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. open400

    You have to ber really hard up when you you try to make this off-color comment into a part of your campaign.

    March 20, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  2. Phil Carrelli

    ..I think the American people are tired of the african american first lady, she's always monkeying around with things that has nothing to do with government. It's one thing to suggest this and that, but to literally push agendas for seizing kids lunches because they might not have the correct amount of vitamins, etc, etc. is just pathetic.. We're all glad the first lady has lost a lot of weight, it was about time, but if most of her african american girlfriends want to be fat, let them, it's their prerogative. I'm Hickspanic (get it?), so I'd rather have an American woman in the White House!! 🙂

    March 20, 2012 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  3. donpopione

    Some experts believe that as much as 60 percent of the cost of a gallon of gasoline or heating oil can be attributed to pure speculation and abusive –even manipulative – trading practices, yet most trading is “dark” and federal authorities can neither fully police or see the data in the majority of the trading markets.

    The energy trading markets were originally set up to provide energy producers and distributors with an environment to manage risk and produce the best possible price for their customers. But they are clearly no longer the driving force in the market. Profiteering speculators and investment banks care little about establishing a price for energy based on supply and demand fundamentals – they care about turning a PROFIT.

    Congress and the President Need to Act.

    In order to restore a sense of order to the commodities market, Congress and the administration need to go back and make sure that all energy trading and all energy exchanges are fully transparent and subject to the rule of law. It’s only fair.

    The policymakers in Washington can help reduce the price of oil by shutting down all the loopholes, including the foreign markets and swaps loopholes, and by getting tough on speculative investors and profiteering energy trades and swaps. The United States economy depends upon a reliable supply of energy available at a fair price in a free market. You can help restore the principles of the free market by calling your Congressional representatives and the White House, urging them to pass legislation ensuring that all energy trading is fully transparent, accountable to the rule of law, and based on supply and demand principles

    March 20, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  4. Pander Bear

    I remember all the conservatives falling all over themselves to apologize when Ted Nugent said ""Obama, he's a piece of (excrement). I told him to suck on my machine gun. Hey Hillary," he continued. "You might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless (female dog)."

    Oh wait. That's right. The conservatives went over board to defend Nugent's right to free speech and never apologized. So how's that faux outrage tightie righties?

    March 20, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  5. diane

    No one has a sense of humor anymore. Political correctness has taken away all the fun in living. I am glad that it is starting to erode more and more each day. Hopefully we will get back to where we were 30 years ago. That day will come as we all get more and more fed up with people bi*ching about petty crap!!!!

    March 20, 2012 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  6. Fred Riek

    OMG! Take a chill pill, Republicans. It was a joke, of course. In questionable taste given the hypersensitivity of the justly maligned Repubulican Party, but still a light-hearted joke given that all previous first ladies have been white. I am an independent but firmly believe the Republican Party has moved so far to the right that they snould be chastised this November. Please do not vote for tea party nut cases or religious zealots who can not use common or any other sense in their decisions other than their indoctrinated religious beliefs.

    March 20, 2012 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  7. Kris

    Shut up Gingrich. Nobody cares. DeNiro's comments were off-base, and I'm sure he realized it afterwards. But America doesn't need Mr. Penis to tell America what's appropriate and what's not.

    March 20, 2012 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  8. JohnRJohnson

    DeNiro proved once again that even our most talented actors need competent writers. What he said here was obviously a joke, but DeNiro has never done well in comedies. I give you "Rocky & Bullwinkle" as a case in point. The fact that DeNiro has dated and married black women almost exclusively his entire adult life may have also led him a bit astray here from the reverse political correctness he was trying to satirize.

    March 20, 2012 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  9. J. Morales

    A stupid thing for Deniro to say, he deserves criticism for it. Aren't we supposed to be a post-racial country now? Because it seems like those on the left can just not stop bringing race into conversations.

    March 20, 2012 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  10. andy

    Did everyone miss the satire? I said when Obama got elected, the GOP really messed up with their candidates because they must not have noticed obama was black. But with the way they pander to their base, I believe the pc was satire. Now they pretend that all the racist stuff they shovel is not as bad as this. At least it came from a comedian not a goose stepping candidate. Let it go thin skinners! I think it was hilarious and I'm black.

    March 20, 2012 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  11. GoodRiddance

    de niro acts very intellingent in movies, but actually he was so dumb to make this comment. Yes if republicans were to make this comment, then they are bunch of racist, and democrats have no issues if you call anything a republican, what a shame!!!

