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. Skeptimist

    I like the current and potential first ladies just fine. But their spouses make me very nervous.

    March 20, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |

    Disgusting hypocrites. It's "race, race, race" all the time. Snarking, "just a joke", in your face, or sly. So here is a reply: "Never again a Black President"! Or whatever Obama, the racist jujitsu adept, chooses to call himself. Obama, the destructive, sneaking cynosure of racial animus, along with his quite unlovely family (trash really) propped up by a corrupt media and the Left's associated echo chamber, is a one man wrecking crew, intentionally corrupting the country to "rebuild" it in the Utopian fantasy of the truly insane.

    March 20, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  3. Carroll

    No the country is not ready for an eight year mistress to become a First Lady!

    March 20, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  4. cg

    Look, this would only be offensive if De Niro had literally expressed actual discomfort over having a white woman as the First Lady. That is clearly not the true sentiment behind his statement. If anything, it's a satirical condemnation of the very real undertones of how certain segments of the population viewed Michelle Obama in 2008. Posters keep complaining that if you reverse the statement, it suddenly becomes offensive. Well that's the whole point of what De Niro did with this. He reversed what people were sincerely expressing about having a black First Lady specifically to demonstrate how ridiculous it ought to be in this country to judge a woman based on her racial heritage. So just calm down and try to wrap your head around the whole concept of irony here, then maybe you'll finally understand how defending De Niro while condemning Limbaugh isn't a double standard.

    March 20, 2012 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  5. nobikiniatoll

    Slavery and the black/white divide is, and continues to be, the biggest, ugliest scar in our great nation's history. Robert DeNiro's introduction for Michelle Obama was a humorous, and I'd say affectionate, nod to how far we've come. The resulting manufactured outrage about it shows how much farther we have to go.

    March 20, 2012 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  6. Indy

    Even people on the Moon found DeNiro's joke funny,and those are Newts relatives

    March 20, 2012 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  7. kachina

    It was not a joke, it was DeNiro's way of getting the crowd up for when Michelle walked on stage after him . A lot of hootin and hollerin. It was racist. If it was not intended to be racist, he could have said...something like ...our country is not ready to "give up" our first lady. It totally was a racial slur. I know Ann Romney and she wouldn't be taking constant vacations on taxpayers money, she loves this country and she would contribute something besides taking kids bag lunches away from them at school and feeding them pink slime! She would be a great ambassador for this nation.

    March 20, 2012 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  8. fromNJ

    The problem is that Newt is right about one thing – that is that RD should not have cast the "joke" in racial terms when you are in a political forum.

    I would also agree that had any of Newt's (or any GOP) fundraiser made a similar remark the Dems would be all over him too.

    March 20, 2012 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  9. across12

    First of all De Niro likes black women, and I don't blame him because I really like black women too and I'm white 100%. They are special no doubt, and most of the black women are more loyal, respectful and hard working than most of the white women, that's a fact. Secondy, it wasn't a harsh remark, but rather humorous, and I'm sure he didn't mean it in a racial way, it was just a way to tell the public that Michelle Obama is superior to the other's candidates wife, that's all, and to emphasize on it he mentioned the color. He easily could have been said " America is not ready for another first lady right now", no difference whatsoever.

    March 20, 2012 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  10. Heyzeus

    I can’t wait for the day when all comedic parody and satire will be dealt with swiftly and promptly by the Committee for monotonous melancholy.

    March 20, 2012 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  11. Amy

    DiNero was making fun of the stupidity and ignorance of the racism that the First Lady has endured with grace.

    March 20, 2012 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  12. geg

    newt should apologize for his contract on the middle class which opened the door to shipping jobs out of the country

    March 20, 2012 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  13. Trout

    I am ready for a first lady who adds value and class to the position. I am ready for a First Lady who will actually focus in on the future. I am ready for a first lady who will not worry about what my children are eating, while she sucks down a $100 a plate lobster dinner on taxpayers dime. I am ready for a President who believes in my freedom to choose whether or not I have to purchase health-care. I am ready to be free again. As for Robert Deniro, who is he anyways? A nobody.

    March 20, 2012 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  14. TEWK


    It was a joke, get over it."

    Since when was a racial "joke' acceptable? Especially among the Liberals (publically anyhow)? The worst characteristic of the Leftist (of many), I think, is this type stunningly blatant double standard. Liberals have sent people to their death (so-called "Hate Crime") for such "jokes". You, know it, I know it..yet again this strange posture of naivety
    that Liberals cultivate. Hey skog, you and Deniro will not win. Do you understand me? How long it will take I can't say...but all of Liberalism will dissolve into the dust of history without a trace.

    March 20, 2012 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  15. ally buster

    Didn't sound that bad to me. republicans searching for something to complain about again-

    March 20, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    Do you people not understand the joke? Obviously Deniro was making fun of the reaction to Michelle Obama during the '08 campaign. If you think this is racist then you clearly don't get sarcasm, which is apparently too subtle for republicans.

    March 20, 2012 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  17. enuff

    But he's an ENTERTAINER, remember Rush?

    March 20, 2012 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  18. Lindalou

    Good Grief! Obama didn't say it and it's up to DeNiro to apologize for saying it. In reality, Mr. Obama doesn't want a white woman in office either...that would mean he lost...duh!

    March 20, 2012 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  19. jr

    Liberals always mistake black pandering for respect. Groveling is all a liberal is good for anyway.

    March 20, 2012 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  20. Two Thumbs Down

    Wah! Wah! Wah!!! The GOP should apologize every time someone calls the President a Muslim or a Socialist too. Otherwise, just HUSH, no one cares about your outrage. Pot. Kettle. Black.

    March 20, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  21. rs1201

    Robert De Niro is a drunkard fool who has never been seen in the company of any white woman. He prefers black women and is trying to shove them down our throats. I'm ready for a First Lady that will reflect positively on our country. Someone who's not there to squeeze every possible dime out of her position. I've lost count of all the abuse of taxpayers money by the obamas...between dinners and theatre in NYC for them and 250 guests...their daughter's vacation to Mexico with TWENTY FIVE secret service men...lavish vacations to Spain...and the list goes on. The obamas are low class, low life opportunists who don't give a darn about this country of its citizens...they're out for themselves and hopefully they'll be thrown out in NOv 2012.

    March 20, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  22. angryoldguy

    The president has no reason whatsoever to apologize for a remark made by someone else. If anyone actually needs to apologize, it would be Robert De Niro, as he is the person that made the "offensive" remark. The current crop of Republicans are thin skinned hypocrites, and that might be their best quality.

    March 20, 2012 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  23. Senior Citizen

    I remember clearly how many snarky people kept making remarks about both the Obama's and their race and their color during the last election and don't remember any outcry like this. This wasn't something that either the President or Michelle said so why should the President apologize for something he didn't say.

    Michelle Obama is a fantastic First Lady and will be continue to be in the next 4 years also.

    March 20, 2012 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  24. maroonvee

    Wow Obama still hasn't returned Maher's gift... lol.

    March 20, 2012 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  25. flopflipper

    Can we please not bring celebrity he-said-she-said into the Presidential political arena? The media already spends way too much time on celebrities, we don't need to also make it a part of Presidential elections.

    March 20, 2012 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
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