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. Alan J

    Anyone with a brain knew what Mr. De Niro said was a joke and a throw back at racist people who said America isn't ready for a black President or FLOTUS. Gingrich and the carnival acts can dish it but they can't take it!

    March 20, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  2. sticks and stones

    This country is in such dire straits that it makes no difference as to what comments are made by whom. Presently the discord and immaturity levels in this country are out of hand. The level of pride here is at an all time low and getting back on the straight and narrow seems very futile! I look for a complete collapse of the workings within America very soon!

    March 20, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    at least the next first lady won't spend as much money!

    March 20, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  4. Alan J

    sbssue You need to shut up with that noise! What does the President have to apoigize for? He didn't said the joke De Niro did! You Reuds say All kinds of crap against and about the President and his family and when it comes back you try to play offended, get outta here! Obama2012

    March 20, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  5. JeanneLH

    First of all, DeNiro's wife is black. Second of all, did Newt ever apolgize to his wife, who had cancer, when he divorced her? Thirdly, Calista was a mistress for years. Not exactly First Lady material...Finally, Newt needs to get her a new hairdresser...if she ever sneezes, that curl could put out an eye.

    March 20, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  6. Diana

    America is not ready for an adulteress for First Lady.
    Nor an adulterer as President.

    March 20, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  7. The Real Tom Paine

    Robert DeNiro's thoughts don't hit the airwaves 5 days a week for 3 hrs: for anyone to equate his personal opinion with a 15 hour-per-week barrage of abuse from a reclusive drug addict is ridiculous. Its yet another example of how the Right cannot handle shots from people they cannot control.

    March 20, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  8. Binky

    Oh c'mon people, it was a joke! Hardly comparable to Mr. Limbaugh's hate speech!

    March 20, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  9. Ron

    DiNiro looks like he has a substance abuse proble, now he sounds like he has a substance abuse problem.

    March 20, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  10. dave the butcher

    It's funny the double standard among the GOP. When GW was in office, if you didn't support him you were considered "aiding the enemy and should be jailed as a terrorist sympathizer" -Hannity/Beck and Limbaugh. But now that a Democrat is in office they apparently forgot what they said. LOL. Look, the two party system has failed us, it's the worst idea in the world because nothing can get done. We need to clean out DC and start all over again. Get these free-loading, good-for-nothing, corporate sponsored-career politicians out of DC and let's get some people in there that care about fixing our country and getting us back on track. It's getting ridiculous.

    March 20, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  11. Richard

    Here's a guy who wants to change the name of the "First Lady" of the United States. To his "First Trollop". The "Thruth is it's own defense. If he thinks President Obama is going to apologize, there will be a base on the moon first.

    March 20, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Considering DiNiro's significant other is black whats the problem?

    March 20, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  13. U-Joint Jerry

    While we are all here... What the hell was the "Special Rport" thing on Maddow. Do we we really wonder why idoiots buying storage rooms have 4 times as many viewers as her. War Piers Morgan being the best of the worst television primetime shows!!!!

    March 20, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  14. roughman

    After agreeing to play in "Machete," does Di Niro think ANYBODY will take him seriously?

    March 20, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  15. The Film Professor

    The Nation isn't ready for a woman with helmet hair like Calista. But I guess we could call her The Third Lady if Newt somehow gets elected.

    March 20, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  16. AndreLinoge

    lol. Shut up, Gingy.

    March 20, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  17. U-Joint Jerry

    When you talk about black people on the same level as eveyone else you are a racist, when you talk about them like they are toddlers and need the government to protect them you are a hero.

    March 20, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  18. John Adams

    It's a joke. Chill out. The article doesn't mention that DeNiro's wife/significant other is black, which probably informed the joke too.

    March 20, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  19. Alan J

    Amen Real Tom Bristol Palin should sit down and hush. she's has no room to be righteous about anything. She has milked the nuts for all the money she could just like her mama. They will play victim and they are NO victims. they are buzzards looking for prey! shame on Sarah and Todd Palin for pimping that girl out in the media

    March 20, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  20. JDD

    Obama campaign is in a war against white women. Look at the TSA feeling up six year old girls to 80 year old grandmothers, the common theme, they are white.

    March 20, 2012 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  21. e=mc^2

    Not an Obama fan, but this was clearly a joke. Gingrich and some of my fellow right-wingers shouldn't be so quick to get their panties in a knot.

    March 20, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  22. Maryellen

    Newt, you're just lucky he didn't say Newt's wife the possible First Adulteress! Why should President Obama apologize, he didn't say anything.

    March 20, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  23. Ken

    Robert was making a joke, get over it! He was not trying to make any type of divide in this country. Not to mention the audience found the joke amusing! This is not the same issue as Rush who was making a very pointed, serious, derogatory statement about women & their personal lifestyle choices. Also, supporters of a candidate at a function for said candidate often say things that are more in favor their candidate. As I stated earlier, get over it!

    March 20, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  24. Another Day in the Idiot Mines

    It's amazing you radical right hatewingers can't get through your pea brains that their is a HUGE difference between a single comment about a public figure and three days spent defaming a single private citizen. It's this sort of inability to engage in rational thought that will doom America.

    March 20, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  25. ROnald

    Typical Racist Hate filled Hollywood Left... NO Class in the Democrat Party what so ever

    March 20, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
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