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. The Real Tom Paine

    Are you fascinated with the word "puke", NoSurpriseWithTheLeft? Grow up. The conservative women you talk about have inflicted more than their fair share of abuse on people they deem threats. Grow a thicker skin, righties, or stay out of the fray.

    March 20, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  2. mshare

    I'm not in favor of what DeNiro said, but it was a joke. And the right wing has said such nasty, horrible things about Mrs. Obama that NEVER GET CALLED OUT. Ever! I've seen racist stuff on so many right websites and blogs about her that the media never calls them for. And Good God, Fox News has said some stuff about her that more than border on racism, that to hear right wing outrage at this....Please! Sheer hypocrisy! I think DeNiro owes the President the apology, if anyone.

    March 20, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  3. charlyn

    I think DeNiros's commen was meant as a twist on the old way of thinking- that America is not ready for a black president? So now that we have a black president and first lady...

    March 20, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  4. Pat in IL

    Get off your high horse,Newt. You and your supporters have said and done worse. You are thedivisive one for not having a filter and picking your battles better.

    March 20, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  5. RudyG

    My favorite actor just stepped in a pool of excrement! This is what happens when a society treats actors like they have a special wisdom in all things. Most of the ones who don't get a big break in acting end up working menial jobs. They are not the brightest bulbs in the universe, folks!! Most don't even go to college. The politicians deserve what they get when they have these arrogant idiots speak at their fundraisers.

    March 20, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    When the left is involved it is satire, protected comedy... when the right is involved it is racist and hateful. I see the double standard ... what makes anyone so blind that they can't see it as well?

    March 20, 2012 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  7. Debra from Georgia

    When President Obama was elected, all we ever heard, IS THIS COUNTRY READY FOR A BLACK MAN. please give it up. Besides Gingrich is an idiott.

    March 20, 2012 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  8. The Real Tom Paine

    @NoSurpriseWithTheLeft, Bristol Palin tried to CAPITALISE on the Sandra Fluke incident by demanding an apology from the president for things other people had said. It was yet another example of a conservative woman attempting to milk some sympathy for herself when the incident in question had nothing to do with her. Perhaps she should be a lawyer, since she certainly has the ambulance-chasing part down pat ( thanks to her mother's training in being a professional victim).

    March 20, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  9. Proud51

    Gingrich, the biggest racist himself is insulted? The same white boy that has come up with some many condecendant labels for our President? The same white boy that think that black and Latinos are mooching off the tax payer via food stamps and welfare? White boy, if you can dish it out, then stop the whining, stop being a white boy and be a man.
    I agree with DeNiro, and after President Obamas second term, we will not ready for another white first lady or white boy as long as they're hatepublicans.

    March 20, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  10. scoto

    Ah, lighten up. We expect feigned outrage by uptight Republican dopes like Gingrich but Obama's team, c'mon ?
    That's genuinely funny.

    March 20, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  11. Yvonne

    That is De'niro's opinion! The president does not have to apologize for that. Boy Bye!!

    March 20, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  12. Jake Mans

    Look at these radical lib posts! Rush is the DEVIL, but your side can say any racist thing they chose and

    IT'S JUST A JOKE! Amazing hypocrites You're all tools of this losing admin Stupid tools

    March 20, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  13. Brian Ellis

    Wait, Newt Gingrich called a comment "divisive"??? His next comment should have been: "can you hand me my glasses, I seemed to have misplaced my sense of humor..."

    March 20, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  14. mikaman3000

    to Fred Riek....."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."

    .........anyone that has to state their political affiliation right before they say or write something that is diametrically opposed to said affiliation is either delusional or so brainwashed that they are completely oblivious to their own hypocrisy.

    March 20, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  15. Michael Grace

    We are ready for a white first lady... you better believe it!

    March 20, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  16. sbssue1

    The AFlack guy got fired ...........I can't belive Obama didn't apologize immediately........this is shameful, but you know maybe it is time for "Change". Yes, Mr. Romney, it is time for change in the direction our country is going . If it were the other way around, we'd be on the carpet, we all know that!

    March 20, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  17. Hitomi_aka

    I am definitely in love with De Niro now! <3

    March 20, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  18. joe

    @brh and rush got chewed out for it, so why not chew him out for his remarks?

    March 20, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    lmfao bill maher will come up with some disgusting words to make him the lower class of person.

    March 20, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  20. Stephen Harper

    I'm from Canada. So when is this GOP nomination thing over?

    March 20, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  21. Seamus Dog

    I am sorry did Newt apologize for Rush calling Michelle Moo-chelle before he puked these statemenst out?

    March 20, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  22. kady

    Racism is racism. Everyone stop equivocating. The amount of "Johnny did it so it's OK if I do it" reasoning here is disgusting.

    March 20, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  23. John Ross

    Hollywood libbies showing their true color, their true hatred of the country, their hatred of race. Isn't it peculiar how the group that spends so much of it's time bemoaning racism is the same group that seems to bring it up all the time?
    Deniro – you solidified your spot on "THE LIST" – the list of hollywood a holes I chose not to spend my hard earned dollar watching...I know I will have to forgo Meet the Fokkers 6...i'll survive.

    March 20, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  24. Eric-Gunther:Oberhauser

    Being a woman does not make you a lady. A lady is a woman of HIGH MORAL STANDARDS and I doubt if there is one ever to be in Washington D.C.

    March 20, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  25. reese

    When Celebs start spewing political trash, I usually stop investing my time/money in their career. I don't care about your opinions, your an entertainer, now entertain me or go away.

    March 20, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
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