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. Mike

    It's a JOKE!


    March 21, 2012 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  2. rennie grant

    Newt Gingrich must really have a lock on how Gas prices feel. I can see that. I can see how Rich, successful people like Robert Deniro would lose touch with the plight of the common man while hard working, street level blue collar guys like Gingrich have their fingers on the pulse of the working class.

    March 21, 2012 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
  3. noteabags

    It was obviously a joke and there was nothing wrong with it. He wasn't slamming anyone. Get over it and move on. There are bigger problems.

    March 21, 2012 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
  4. CarmenSo

    Well at least he didn't say American isn't ready for a First lady home wrecker

    March 21, 2012 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  5. Gaunt

    I'm confused. What exactly is in any way offensive about what De Niro said? Who does he need to apologize to, and why? I'm a pretty PC person, and I have examined his statements through every lens I can come up with, and I cannot see any way in which that joke can be taken as offensive to anyone.

    Oh wait, you mean the far-right is lying? Good heavens, say it isnt so!

    March 21, 2012 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  6. Gaunt

    I'm confused. What exactly is in any way offensive about what De Niro said? Who does he need to apologize to, and why? I'm a pretty PC person, and I have examined his statements through every lens I can come up with, and I cannot see any way in which that joke can be taken as offensive to anyone.

    March 21, 2012 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  7. big laugh

    It was a very wry, clever joke. We are (happily) so used to a black President that this twist on an old phrase worked as a joke and a COMPLIMENT to the American people. Get over it.

    March 21, 2012 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  8. Numyorangay

    To everyone about my last post: I am schizophrenic and shouldn't have said something so stupid. I can't even pronounce "shotgun" correctly. I will go punch myself now.

    March 21, 2012 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  9. eric groza

    i didn't know that newt had liberal tendencies.

    March 21, 2012 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  10. Stay abroad, Joe

    Joe citizen–
    Nice analogy. Except for the part about Rush not making the remarks at a Gingrich fundraiser. But that's just details...

    March 21, 2012 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  11. diane

    It is called HUMOR everyone. MY GOD.......what has happened to our country? So sick of political correctness. I guess Archie Bunker wouldn't last an episode today although I still watch him every night. It is FUNNY...Gingrich is a freakin joke.

    March 21, 2012 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  12. naeco

    Hey there Newt. DeNiro made a JOKE. Yep. And a pretty funny one at that. Guess what, I'm not ready for a white first lady either. I'd say especially if it was yours, but Santorum is so insane, I might actually prefer you, you pompous twit.

    March 21, 2012 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  13. patty

    Oh for christ's sake people lighten UP... it was FUNNY!

    March 21, 2012 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  14. Mary

    the only person that needs to apologize for what deNiro said, is DeNiro – and the only people he needs to apologize to are Mrs. Gingrich, Mrs. Santorum and Mrs. Romney. I'm sick and tired of us not holding adults accountable for their own actions and placing blame and responsibility on someone else. Man Up DeNire – yeah, I'm talking to you!!!

    March 21, 2012 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  15. Dave

    Why does Michele need a re-election campaign secretary???????

    March 21, 2012 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  16. sam

    Why is this newsworthy? BTW – noticed Newt forgot about Mrs. Paul!

    March 21, 2012 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  17. Anonymous

    I notice alot of trash attend these Obama fundraisers .

    March 21, 2012 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  18. Reddog9500

    Oh poo poo. Get over it. Di Nero was just trying to make a joke that backfired. He's an actor forchristsake. Get over it.

    March 21, 2012 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  19. Jake Truth

    These Republican candidates are reptiles with zero human feelings when it comes to cutting back on medical care for the poor and elderly or helping the unemployed and their kids or killing people overseas - but Robert De Niro cracks a joke and their panties get all bunched up. What a bunch of disingenuine woosies.

    March 21, 2012 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  20. jamarsu

    No way. DeNiro should NOT have to apologize, after all the crap Ted Nugent and Limbaugh spew. I thought it was funny.

    March 21, 2012 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  21. Jason

    C'mon Newt, if you just try to reach little more, you may be able to grasp that straw. Go home old man.

    March 21, 2012 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  22. Aaron

    While the joke is funny, it's just bad timing. If De Nero said this at standup there's nothing wrong with it. But since it was at a Persidential event, the President himself really should say something and not leave it to others. This is where having character comes in. Obama shouldn't be too proud to apologize for this and let it go simply because his aides said something. If he wants to be influential, he needs to say something.

    March 21, 2012 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  23. James PDX

    Funny, I didn't find DeNiro's comment at all racist. It was a weak attempt at humor. Are they saying he is racist against the race of the person he paid a boatload of money to be there to support? Or is he racist against white people, of which he is one? Seriously, which race was he denigrating? Idiots grasping at straws.

    March 21, 2012 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  24. David

    Another hollywood slimebag being the leftist hypocrits they are.

    March 21, 2012 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  25. lovethedifferentcommentsystemsCNN

    haha he is a funny guy, people need to lighten up it

    March 21, 2012 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
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