott

    I think a dumb Hollywood actor made a dumb Hollywood actor joke, and the dumb politicians took it WAY to far. Oh no, did Mr. Gingrinch cry? Does he want someone to say there sowwy? Would that help fat Newton feel better? I guess he really hurt Newts feelings since he's demanding someone say they're sorry for making a joke... So does anyone know the GOPs plan for jobs yet?

    March 20, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  20. TSRVT

    Republicans are such thin-skinned nincompoops that it is almost laughable. They really are pathetic creatures, each and every one. Voters included. I thought DeNiro's quip was smart and funny. Grow up, GOPers, and stop acting like ignorant spoiled brats.

    March 20, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  21. Olaf Big

    Robert, it's a funny joke! Ignore the humorless hypocrites in both parties.

    March 20, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  22. CK

    GaryB said, "Dang Republicans have thin skins. The joke is funny because it's a play off..."

    Of course.

    See, whenever the left makes a comment that the right would be roundly condemned for ... why, it's just a joke.

    March 20, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  23. Bert0529

    Really? This is news? Does nobody recognize Bobby D's complete mis-framing of the issues as comedy? These are basic joke writing tools... transposing issues and foci to form absurd exaggerations...... Sure, it may not have been as funny as Graabir Boubi or Hous Bin Pharteen but it's not disrespectful or inflammatory. Gimme a break!

    March 20, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  24. americanfirst

    Admirably, the country was ready for a American Black president and First Lady.
    Tragically, neither one showed up.
    Soberly, the process taught Americans a great deal about the encroachment of socialism in American politics.

    March 20, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  25. Al

    And with that single utterance this CommieWood twit just lost himself millions of fans. Hope it was worth it.

    March 20, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
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