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. Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)

    I'm hoping that DeNiro responds to Newt in the way only a New Yorker can respond. Of course it will be unprintable.

    March 20, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  2. Burnsey

    We all know what robert de nero likes. What's the big deal. You can't sneeze without someone jumping on it.

    *** Burnsey ***

    March 20, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  3. Jerry D

    I love that Tiffany Newt has played right into De Niro's hand. Just commenting on it proves that the Rethug mouthpiece is too busy worrying about other things to truly want to win that nomination. Keep it up Rethugs, soon it will be all over and you can return to just complaining about Our President, whatever your reason is!!

    March 20, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  4. Brian

    Why should Obama apologize for De Niro's comment? Shouldn't De Niro do it?

    You know, Republicans like to whine about personal responsibility, yet they just blame Obama for everything.

    When are the Republicans going to apologize for 8 years of George Bush?

    March 20, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  5. yuri pelham

    Gingrich is a greater joke than DeNiro's joke. Everyone realizes the Republican slate is a clown show. Even McCain gets that. So DeNiro should know better.

    March 20, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  6. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    I cannot imagine why this radical Bircher and secular right wing extremist expects the president to apologize to him. Newt has always lacked common sense and good judgement.

    March 20, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  7. Woman In California

    No apology necessary. Period.

    March 20, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  8. gerald granger

    DeNiro is a great actor, but he needs to read the scripts and really not speak unless coached. His spouse is of color and I guess the coach would be her. The White House is definately ready for a NEW first lady. This country can't afford more of the overseas vacations. Twenty-five secret service for a 13 year old in Mexico. Can you imagine the cost at taxpayer's expense? I realize the U.S. is doing fine economically, but the money can help a little.

    March 20, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  9. jdun

    Republicans would like to think that America is color blind, it is not. Race is an issue, in voter registration, in getting a job, in getting into a good school. Anyone who lives down south knows that racism is alive and well. It is still alive in the north too, just not as open. Republicans since Ronald Reagan have played the race card very well, and will again this fall. Willy Horton is alive and well! Gingrich is great at jumping on any news bite of the day. I find his bluster and feigned anger humorous!

    March 20, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  10. Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)

    Had the equivalent happened during a conservative fundraiser,
    Oh puleeeze! As if it hasn't, and you guys were quite serious. DeNiro knows that every FLOTUS has been White. Therein lies the difference.

    March 20, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  11. TimM

    FINALLY, there is a perfect example of "Do as I say, not as I do". The problem is both sides play this silly little game. Things would be a lot different if someone made a similar comment at a John McCain fundraiser four years ago though. The NAACP would be asking for everyone present to apologize. All I'm saying is if you throw stones at someone else's house, be prepared for the stones to be thrown back. THIS GOES FOR REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS.

    March 20, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  12. Taylor

    CNN what is this....who cares people can say anything just like Rush and and GOP..........GOP can't take the heat (joke) get out of the race because there is more to come........

    March 20, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  13. jboh

    Newt complaining about inappropriate remarks? Pathetic response from a pathetic example of morality, honesty, and civility. Newt calling the kettle black.

    March 20, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  14. Wake up people

    @TTNYC. There is no such thing as a race card, that is something racist whites made up to stop black people from speaking up for themselves. Racism is alive and well today, and if you don't believe that, just check out some of the things being said about the President and the First Lady.


    March 20, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  15. HIppoCritter

    Newt is such a tool. His scary wife was not abused by De Niro's joke, nor were the other Stepford wives he referred to.

    March 20, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  16. ron

    It's not a choice of words I would have used, but I don't believe mr. DeNiro meant anything racial with the statement.
    I believe he and not the President should make some sort of apology and then let's all get on with the campaign.
    It's not the end of the world.

    March 20, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  17. Tony

    Don't pick a fight with Bobby DeNiro, Newt, or he'll wipe the floor with your doughy behind.

    March 20, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  18. SuperD

    Double standard in play again. Dunderhead Liberals can say anything they want. Republican's can't. Deniro is a loser and the comment just shows how stupid he is and the people who applauded. Democrats in general.

    March 20, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  19. Ryan

    Are you kidding me? An elementary school student can see that DeNiro was joking around. Are peoples head's so far up their own butts that now we can't even make jokes. Things are getting so ridiculous....

    March 20, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  20. Mr. Izz

    I think that because the comments were made at a political fundraiser, suddenly, Gingrich is having a big issue with it. Obviously, if roles were reversed, there would be extreme racism, right? If an actor said that America "wasn't ready for a black first lady," you can bet heads would roll. There is a double standard here. Lovie Smith asks African-Americans to support Obama, and doesn't get reprimanded. Yet if someone were to advocate for a White Coalition, or Whites for Gingrich, people would freak.

    In addition, Gingrich wants to have media air-time. He isn't in the news, and is somewhat of a distant memory. Many people in the media said Gingrich would say outlandish things just to get them talking about him again. This is only the beginning.

    Let's talk about the issues, and let us please leave race and religion out of our politics. Politics are bad enough without being muddied up by century old prejudices.

    March 20, 2012 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  21. Barry G

    Newt always wants it his way, another spin master!

    March 20, 2012 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |

    Newt Gingrich's campaign = cricket sounds.

    March 20, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Eric, much worse HAS been said at rethugliban fundraisers – (kill him was shouted by a supporter of the 2008 also ran at a fundraiser in Clearwater headlined by dim bulb barbie when she mentioned then-candidate Barak Obama by name). Additionally, while local news organizations were setting up and testing their equipment prior to the dim bulb show, someone in the audience shouted out to a technical person with dark skin pigmentation, "Sit down, boy!" Yeah, it was caught on video & sound.

    March 20, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  24. JuanVonDinklus

    Don't agree with these comments, but seriously – Gingrich knows the pain of the gas pump? What, not enough room on the Tiffany's credit line anymore?

    March 20, 2012 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  25. JES

    This is ridiculous...clearly he was making a joke and a pretty inocuous one at that...given how hard the GOP works to suppress minority voter turn out and that the economic policies they espouse disproportionately affect minorites in a negative way, it kind of looks like Gingrich is crying crocodile tears to me...

    March 20, 2012 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
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