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. Anonymous

    Uhhh...what exactly was offensive about DeNiro's joke?
    Gingrich's false outrage, now that's offensive.

    March 21, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  2. madmaninthemiddle

    Newt, here's a nickel. Please go buy yourself a sense of humor.

    March 21, 2012 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  3. JR

    I love Michelle, Barack, and Deniro, but that was a pretty dumb thing for Bobby to say. Newt is not out of line. Obama still has my vote though.

    March 21, 2012 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  4. buni

    Robert DeNiro is racist, he hates white women

    March 21, 2012 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  5. FettFan84

    Can't expect too much from DeNiro these days. After all he executive produced Little Fockers.

    March 21, 2012 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  6. seaden

    How mean spirited of DeNiro, where's the sensitivity, the love. No doubt he is really a conservative, a real liberal would never say something hurtful. Just ask Bill Maher or David Letterman.

    March 21, 2012 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  7. MaeQueen

    Awww...don't be afraid to dream big, Robbie – how about a *lady* as PRESIDENT?

    March 21, 2012 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  8. Andrew

    LOL. You have got to be kidding me Gingrich. It's funny because a sizable percentage of voters in 2008 were saying they just "weren't ready" for a black president. And we've obviously had a lot of white first ladies. That's why it's funny. I can't believe this even made news.

    March 21, 2012 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  9. usualone

    Why should anyone in this administration apologize for the comments of an actor? He is not part of the administration - and he was being factitious for certain.

    March 21, 2012 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  10. Karl Jonas

    Let me get this straight... the man who goes around calling Obama 'the food stamp president' and such is so thin skinned as to be offended by an innocent little - and funny - joke.

    Typical Republican. They can dish it out but run sniveling to mommy when someone dishes it back.

    March 21, 2012 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  11. Stockholm Sam

    Wow. Last month all you ever heard from the Republicans was that Obama was an apologist...that he apologizes left and right for things he should not be apologizing for. Now they demand he apologize for the slightly questionable joke of a Hollywood celeb? Sheesh. These people are, collectively, a joke. I wish someone would apologize for them.

    March 21, 2012 02:03 am at 2:03 am |
  12. r

    Wow. Who. Cares. Gingrich is like a yapping terrier – just ignore him.

    March 21, 2012 02:13 am at 2:13 am |
  13. Tony

    I have a doctorate from Duke, and I can't figure out how De Niro's comment was offensive to anyone.

    March 21, 2012 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  14. ya no

    I think the polls pretty clearly indicate how many of us care what Mr. Gingrich thinks about anything. I think Mr. De Niro was, typically, working the shock effect, and could have shown much better judgement. I cannot see any reason why the President apologize (to whom?) for something Mr De Niro said. Ms Obama is going to be a very hard act to follow, for whoever follows her into the White House.

    March 21, 2012 03:52 am at 3:52 am |
  15. stranger in an increasingly strange land

    If, God forbid, the Newt were to become President his wife would become the First Ex-mistress First Lady Good for her, but not exactly an improvement over our current First Lady in any way shape or form.

    That being said, De Niro should have thought the statement through. The Newt was correct–It did sound like something a Republican would say.

    March 21, 2012 04:02 am at 4:02 am |
  16. boohowdy

    Newt Gingrich never stops being an idiot, I personally love every minute of it. Between him and santorum, I haven't stopped laughing in months.

    March 21, 2012 04:06 am at 4:06 am |
  17. NovemberRain

    You people are insane...such hate.... de niro is another hollywood person I wont be watching....his comments were inappropirate. NOBODY on the left EVER has to apologize for ANYTHING they say that is negative or comes off as racist so this is no surprise that he wont be asked to apologize...Newt wasnt off and neither was Ted Nugent and they dont have to apologize either...some of you guys seem to need to get your head out of your A ss es and realize rasicm is alive and well today and alot of it is being fueld by the left and this administration..wake up before our America is gone forever

    March 21, 2012 04:24 am at 4:24 am |
  18. Coloradan

    Just Gingrich trying to fire up the GOP base who respond to racially tinged rhetoric because, well, some of them are a little racist. Silly, harmless comment by an actor that Gingrich is trying to exploit. Move along.

    March 21, 2012 05:37 am at 5:37 am |
  19. Michael H.

    Who cares what Deniro says...the guy is a useless, now-talentless hack. His last good movie was Heat which was released SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO. Sure, he's been in classics, but the longer he keeps trotting out paycheck films like LIttle Fockers and Analyze That, the less and less I regard his earlier masterworks. And talk about being a bad neighbor, his hotel/debacle on North Moore street was downright obtrusive during construction.. and this hero of the left used ZERO union labor and had the rat in front of his place more times than I can count. The next time this guy gets a standing ovation on the screen it will be his In Memorium still...

    March 21, 2012 05:49 am at 5:49 am |
  20. Bill C

    Good grief, have we completely lost our sense of humor? I am a Republican and I laughed when I read the line. Shut up Newt. Obama does not need to apologize. He should say "hey, good one DeNiro." And let's move on.

    March 21, 2012 05:53 am at 5:53 am |
  21. Bigindianwedding

    Thank you so much for the information, I checked out your website and I like your post .

    March 21, 2012 05:55 am at 5:55 am |
  22. Bernard Webb

    "Gingrich called on Obama to apologize for the remarks, since they were made at an event raising money for his reelection."

    Gingrich alternates between demanding that Obama apologize to republicans and excoriating him for apologizing to anyone else.

    March 21, 2012 06:02 am at 6:02 am |
  23. John

    It Not about the man , It all about the Color of his Skin. And most Republican are RACIST.

    March 21, 2012 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  24. J.D.

    Numyorangay - LOL! It's SHOTGUN shack, not "shock gun shack"! Wow, you really put Linda in her place with your comment (and showed everyone what a dolt you are).

    As for DeNiro - like most Hollyweird jerks he's insulated from the harsh economic realities that affect most of us so I take what he as to say with a grain of salt. Just another celebrity moron being "clever". I'm surprised the Odrama camp had anything to say about it - maybe Bob didn't give them $1 mil like Bill Maher did.

    March 21, 2012 06:40 am at 6:40 am |
  25. Don

    How dare he speak his mind. Doesn't he know that celebrity presonal opinions are not allowed unless they are Fox nNews contributers?

    March 21, 2012 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
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