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. Rob Mosby

    The comment was, as intended, very bfunny. The response ; very stupid

    March 20, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  2. phyllis

    Why should President Obama say any thing about this, he did not make the statement, Robert De Niro made the statement let him be the one to apologize to Newt wife.........he is a grown man, he needs to speak for him self........Newt needs to go to the source, and leave our President of this mess.........

    All I can say is Obama and Biden 2012 YEA...........Peace out........

    March 20, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  3. John

    First of all, Obama did not say it. Why isn't he asking Dinero to appologize? Not that I think the joke needs an appology. Anyone who gets offended by that joke is an idiot or so partisan they can't think for themselves.

    March 20, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  4. TTNYC

    This is simple racism. White attacking white, black attacking black, white attacking black, black attacking white – doesn't matter – it's all racism. When "color" is introduced you play the race card. Mr. DeNiro should have known better. The real disgust is that people applauded him. Mr. Obama and Mrs. Obama should send a clear message that this was unacceptable behavior on the part of DeNiro and those who applauded him. But they won't. And that's the saddest thing of all.

    March 20, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  5. ae

    It was a play of words, since she is the only black women to hold that position, maybe not as sensitive as Limbaugh! He did not get personal, you guys are desperate and looking for anything to attack!!! Keep digging....

    March 20, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  6. sandra

    This is just Ridiculous.....Come on. There are WAY more serious things going on......

    March 20, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  7. Cynthia

    Oh, yeah.......I thought Presidents weren't suppose to make apologies. You can't have it both ways Newt.
    How about YOU saying you are SORRY for even being in this race (no pun intended but,....if the shoe fits. Maybe in another future life things might be different for you).

    March 20, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  8. Emerald Laughter

    Whatever, at least he didn't call them sluts, and ask them to post sex videos to the internet for all to watch. Where was the Right Wing Outrage Machine, when their boy Rush was going postal with the misogyny?

    March 20, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  9. OldieTampaBay

    WHY should the President apologize? Makes NO sense! And Gingrich of ALL people who is totally insensitive to women? ROFL .. thank God there is NO chance he will be president!

    March 20, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  10. RenDoc

    Everytime I see a picture of Newt I just want to squeeze his cheeks. He such a pleasant looking fellow.

    March 20, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  11. Orchid333

    DeNiro's comment was far less offensive than those recently made by Rush Limbaugh, calling women sluts and prostitutes for wanting Birth Control. Take it in context... DeNiro's was meant to be positive, Limbaugh's were meant to be malicious. Appropriate or not, there's a big difference.

    March 20, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Speaking Tuesday, Gingrich labeled the comments "inexcusable," and called on Obama to apologize.
    How long did it take for Newt Gingrich to apologize for the *most recent* highly offensive remarks by Rush Limbaugh? Did Newt Gingrich denounce Glen Beck for saying Pres. Obama "hates white people"? Will Newt Gingrich apologize for his own condescending remarks about Pres. Obama characterizing him as wayward student who has never learned the most basic lessons in global economics?

    March 20, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  13. Some Dude

    Wow, cry much Newt? Talk about being a hypocrite.

    March 20, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  14. Tom In Millstadt

    Obama can apologize when Newt apologizes for Limbaugh's comments to Sandra Fluke.

    March 20, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  15. Wise Guy

    Here is the problem, the right keeps talking about freedom and liberty and that includes freedom of speech. If some body is making a remark then why do you have to ask for apology every time you do not like the remark. This is the problem with the country right now, people focusing too much on what people are saying and not paying any attention to the actions. Every day people are asking for apologies from others, what is the purpose of these apologies, if they did not mean then they would not have said it, if they said it then they mean it and saying sorry does not change a thing.

    March 20, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  16. Eric

    Amazing the lack of faux outrage from the lefturds. Had the equivalent happened during a conservative fundraiser, we all KNOW the outrage that be vented today.

    March 20, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  17. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Here is a question. Given his belief on what a woman's place should be, is Rick Santorum prepared for the role Karen would be expected to play as First Lady? Ever since Edith Wilson, the First Lady has been more than just arm candy for the President. These women have been in the forefront of suffrage, temperance, civil rights, equal opportunity, health care, education, etc. Given Rick's beliefs, will he even allow Karen to "run" the White House staff, as every other first lady has done?

    March 20, 2012 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  18. Big Al

    Allah Akbar! Long Live Saddam Hussein

    Michelle Obama will continue to be First Lady. The Republicans just dont have a chance. They are right wing extremests protecting the very wealthy.

    March 20, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  19. Gina

    Hey Newt, America is not ready for White First lady who had affair with married man! We don't need First White slut lady!

    March 20, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  20. WTF-Maine

    I think I know what Bob was saying – too bad Grinch didn't get it. Can you imagine looking at The Joker Gingrich for 4 years. Newt can if he wants but please don't force her on us.

    March 20, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  21. Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)

    I think that Newt's mother should apologize to us.

    Obama 2012. Seriously America.

    March 20, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  22. Sid Prejean

    Bad joke.
    Phony outrage.
    Move on.

    March 20, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  23. ART

    Actually America is not ready for a adulterer as first Lady i.e. Callista

    March 20, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  24. Bob

    I actually find that joke tasteful, harmless and funny but then again I'm well lived and socialized in a major metropolitan area.

    March 20, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  25. Pedro

    And Republicans wonder why they're the butt of every joke. They don't understand how humor works. Which makes them the joke.

    March 20, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
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