    March 20, 2012 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  12. Christine

    How easily offended our society has become! He attempted to lighten the mood so honestly why the drama.. If we get to the point where we cannot poke fun at ourselves and our differences what is left? A very sterile enviroment where everyone is tip toeing around afraid to say anything. No fun.. Stop beng so hypersensitive people! He didnt spew hate or chase people around the room with a torch so chill out. More important issues to be upset about.

    March 20, 2012 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  13. Laurie in Spokane

    What IS all the fuss about? We've only HAD white first ladies until Michelle Obama. Again, the GOP is making fools of themselves over this non-controversial remark/joke. I tell ya, I don't think there's a sane person in the GOP nowadays.

    March 20, 2012 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  14. Garry

    I can't stand libs but my only problem with this was lack of humor. Just like any losing politico, Newt wants to be in the news.

    March 20, 2012 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  15. LMC

    As if the price of gasoline is a personal problem for Gingrich!
    @Phil Carrelli: Mrs. Obama IS an American–get used to it! No one is trying to seize children's lunches, but it is great to have people concerned about the fat and sugar in children's lunches. I am a teacher and I worry about what our children eat and what they bring to school. We have seen primary grade children pull colas and even Mountain Dew out of their lunch bags!

    March 20, 2012 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  16. NoSurpriseWithTheLeft

    All of you leftist pukes that keep saying this is no big deal, I'm sure you find Maher and Letterman's remarks about conservative women amusing. So amusing, I'm sure you would go home and call your wives, daughters or mothers the same types of names right?!? Yeah I thought so. If you condone what they do then you are the puke that is the problem.

    March 20, 2012 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  17. andy

    newt would prefer michelle but his wife doesn't have cancer at the moment.

    March 20, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  18. Dr. Hollar

    I was not offended by his comment. I took it as sarcasm and poking fun at the issue raised in the 2008 election campaign by the media as to whether or not America was ready for a Black President. Doesn't anyone see that or are we so short sighted on history (by this new fast paced, knee jerk, short-term memory loss- popular culture we live in today) that we forget the context that makes his comment relevant and sarcasticm, only a few years later? But that should be expected as White America, in general terms, has a history of forgetting the past and focusing on the prospects of the future (Killing Native Americans, kidnapping, brutalizing and enslaving Africans, etc- which were things done as a White American nation- not a multicultural American nation- and telling those groups to pull themselves up by their bootstraps like white America claims it did). But I digress.....Good job DeNiro. It was funny and I can appreciate sarcasm, the context and its appropriateness. Everybody doesn't have to like it. That's why its called freedom of speech. I think both parties could have a little bit thicker skin to ignore some of the comments celebrities make that don't deserve national attention. There are more pressing issues you know.

    March 20, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  19. NoSurpriseWithTheLeft

    Hey Andy, Deniro isn't a comedian. He's an actor. If you think comedians get passes for what they say (Maher and Letterman) go home and call your daughter or mother those names. I'm sure they would find you REAL funny. This isn't a Black or White thing either. It's what is good for one side is good for the other.

    March 20, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  20. JakeAZ

    oh jeez...more fake outrage. it must mean it's tuesday, and there's conservatives on the campaign trail.

    it was just a stupid joke, everybody calm down.

    March 20, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  21. No, no no

    No, no, no. It's not that we're not ready for a WHITE first lady – we're just not ready for a REPUBLICAN first lady. No matter WHAT color she is.

    In fact, we're not ready for ANYTHING Republican – except where to bury them.

    March 20, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  22. out of step

    Yes Newt, we understand your views.. it is alright for you to suggest that poor kids should become cheap laborors as school janitors. We know that you will blow any and everything out of perportion, because that is what fat bullies do. Your white wife will be leaving you after you lose this election, because she isn't really into you, she is into powerful men... and quite frankly, you lose in that department.

    March 20, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  23. Babs

    Gingrich can't talk about anyone with his baggage!! What nerve!

    March 20, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  24. Howard


    Let's try this one. How about an old, rich, stereotyped Italian man/actor that does not like black people because he comes from narrow-minded beliefs from peers and mother and father to say things that he thinks is funny.

    Does this sum it up??? Are you offended? Because POS's that have some type of pull in this society should either wear their beliefs again other races upfront and not the closet BS that they blame as negligence.

    De Niro I'd like to see how you spin this one you hate monger. Surprised that you did not use the N-word in your ignorant comment.

    March 20, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  25. BRH

    Double Standard: Just two weeks ago these same critics were defending Rush's free speech. Rush's words were more hurtful and direct.

    March 20, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
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