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. sarah greenblatt

    The fact that we have a Black President has opened too many doors to freely express the uncomfortable feelings many have with this reality. From the "you lie" outburst from the Congressional floor to the "take back our country" chants ...people have had permission to be racist again. It was not too long before 2008 that many said the country is not ready for a Black President – or a woman for that matter. Robert DiNero and others understand that deep and painful reality – and that is where, perhaps, his cynical humor comes from.

    And anyone who knows anything about him knows that Robert Di Nero is a New Yorker who acts for a living, and gives back to the community.

    March 20, 2012 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  2. some guy

    its robert freakin deniro. he can say anything he wants to anyone. even chuck norris.

    March 20, 2012 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  3. Andrew Raines

    Why not reverse that statement with a Republican stating publically that "IT'S TIME FOR A WHITE WOMAN AS THE FIRST LADY" and watch the flood gates open from the left. Racist, bigot, etc.....

    But the left only knows DOUBLE STANDARDS.

    March 20, 2012 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  4. Ryan

    The only thing remotely interesting about this story is the ridiculous response it generated. The joke was not funny, racist or noteworthy. Nor would it have been if Obama had made it himself. Get a life people.

    March 20, 2012 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  5. dan

    Why is this an issue? De Niro is a fool! Why does anyone care what he thinks?

    March 20, 2012 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  6. FedUpwithLA

    As gas prices rise to $5 a gallon, as the world contemplates a nuclear Iran and North Korea, as our deficits rise and the education of our youth crumble, let us contemplate these words to see who owes whom an apology. Where is Nero's violin to be played?

    March 20, 2012 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  7. vince chiaramida

    live outside of the usa for a week, you will also see how big the USA of a joke America has become to the rest of the world....smarten up, these are the times were the rest of the world should be looking up to you not down...... Did you forget what the republicans did to you for the 8 years in power.....lets see 1 less goverment, that went well. know one to over see what their rich buddies where doing...less goverment sure worked well there,,, lost your homes.401ks and the republicans what your trust again....why so they can screw you again................ like to think your a lot smarter than that.....the rest of the world is watching make us pround again America!!!!!!!!!

    March 20, 2012 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  8. molly

    It was meant to be funny. How is it that t hey can support their Idol Rush calling a young woman a slut and yet
    protest something that is so obviously meant to be a joke.

    March 20, 2012 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  9. Bruce

    Does Gingrich even understand sarcasm. EVERY first lady, except the present one, has been white. IT's not an attack, it's humor in the form of sarcasm.

    March 20, 2012 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  10. TommyD

    Now, he did 'sult Newt a little bit. He 'sulted him a lil' bit, lil' bit. Obama should call for drinks on the house for Newt!

    March 20, 2012 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  11. Sherri

    First Lady? No, but I AM ready for a white female president.

    March 20, 2012 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    LONG LIVE PRESIDENT-FOR-LIFE OBAMA!! socialist america is best america

    March 20, 2012 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  13. linda

    well, we can hope, whatever color she is, she fixes the horrible decor in the white house.....God knows this latest couple destroyed the decor.

    March 20, 2012 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  14. Bruce

    This is nothing but a smokescreen for the right to cover the fact that they have nothing to run on. They have done nothing for over 3 years. Actually, they did worse than nothing by blocking almost every piece of legislation that Obama wanted. They even voted against their own plans when they found out that Obama agreed with them. So now is fake shock at the horrible comments.... as if that is the big problem now. Not jobs, or the economy. THey're upset over a bad joke with nobody hurt. So transparent.

    March 20, 2012 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  15. Ellen

    They like to make fun of Michelle. Horrible things are said and I have yet to hear an apology from anyone in the GOP.

    March 20, 2012 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  16. Sony Vaio PCG Adapter

    Obama should demand Robert De Niro apologise for Newt Gingrich's demand that he apologise for De Niro's joke.

    March 20, 2012 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  17. Bruce

    Ellen – Nobody really cares out these slights. Both sides use it to focus attention away from the real issues

    March 20, 2012 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  18. John

    Using Gingriches logic he should apologize for Limbaughs comments. Sheesh, if anyone should apologize it should be DeNiro

    March 20, 2012 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  19. labman57

    More faux indignation from the POTUS wannabes.

    DeNiro's joke was the perfect retort to all of the bellicose right wing pundits who had declared the Obama presidency as a "failed social experiment".

    March 20, 2012 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  20. Jennifer

    He's clearly just pointing out and mocking the racism of the Republican party's supporters. I feel more for the snub on Carol Paul that she was forgotten.

    March 20, 2012 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  21. ladylike56

    WOW! Gingrich is offended by De Niro's comment?

    Gingrich makes comments all the time that are offensive to the general population, but gets offended if someone else says something that is negative toward him, his wife or any other GOP contender.

    Typical double standard from one of the least likely to be nominated for the presidency.

    March 20, 2012 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  22. NoKidding

    Nobody ever had any issues with people asking if Amerca was ready to have a black president, let alone a black first lady. It's been asked over and over during the 2008 campaign. But it is an issue when you ask a reverse question as a joke? I rest my case.

    March 20, 2012 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  23. syd

    Holy cow can we PLEASE talk about something constructive instead of this sound-bitey trash??? Anyone with more than half a brain got the joke (wasn't hysterical or anything, but it was what it was). And for the likes of Gingrich and Santorum to feign offense at a statement by a celebrity saying he hopes the same first family is in the White House in February by making a joke referencing race (without insulting anyone) is just absurd beyond comprehension. Don't let the GOP candidates use political correctness to try to make themselves out to be anything more than the hypocritical, bigoted, elitist fools they are.

    March 20, 2012 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  24. Bruce

    Syd – Post of the evening and to the point. Bravo!!

    March 20, 2012 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  25. Charuz

    Let's see, if Newt thought this was about his wife, is this the same person who had an affair with a married man? Ladies don't do that.

    March 20, 2012 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
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