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. Another Day in the Idiot Mines

    "DeNiro is not and never has been a comedian"

    It would be better if everyone used facts instead of lies when trying to make points. De Niro has done a number of comedy sketches on SNL over the years, including one that indirectly touched on the very issues here.

    March 20, 2012 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  2. bad2worse

    I thought that was funny and thats all that matters to me.

    March 20, 2012 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  3. pacchardon

    Gringrich said Obama shouldn't have apologized when our soldiers burned the Koran and offended the entire Muslim world but if a few Republicans get offended by what DeNiro said thats different. What a hypocrite!!

    March 20, 2012 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  4. D

    All of you folks in an uproar do realize that De Niro's wife is black??? Perhaps that may be why he felt comfortable making his joke...

    March 20, 2012 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  5. Linda

    This is the same Newt who has been blowing his racial code dog whistle for decades. The guy who said black children have never been exposed to any working adults, who thinks they should work as janitors, who calls our President the "food stamp" President.

    What a bloated old hypocrite.

    March 20, 2012 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  6. Jim from Boston

    ""We believe the joke was inappropriate," Olivia Alair, Campaign Press Secretary to the First Lady, said in a statement."

    Well, that is assuming it actually WAS a joke, a bit of a stretch since it lacked a key ingredient; it was NOT FUNNY!

    Bringing race into the comment made a failed attempt at humor all the worse. I assume what De Niro meant was that Democrats do not want a different first lady, meaning that we should reelect Mr. Obama. So, what does being black or white have to do with it?

    Sorry, Bobby, but Mr. Obama has to go, which means that Mrs. Obama has to go with him. And I think it is safe to say that at least half the country feels the same way.

    Oh, and one more thing, Bobby. To paraphrase Michael Jordan, Republicans buy movie tickets too. You, and the rest of the Hollywood moonbats should try really, really hard to remember that. There are an awful lot of entertainment choices out there nowadays. Cable TV and the Internet have broken the stranglehold Hollywood once held over the entertainment industry so we no longer have to go see movies made by the likes of you, Tommy Hanks, or Tommy Cruise.

    How about y'all just take the advice of Laura Ingraham and just "shut up and sing", instead of wearing your ignorance on your sleeve.

    March 20, 2012 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  7. Eugene Walcott

    If it wasn't for double standards the left would have no standards at all.

    March 20, 2012 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  8. WhackyWaco

    De Niro is a washed up has been.

    March 20, 2012 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  9. SPW

    I don't even understand his joke to see why people are getting offended by it. 🙁

    March 20, 2012 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  10. PsiCop

    Can we PLEASE finally knock off the inordinate sanctimonious outrage spewed at politicians over some other idiot's comment? Unless Gingrich can produce evidence that DeNiro was acting on Obama's direct orders, there is no rational reason for Obama to apologize for the comment. None.

    March 20, 2012 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  11. RIck o'shea

    What do you expect from a JEW!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 20, 2012 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  12. Iamgr82day

    @Disgusted... you are disgusting. Really... That is your vile post.

    As for everyone else... And I mean everyone.... this is NOT the same as Limbaugh, but even that said... Limbaugh has a right to say what he wants as long as he is willing to face the consequences on the economic side... he can say what he wants, provided someone is willing to give him access to the airwaves... sponsors can choose what level of rhetoric they are willing to pay for.

    As for the joke... it was just that and nothing more. It was a play on the hundreds of times I have heard from others that the country is not ready for a black/ woman/ hispanic/ Mormon... ect president. If not funny, it was at least ironic. People need to tone this down... there are statements that should be frowned on and out of bounds, but this was not one of them.

    March 20, 2012 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  13. Deep North

    A white guy makes a white joke and he is called a racists?

    March 20, 2012 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  14. Nate

    The faux outrage is sickening. There wasn't even anything particularly offensive about De Niro's joke, unless of course one is looking for something to get in a huff over.

    March 20, 2012 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  15. scott

    I thought it was funny, but it's the politician's jobs not to laugh. Hey, did yall know Ronald Reagan was an actor too. An actor who worked with monkeys?

    March 20, 2012 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  16. AaronT3

    I don't see what the big deal is, Mr. DeNiro made one comment and did not go on a 3 day degrading slut slinging assault on these women, as oppose to the countless barrages slung at the First Lady from the other side.

    March 20, 2012 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  17. Mercfan

    Newt can complain all he wants from his GA home on Nov 5th. It's getting so you can't make a joke any more and a lousy one at that. I guess the Newt wouild outlaw comedians if given the chance

    March 20, 2012 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  18. johnnyZ

    I thought it was funny as heck. How is it offensive? The White House has been home to white and only white first ladies until Obama. It is a good basis for a joke at the expense of.....well, nobody.

    If he was dissing the Republican potential first ladies, it was also a good jab but harmless.

    March 20, 2012 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  19. retphxfire

    Well, I wasn't disappointed. The right did experience mass amnesia. DeNiro was silly, but limgaugh and beck, for example, were just cruel (nasty comments about the children of President!!). We'll just have to see if the American people see this for what it was, a random comment by someone outside the campaign and the extreme comments being made on the right are being made by the candidates (not worried about unemployment, stop funding to critical organizations, don't care about the poor, there are progams – (0ther side of mouth) time to end programs for the poorest and maintain tax breaks and subsidies for the richest , i.e. oil companies and G.E., the 'pay no taxes, have largest net profits in history' group of bandits). .

    March 20, 2012 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  20. Annette

    It's not that America is not ready for a black president and his wife; it's that they are not ready to run a democracy.

    March 20, 2012 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  21. Why Use Facts

    Get over it Newt. It was a bad attempt at humor from an actor who support Obama. It doesn't require an apology from the Obama campaign. If politicians had to apologize for every bad attempt at humor that one of their supporters made then nothing would ever get done except apologies. Now that I thought of it that way, spending all their time apologizing for comments of others might be the best thing politicians could do for the country. At least then they won't screw things up any worse.

    March 20, 2012 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  22. David

    Racist jokes are insensitive, ignorant and rude regardless of what side of the aisle you support.

    March 20, 2012 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  23. PDK

    Just another example of democrat party racism and bigotry to add to the volumes of already complied filth.

    March 20, 2012 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  24. conoclast

    Come on guys, breathe a little. It wasn't THAT bad a remark, was it? Unfortunately for Mr. deNiro it calls attention to its source.

    March 20, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  25. Max


    It's a fact that none of those white ladies would make a better first lady than Michelle Obama. Just ask the majority of Americans.Why doesn't Gingrich spend his precious time and effort to salvage his campaign?

    He's simply throwing out mud just to see what will stick. He's being splashing all kinds of mud at the president, but so far nothing sticks.

    What really sticks is the fact that Gingrich is too sexually promiscuous to be president, and the American people already get that!

    March 20, 2012 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
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