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. Deep North

    But they are white....That's not derogatory...that's just real!

    March 20, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  2. Deep North

    So calling someone white when they are is a bad thing?

    March 20, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  3. skarphace

    CJC: yeah, because a political pundit calling a woman a prosti tute and a sl ut compares to a comedian making a joke at a fundraiser. Sure...

    Maybe he should have said "America is not ready for an "Other" First Lady. Would that have been better? It would have been more accurate.

    March 20, 2012 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  4. rika33

    Give me a break – who cares whatr Newt has. Its not inappropriate – its a humorous comment that only a buffon w.pould take umbarge at or say it was inappropriate. That's right bufoonery on both sides – what's new.

    March 20, 2012 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  5. Bob

    Get over It bozos IT WAS A JOKE! It is all political and God knows we need some humor.

    March 20, 2012 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  6. Pete/Ark

    non – issue..... let's shut this down and move on to real things....

    March 20, 2012 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  7. mfm321

    DeNiro, what's with the white self hatred?

    March 20, 2012 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  8. GonzoinHouston

    What he should have said was that America was not ready for a First Mistress, which is exactly what she would be. Face it, right wing, she carried on an affair with a married man for over a year, and then he left his wife for her. There are words to describe such behavior, and "appropriate" ain't one of them.

    March 20, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  9. Malory Archer

    CJC, for the gazillionth and last time, Maher lost his commercial TV gig when he called the 2008 repub vice presidential candidate the c-word, your post has no validity. And for the record, all the women that I know were offended by his remark even though we understand he is a comic who makes over the top remarks in his routine, which BTW, you need a paid subscription to hear. That being said the drug addict with the three-hour radio show spent three days beating a non-issue to death while slandering a law student on public airwaves STILL has his gig. What does that say about his benefactors?

    March 20, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  10. Bob

    Clearly CNN wants to keep up with the negative for rating because if CNN looked at the comments they would see the vast majority are not upset and took it as meant a Joke. ONLY the Republican candidates seem to be upset but that is not new they are upset about everything.

    March 20, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  11. CBR

    Interesting that the candidates are upset by Mr. DeNiro's comments but let Mr. Limbaugh's statements go by with very little comment. This is just another example when one side or another is upset by comments. This does not stop them from making inappropriate comments. We as a nation need to demand more of our politicians and those we allow to speak for us.

    The truth is both men made ridiculous comments. I am not sure how Mrs. Obama could react to that comment, There were so many comments made about her and cartoons of her and the President that were offensive but never retracted. We are becoming a nation of people who allow people to do or say anything and call it freedom.

    March 20, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  12. john honeycutt

    First off De Niro is no comedian. Second his comment is not funny. Obama and his cronies would be yelling "RACIST Foul " if someone said American can't handle ANOTHER 4 years of a "BLACK First Lady" at a Republican fundraiser. Let's do it and see what happens!!!!! What do you think!!!!

    March 20, 2012 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  13. carlos

    I hope everybody laughed at the De Niro for the three ladys, nothing to compare to the First Lady.

    March 20, 2012 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  14. Gail D

    Newt: Your desperation is showing. Get over yourself. Is that the BEST YOU'VE GOT??? Trying to make something out of nothing – again, yet, as usual.

    March 20, 2012 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  15. rhubard

    Deep North:
    Say what you will about Gingrich but he calls them out on the double standard of the left while others make " no comment ". If there is nothing wrong with calling someone white when they're white why is wrong to call them black if they're black?

    March 20, 2012 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  16. pacman357

    Give me a break. I don't think Obama is any more responsible for DeNiro"s comments than any of the GOP candidates were responsible for Limbaugh's comments. As in none. I also have to wonder when the other would-be first ladies appointed Newter as their spokesdork. I'm guessing never. The supreme irony, however, is that the GOP seems to have decided that ANY apology, no matter how appropriate, is somehow an indication of weakness, and yet, here is one of the stalwarts of the GOP asking Obama to apologize for something another person said. Newter seem completely lacking in self-awareness.

    March 20, 2012 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  17. cg

    I'm sure everyone condemning De Niro right now were the same ones who were actually raising questions four years ago on whether or not the country was ready for a black first lady. In case you don't get it, that's what the joke is in reference to. He's ridiculing people who were NOT ready for a black first lady by pointing out how preposterous that idea is when you reverse it. So even though the right wingers are foaming at the mouth trying to equate Limbaug's personal attack on a private citizen to De Niro's joke at the expense of the GOP in general, there's no direct insult in it specifically for the wives of the GOP candidates.

    March 20, 2012 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  18. pmbg

    oh the desperation! poor guy. LOL

    March 20, 2012 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  19. y0y

    Deniro has shown nothing but disdain for caucasians for years. Makes sense he would snake up with the Obamas. One of which is now a proven racist and the other of which is most likely but hey, even Ill say its not proof positive.

    March 20, 2012 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  20. The GOP opens mouth and inserts foot

    If De Niro is 'inappropriate,' then what is Rush Limbaugh?

    March 20, 2012 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  21. Jay in NC

    CNN commentators are quick to blame ALL Republicans when one makes a stupid comment. Now sit back and watch the double standard.

    March 20, 2012 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  22. TL

    newts trying to make a mountain out of nothing. A poorly told joke trying to say we are happy with the one we have.

    March 20, 2012 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  23. Boiler

    What the heck? I am a big time Republican, can't stand Obama's politics, don't care for his wife at all and even I appreciate the dry humor in DeNiro's comments at a fundraiser hosted by Michelle Obama. Discourse in this country as fallen to absurdly pathetic levels on both sides. And I agree that the desperation on display from both Gingrinch and Santorum is unpalatable. Let Obama and Romney duke it out and may the best man win.

    March 20, 2012 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  24. cg

    Gingrich: "Now if I misunderstand you correctly here, Mr. De Niro, what you're trying to say is that you hate white people."

    March 20, 2012 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  25. seamar116

    The real question is are we ready for Newt's Third lady to be our First Lady?

    March 20, 2012 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
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