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. Tom

    Robert De Niro was correct. The United States, for the most part, does not want a new first lady, white or black. It just so happens that all the remaining first lady possibilities, at this time, are white.

    March 20, 2012 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  2. malacha77

    Robert Deniro's joke was dumb but I don't think he meant any harm by it.

    March 20, 2012 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  3. zip

    I think he meant to say, America is not ready for an albino first lady.

    March 20, 2012 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  4. Chad Katishnick

    Deniro;s married to an African Amrican

    March 20, 2012 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  5. cynical

    Had a celebrity at a Republican fundraiser in 2008 said America is not ready for a black first lady, the media would've had their head on a platter, and everyone of you commenting on this saying it was just a joke know that for a fact.

    March 20, 2012 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  6. J Guzman

    De Niro was just pandering to the Hollywood crowd that helped to put Obama where he is today. Like all the actors if they show they think different, they don't work anymore in Hollywood.

    March 20, 2012 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  7. NameOhNoWay

    Obama didn't say it and has no reason to apologize. Get a grip Newt. And good for Santorum for not going wackedout on the DeNiro statement.

    March 20, 2012 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  8. Richard

    Another cowardly cheap shot comment from a self-loathing liberal. What else is new?

    March 20, 2012 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  9. kasey

    cynical is exaclty right. If the comment were the other way around, people would be all over it. But now they think it's funny and okay. Just another example of the double standard in this PC country.

    March 20, 2012 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  10. kablooie

    DeNiro has a thing for black women.... so, he probably is not ready to have some white woman be the first lady.

    March 20, 2012 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  11. calen

    The hypocrisy of the Democratic supporters, CNN and most of the posters on here is unbelievable (of course saying "Democratic supporters" and "CNN/posters" is obviously redundant). The excuse of "a comedian making a joke" is ridiculous – DeNiro is not and never has been a comedian – that's reaching for an excuse (same attempts they use to justify Bill Maher, but DeNiro is even less of a comedian). If someone at a John McCain fundraiser had said "not ready for a black first lady", Rev Al and company would have been demanding McCain withdraw from the election, protests would be planned and it would be the lead story on every newscast, and a simple "McCain's election organization said it was "inappropriate"" would never be sufficient. Sorry guys, you can't live by a hypocritical double standard and those rationalizing and making excuses for it should be ashamed.

    March 20, 2012 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  12. Nobodies Pon

    @cynical and yourya point there has been one black first lady out of 44 . It was a joke just like the guys running for president in the republican party

    March 20, 2012 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  13. skog

    It was a joke, get over it.

    March 20, 2012 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  14. Jackson

    I find is incredibly laughable that Gingrich would comment on hollywood people not understanding america, when Reagan was a hollywood actor.

    March 20, 2012 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  15. Jay G

    Good lord this country has lost all common sense. It's a funny joke. Pretty soon we're all going to have to watch every word we say or risk being fined or thrown in jail for a comment that one person in a million just MIGHT find inappropriate.

    How far we've come from the days when this country was founded on strong beliefs and the right to express them.

    March 20, 2012 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  16. Nunya

    Bad joke by an actor. Completely inappropriate fixation on it by media and Gingrich.

    March 20, 2012 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  17. egypt

    The Republicans and their supporters made inexcusable comments about the president throughout this entire campaign. Who will apologize to him for the offensive bumper stickers, comments, and signs made against President Obama. They questioned his Citizenship because his father is from Africa. They made bumper stickers that say Don't Re-nig in 2012. They even went as far as calling him a tar baby. Correct me if possible which republican apologized for the remarks made by other republicans?

    March 20, 2012 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  18. sb36695

    I didn't think we were ready for a marxist president!

    March 20, 2012 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  19. cg

    @cynical – If anyone had said the country wasn't ready for a black first lady at a Republican fundraiser in 2008, it would have a whole different meaning than De Niro's joke because it would represent a genuine dislike for black people, and anyone with half a brain or anyone not deliberately trying to get offended about this should recognize the difference between that and the meaning behind an ironic declaration that the country isn't ready for a white first lady.

    March 20, 2012 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  20. WeDon'tMatter

    The GOP's up roar is in response to their mouth piece's recent crude comment about a college student. They apparently think that calling a woman a s l u t and asking a group of white women if they really believed that America is ready for a white First Lady is the same thing. His comment is totally innocent, now if he had would have told Michelle Obama that America was ready for a white First Lady that would have been crude and the GOP would have had a point, of course they wouldn't have complained about a comment like that.

    March 20, 2012 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  21. mcmasehere

    I am sure when this statement was made "Bobby" had already had a few too many drinks! In my opinion, America was never ready for Obama....and still isn't. Of course it always helps when you live up to your campaign promises for Change.....I just didn't know that it meant change for the Obama's to have the high life....while change for the rest of America meant poverty!! Right now...I am ready for ANY type of change to the office of President, even if it means voting for a 3 legged bird dog. Atleast he knows which way to point!!

    March 20, 2012 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  22. Gus

    If you don't see the irony in joking about America not ready to have whites in the WHITE HOUSE, well... insulting you or attacking your political views seem to pale in comparison to the damage already done.

    March 20, 2012 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  23. Nobodies Pon

    what is hypocritical about one out of 44 calen. To be outraged about not having a white first lady when 43 first ladies have been white is stupid and more racist thank the comment. If your outraged about deniro you needed your heads checked. Be outraged about whitemen killing black teen in cold blood and not getting arrested.

    March 20, 2012 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  24. Ray

    There's nothing offensive about what DeNiro said. It can't be interpreted any other way except a joke. It would be like Jon Voight saying to an RNC crowd, "Well, if Obama wins it just means America is not ready for a white president." It would be funny and no one on the left would be offended. As a matter of fact, we'd be like, "Wow, when did the Republicans get a sense of humor?"

    March 20, 2012 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  25. Nobodies Pon

    Funny how real issues like whitemen killing black children in cold blood and not one republican says a darnos thing about that but a white first lady comment got them all up in arms. These guys want a race war they never stands up against injustice when it doesnt involve a white republican. They let Herman Cain get roasted with the sexual harrasment ,but if the women were black he might been still in the race.

    March 20, 2012 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
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