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. Texas Annie

    Oh please, Newt– you're asking Obama to apologize for a remark DeNiro made??? Obama didn't make the remark, he wasn't even at the event. If you want an apology, you need to go to DeNiro.
    And btw, your comments about DeNiro being too rich to notice gas prices or unemployment– well, fine, but what's YOUR excuse Newt? You've ignored how middle & lower class Americans have been affected by Republican policies for years & years– so again, what's YOUR excuse???

    March 20, 2012 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  2. Garr Obo

    Obviously DeNiro is just another Hollywoodite, left-wing, liberal hack who carries water for the Obama tribe along with the rest of the socialist groupings and Media. Too bad since he is a great actor.

    March 20, 2012 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  3. Smeagel4T

    Hmmm... ya... not good. DeNiro apparently shouldn't be let loose to do comedy without a comedy writer. Part of being a good comedian is knowing how your joke might end up being interpreted by various people.

    Gingrich trying to link this to comments made by a "radio host" (who might you mean, Gingrich?) doesn't hold up, though. DeNiro did not actually attack anyone, and in particular he did not attack a private citizen. He made a racially inappropriate joke. DeNiro also did it at a closed venue, not over a radio program nationally broadcast using public airwaves. That does not make DeNiro's comments correct, but the scale of the comments between DeNiro's and that "radio host's" are entirely different.

    Apparently DeNiro should hire a comedy writer if he's going to do comedy.

    March 20, 2012 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  4. Tubby the Tuba Texas

    Like he doesn't have millions! So much double talk. The Republicans pushing now a new tax code designed to steal from the middle class and give to the long are the middle class people going to stand by and allow such disrespect. Many of the Republicans stands to make millions off their new tax code.

    March 20, 2012 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  5. Edwin

    De Niro's comment was, er, off-color... but to compare it to what Limbaugh said is ridiculous. De Niro didn't disparage any of the candidates' wives in any way. Limbaugh, on the other hand, called Fluke a slut and prostitute.

    If De Niro had called the candidates' wives prostitutes, he certainly would have crossed a line. But calling them white? Not the same. Just a poor joke from an otherwise excellent actor.

    March 20, 2012 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  6. IndependentMom

    Oh my goodness! Look at all the GOPers complaining! You people are pathetic! Where was your outrage when Limbaugh called a young American woman a vile name?????????????????????

    March 20, 2012 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  7. Leslie

    IndependentMom – my outrage was in the same place as the Dems is now!!!!!!! Talk about pathetic! DeNiro said it, he is responsible. Limbaugh said it, HE is responsible - not a whole freakin' political party. For someone who's "Independent" you sure sound like a lemming.

    March 20, 2012 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  8. j in nc

    Everything is 'inappropriate' as defined by the culture of blame and their anointed one his highness Obama. If you speak or, god forbid, joke, you will be crucified by the regime and its lapdog the leftist corporate-media cartel. George Orwell was a prophet. 1984 isn't just a book and a movie. It's happening right now.

    March 20, 2012 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  9. disgusted

    nobodys Pon , you are a racist loser. get over yourself , do you seriously think a black man has never killed a white person ? yet you are the first to pull the racism card when something happens to occur with members of the opposing race, really shows your intelligence level , or lack there of I should say . It happened black americans came out in the millions to elect a fellow black man, who happens to be half white by the way , and most of these people had never voted before in their lives and suddenly they are all political experts . Thanks for electing a man with no experience and little intelligence to be our Commander in Chief . Just to say there is a black president , while he continues to run this country into the ground. One of the worst if not the worst presidents in history .

    March 20, 2012 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  10. Dan, Tx

    Love it when the GOP comes to realize that political correctness is important and people shouldn't say things that others might find offensive.

    March 20, 2012 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  11. Sarah79

    How would democrats react if a republican said, "Now do you really think America is ready for a black first lady?". Dems would be going to town. This wasn't a radio talk show, this was a FUNDRAISER for obama's re-election.

    March 20, 2012 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  12. Ivehadenough

    but no outrage when Bill Maher calls Sarah Palin a c%nt?

    March 20, 2012 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  13. J W N in SC

    The United States does not want a Barbie doll mistress for a first lady.

    March 20, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  14. M

    De Niro is completely out of tune with the times! As an ardent supporter of President Obama I feel that he, Michelle Obama, and the nation, deserve better than the use of race in so-called "humor" that De Niro uttered! Let's keep the "celebrity types," Rep or Dem, where they belong, on the stage or screen, t.v., or celeb magazines!

    March 20, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  15. former dim-o-crap

    DeNiro had no business bringing race into the mix. As for so called "indepoendent mom's" comment about Limbaugh...once Maher and others stop calling conservative women even worse than sluts I think it's OK for the right to do the same.
    It works both ways "mom."

    March 20, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  16. Augustine

    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."

    This is the same Santorum that said "I don't want to take your money and give it to black people".

    March 20, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  17. Peter Griffin

    The better question still remains: "Can America afford to keep a Black Marie Antoinette and her hate America marxist husband?" The answer by the way is still: NO WE CAN'T AFFORD TO KEEP THEM! Not from the stand point of individual liberty and freedom, not in terms of economic safety and security, and certainly not in terms of national security which Obama is destroying faster than a dozen Russian and Chinese combat divisions on our soil.

    March 20, 2012 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  18. dwt

    Such an obvious joke on De Niro's part. Like the USA hasn't already had 40+ white First Ladies. If Gingrich wants to fly off the handle about that remark, what should it tell people about his equanimity as a potential leader? Even Santorum wouldn't bite on this one.

    March 20, 2012 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  19. Erik

    Go home, Newt. You've lost and very few people care what you think.

    March 20, 2012 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  20. tor5

    No one in their right mind would believe that De Niro’s comment is somehow equivalent to Limbaugh calling a young woman a slut. And if the media let themselves get bullied by Newt’s absurd antics, they will have truly lost all credibility.

    March 20, 2012 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  21. LouieD

    "Speaking Tuesday, Gingrich labeled the comments "inexcusable," and called on Obama to apologize."

    Okay, then I call on Gingrich to apologize for McCain supporters publicly using the "N" word in 2008. If he's going to ask someone to apologize for something they're not responsible for, it's the least ol' No-Ethics Newt could do!

    March 20, 2012 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  22. Basher

    Honestly, what he said was a riff on what a lot of American's felt, whether they said it or not, pre-Obama's election. The joke he was making isn't racist, it isn't off-color, he's turning the tables in a humorous way. No one with half a brain actually thinks Robert De Niro is racist against white women, he himself being a white person. If anything, it's just a round about way of saying he appreciates what the First Lady is done to such an extent that he doesn't want to go back. And it was funny. The fact that Newt Gingrich latched onto it with such fervor really speaks to what HE himself thinks his chances are come November.

    March 20, 2012 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  23. Mr.. Black

    Waaaaaaah! Can we please stop taking jokes seriously? You know, one of the differences between us and extremists is a sense of humor. Please grow one, Gingrich and Obama.

    March 20, 2012 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  24. Fran Lee

    Are we ready for a white first lady? You mean like the ones who presided over prosperity and personal freedom in the past?

    March 20, 2012 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |

    C'mon... Newt your pretentious outrage is so disingenuous that even Republicans can see through. You are not offended and you know full well that Robert DeNiro (like him or not) was simply "making a joke". A very harmless and insignificant one. Of course the White House has to say that it was inappropriate, but in reality it "is' a little bit funny. Quit trying to rile people up. You are not going to win anyway.

    March 20, 2012 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
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