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. daniel

    gringrich, robme and santorum apologized for the rush rant......not.

    March 20, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  2. ksmary

    @ bc runner That sounds about right.

    March 20, 2012 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  3. Georgia Jazz

    He's definitely right, America is certainly not ready for a "Romney, Santorum et al" First White Lady!!!

    March 20, 2012 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  4. Dilip Samuels

    Mr. De Niro has contributed to America. He is an icon

    Mr. Gingrich is always full of himself and blows his record up ...much more than what he really accomplished ...well!!! how did he reward his clients.......hmm!!!!!

    March 20, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  5. Dave

    Oh, pull-eeeze, Newt–after your "anti-colonial Kenyan world view" remarks about President Obama??? What a hypocritical blowhard you are...Just pull out of the race and save your bloated EGO the trouble of going down in flames before the convention...You are pathetic.

    March 20, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  6. chelle

    Am I the only one who finds it ironic that the man racked up how big a bill at Tiffany's and then has the gall to say that De Niro is too rich to understand the pain of gasoline prices???

    March 20, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  7. Taran

    Stop making elephants out of small bugs, both sides. It was a joke. And stop calling De Niro racist, his wife is black. Gingrich had no business commenting on this at all to try and stir things up. The last act of a desperate man.

    March 20, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  8. Expat American

    Republican outrage is pathetic. This from the Party of fear mongering who demonize an entire Religion. The GOP are collaborators complaining about their haircuts.

    March 20, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  9. Big A

    Personally thats they realist thing Mr. De Niro has ever said, besides "I'll make him an offer he cant refuse" in Godfather 2

    March 20, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  10. bob

    It's another Hollywood celb out of touch with the mainstream. So what and what's new? And who should really care. Gingich, sure. Loser.

    March 20, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  11. MJ

    Wonder where all the anger and uproar is over the don't RENIG bumper stickers that are being sold.

    March 20, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  12. Norbert G. Ginsel

    The man is over the top. I have watched him in "Scarface" times beyond count, and all I can conclude is that he actually DID snort all the coke. He is deranged. It is saddening to see this happen to a good actor.

    March 20, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  13. DonJuan1943

    I guess we're still waiting for Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum to apologize for the remarks made by Republican Chairman Boss Rush Limmmmmmbaugh about the young female law student. Chariman Limmmmmmbaugh made the disgusting comments to a radio audience of millions. Not really comparable to the remarks made by a political donor who happens to be a bigshot show business fellow.

    Your servant,

    Don Juan, the world's greatest lover and bigshot showbusiness guy.

    March 20, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  14. Ron Scooby

    How dare Robert De Niro offend our wonderfully principled former house speaker! For shame!

    March 20, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  15. Independent Voter

    I agree with Speaker Gingrich. I think that De Niro and the Dems are really playing the race card and are being quite inappropriate as well. Kudos for Newt Gingrich for standing up for whats right!!!

    March 20, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  16. JC

    Seriously? Birth Control Pills and sill comments....these are the priorities about the important issues facing us? No wonder we are in such trouble.

    March 20, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  17. Heavens to Betsy Will Someone Please Get Me My . . .

    smelling salts, I'm about to faint from distress at this heinous attack on those white ladies . . .

    March 20, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    It was a joke and I thought it was really funny.

    March 20, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  19. David

    It was funny. The better answer would be that we're not ready for a First Lady that had knowingly slept with a married man 23 years older than herself.

    March 20, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  20. evelyn

    Hey Norbert – when you talk about that actor in Scarface doing all the coke, you do know that that was Al Pacino, right?

    March 20, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  21. CJC

    I'm laughing at all the butt-hurt liberals on here saying "What about what Rush said???" What about it, hypocrites?? Where was your righteous indignation when Maher said what he said about Palin? Let me guess, it's ok when you talk filth about a conservative, but keep your words clean about left wing nut jobs, right? And you wonder why "right-wingers" act so "hateful" toward you. Hint: It's because of hypocritical BS like this.

    March 20, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  22. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    President Obama should apologize for what? Newt you song like Michele Bachmann! For three years she called President Obama all sorts of derogatory names but the first time someone on FOX called her a "flake" she cried foul play and demanded an apology! let's face it, if you can dish it you should be able to take it! Its politics after all! How many times in the last three and a half years has the rightwing conservatives and their media blatatantly and outrageously disrespected and called First Lady Michelle Obama and President Obama all sorts of degoratory, offensive and disrespective names? At a Nascar event in Florida a few months ago, our First Lady was booed for no apparent reasons whatsoever other than because of the color of her skin! Did any republicans step forward and say it ws wrong because the First Lady is not involved in policy making? Of course not! Newt you're losing your bearings!

    March 20, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  23. Henry Brandis

    DeNiro's comment was hysterical. Gingrich is a demagogue. Obama campaign chickened out. Anybody got any real issues?

    March 20, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  24. Calcommuter

    I am an Obama supporter and I see the irony in DeNiro's question. Some may take it wrong but if you think about
    it, welcome to the 21st century when we elected someone of a mixed race to the highest position in the country.

    March 20, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  25. skarphace

    Norbert: er .. as far as I know (and with this username I should), DeNiro was not in Scarface. Maybe you are thinking of the Goodfellas, the Godfather II, or Casino, which DeNiro was in? Or maybe you were thinking of Al Pacino instead of DeNiro? Either way, you are mixed up.

    March 20, 2012 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
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