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. GrouchyKat

    Of course it will be ignored. Because DeNiro is part of the Hollywood elite that belive that Liberals walk on water and don't leave dents.

    March 21, 2012 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  2. really

    I find it fascinating how the Hollywood elite can support this personality cult's propaganda machine. Even before this con was elected, they were elevating him to celebrity status not out of any merit but from a hatred of the last administration. This myth building is dangerous in that the only leaders in history who's image you see plastered on walls, shirts (and now even the US flag at a Democratic Champaign office), have been dictators. Why did this man receive the Nobel Prize? Why were school children being taught to sing his praise in schools within a month after his election? Why is he the first living President to have his image plastered everywhere, even on the sacred American flag when he has not earned any such honors? These honors have always been reserved for Presidents that have done great deeds and then only after they have left office. His great deed is that he is black? If you can not see the danger and believe that he is your Messhia, you are no better than the useful idiots that put the likes of Mao, Hitler or Stalin in power. This is a personality cult by both definition and deeds. Beware.

    March 21, 2012 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  3. Huh?

    Newt seriously commented on someone else's wealth???

    March 21, 2012 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  4. ED FL

    The last person in the world to make comments about first ladies is Gingrich or about any ladies . One of the countries most notorious Philanderers is not fit enough to comment on anything much less women. Wake up Newt you are despised by the population and your opinions are just that,except that just about anything you say on anything is just plain garbage.

    March 21, 2012 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  5. Tesserazoa (@tesserazoa)

    I think the joke is hilarious and not offensive. The only thing offensive is the insincere outrage. Good grief.

    March 21, 2012 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  6. doc77

    The world is full of idiots and DeNiro is only one of many. I agree that racism is NOT fact it seems more prevalent than ever.

    March 21, 2012 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  7. Katie

    And why is anyone listening to an actor???

    March 21, 2012 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  8. Anonymous010

    "Speaking Tuesday, Gingrich labeled the comments "inexcusable," and called on Obama to apologize."

    So, wait a minute – it's not okay for Obama to apologize to foreign countries when our military servicemen do horrible things over there, but according to Gingrich, Obama should apologize for something he didn't say? Hypocrite.

    March 21, 2012 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  9. Robert De Niro

    Obviously, I made the comment so my wife would give me nookie that night!

    March 21, 2012 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  10. Name cdoubled

    Take off your blinders and check the facts and past history. Obama is the most racist pres is recent history. All The Left wants to talk about is what the liberal press stirs up today, not the facts.

    March 21, 2012 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  11. Rabid Rabbit

    Oh good lord...DeNiro's joke was a sarcastic dig at those who four years ago were wondering whether we were ready for a black President (or a black First Lady). We've had something like 42 white First Ladies so obviously it wasn't intended to be taken at face value. Whether or not the joke was or wasn't funny or in poor taste, it was not intended as a racist comment about white women. Gingrich's outrage is completely manufactured.

    March 21, 2012 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  12. Jim Carpenter

    See what we've become? We can't even joke anymore. Sad!

    March 21, 2012 08:40 am at 8:40 am |

    Oh for Christ's sake already. Give it a rest. So Newt comparing the President to Saul Alinsky is just fine? That has a racial overtone to it. Saul Alinsky looked out for the empowerment of the poor and the middle class, primarily African American people. So is that what Newt's suggesting?

    March 21, 2012 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  14. Name cdoubled

    Anonymous010, if you don't know the difference between the two apologies, you need to crawl back into hour shell.

    March 21, 2012 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  15. kindasorta

    What would have happened if he said, "Is the President Hawaiian?"

    March 21, 2012 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  16. Tam

    Sarcasm, people, sarcasm!

    March 21, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  17. Bob D.

    Why is anyone surprised? Actors are typically trendy, and typically weak minded. DeNiro is obviously stuck in the sixties, with his "I'm white, but I really am a friend of the black folks – really" mentality. In his mind he's somehow showing people that he's cool by helping what he considers to be the downtrodden blacks. He's a white man that's bought into it all, and it's embarrassing for him. His "joke" was simple minded, and those who think people should just brush it aside and it's really no big deal miss the undertone of his comment. It was about DeNiro, not Obama. It was about how he could look cool, and how he could get a laugh, no matter what – and it was racist. Think about it, if he'd said "Hey, are we really ready for two years of a black first lady?" would anyone have laughed?

    March 21, 2012 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  18. Rae

    Poor Gingrich is not getting enough attention.

    March 21, 2012 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  19. Anonymous

    Not a single smart person in the whole country. The rule is: funny cannot be racist ! And this was a very creative and funny joke !

    March 21, 2012 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  20. humtake

    Are you kidding me? That comment is really funny. In fact, it brings up a whole new way of dealing with the stupid Libs who always use the race card if they can't come up with something else to say to people who don't like Obama. I think this should start a new movement. Everyone who is for Obama just means they are racist towards white people. If you vote for Obama, that means you do not like white people and are racist. Awesome, now Reps can be just as ignorant as the Dems...

    March 21, 2012 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  21. mary cowger

    robert de niro is an old dried up whatever, i saw him in a filthy role in some movie he was in, i have thought of him
    as a low life ever since, certainly not a man, say something smart next time, and ask for forgiveness your old
    enough now to have one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel, i am also, that is how i recognize your

    March 21, 2012 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  22. Chris

    We believe the joke was inappropriate, but we're still taking his money. Yes, if a Republican had made a similar racist comment, we'd be up in arms over the deal. In this case, however, DeNiro cut us a check and had his agent write a very good letter with a clever "satirical jest" comment. Did I mention he gave us money and that makes the racism ok?

    March 21, 2012 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  23. marion

    This has got to be the stupidist uproar over over nothing I have seen throughout this republican primary. It was a wry joke, and should have been seen as an ironic recall to what was said during Obama's campaign for president. It does not compare IN ANY WAY to what Rush Limbaugh said and anyone jumping on this comment as being "racist" is just unbelievably FULL OF IT..( Especially Gingrich, who once said that his own first wife was not "pretty enough, or smart enough to be a first lady".) Any idiot who does not see the humor in what DeNiro said is just using the comment in a disengenuous way to stir up political controversy.....all because they are still smarting over the egregious comments by Rush Limbaugh and how democrats and republicans alike excoriated him for it. GROW UP, AMERICA!

    March 21, 2012 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  24. Jim

    People in the crowd enjoyed the comment. Bigots one and all.

    March 21, 2012 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  25. Dennis

    It was a joke to point out the irony of the situation. Gingrich overeacted. Get over it and let's all move on.

    March 21, 2012 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
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