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. SusieKJ

    I guess Newt forgot all the jokes and racist comments about a black President and a black First Lady – if we were ready or if we could handle it. It's obvious De Niro was mocking that.

    March 20, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  2. Larry L

    Maybe I should be outraged as well... my wife is white and has about the same chance of becoming First Lady as Newt's latest "temporary wife".

    March 20, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  3. Mike

    Regardless to who said what racial comment and who gave a reply; racism in America is supported by these types of "jokes". The comment was not needed and a public apology is needed. This country is already divided by red and blue States; do we really need to be divided based on race?

    March 20, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  4. V in Chicago

    Well, I don't think America is ready for a First Lady that was a mistress to a married man, OK with having an open marriage (despite all their "holier than thou" talk), and is apparently as plastic and fake as they get.

    Michelle Obama has been (and will be for the next term) a fantastic First Lady. As a mother, I would prefer my daughter to look to Mrs. Obama as a role model rather than the woman who openly broke up a marriage and is apparently proud of it.

    March 20, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  5. troytroj

    Newt calls it like he sees it. Go Newt!

    March 20, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  6. R Burns

    I don't think a casual remark made by an entertainer in light of the fact that this fundraiser was in support of Obama is in any way to be taken so seriously or criticized so much! That being said, this article is worded badly! How can Gingrich "call on President Obama to apologize" when it wasn't the president who made the statement. Gingrich could have "called Obama to apologize", but to call on him makes it sound like he was demanding something of the President.

    March 20, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  7. maggie

    Newt will seize on any opportunity for some face time with the cameras as his campaign slowly winds down. One thing is certain, America is not ready for a First Mistress.

    March 20, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  8. Dee

    Newt has made is statements about blacks and food stamps so what is his point?

    March 20, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |


    March 20, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  10. Demarco

    I think you guys missed the sarcasm in the statement. Do you remember when the question was asked, "Is America ready for a black president"? (I know it seems an eternity ago for some of you)...well we know about Bob's fondness for black women. Take it in context and take your underwear out of your crack.

    March 20, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  11. PTBarnumboy

    The Newtster is a fine one to be throwing stones.

    March 20, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  12. noslo51

    Poor Newt, he can't get any press coverage so now he has to take on something this petty. Can we say grasping at straws.

    March 20, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  13. Bill, NY

    Hey Gingrich! Whiten up! err I mean Lighten Up!

    March 20, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  14. maljazur

    What crowd? The crowd on this thread is probably bigger than the one he drew in Louisiana. LOL!
    Obama 2012. Four more years of him and his proud, beautiful black wife!

    March 20, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  15. Wake up people

    @kevin, when people were saying we weren't ready for a black President or first lady, that was NOT tongue in cheek humor, that was flat ot racism. Please believe, they really meant that, which is why every white man in America thought he could be POTUS. As for De Niro, that was clearly a joke considering the current first lady is the first and possibly the last black first lady. Newt himself, has said and done
    a lot worse.

    March 20, 2012 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  16. ...a Kentucky long-rifleman...

    Well, Newt is always looking for the opening – WELL , at the moment, MR. DE NIRO IS RIGHT !!!

    March 20, 2012 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  17. Joseph-Ohio

    Really he has the nerve to compare these remarks with others. This does not even compare to Rush's insult, and you know it! News flash Newt, they came from another American, One who's wife Grace, correct me if I am worng, is of African American decent. Come on Newt! You are starting to look desparate! Get out the race! None of you are going to win anyway.

    March 20, 2012 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  18. PJ DiFab

    Newt is grabbing at anything that can put him in the about a hasbeen. He should back out now and go quietly into obscurity.

    March 20, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  19. jim

    Tom Paine, when did those folks bring up a stupid racial remark like DiNerdo's. What does his remark mean anyway. Humor? Class? Style? No just stupid bias! Liberal loudmouth Hollywierds are willing to writeoff half of the country just to spew their kindof hate. Real Smart. Just like you, Mr PIA

    March 20, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  20. Kelli Jo Blanton

    So newt would prefer us to have a first lady who is his former mistress? Lol lol lol. Oh newt you silly little troll

    March 20, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  21. Common Sense

    Newt has nothing else to say but fish for a news topic to in front of a camera...plz go away with Dick Cheney some where, your time is up!!!

    March 20, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  22. NLB

    Get a life!!!!! What's is the GOP message period beside being clowns. I don't see this going anywhere.

    March 20, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  23. Big George in Big D

    De Niro has it backwards! I am more than ready to get that woman out of the whitehouse, along with her husband!

    March 20, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  24. Sane Person

    It's called a joke.

    March 20, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  25. GFreas

    Obama was elected, in part, based on White guilt. Ok, we've had our token Black President. Let's sing "Kumbaya" one more time and get someone back in the Office who has a clue about how to run a country.

    March 20, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
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