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. IndeePendant

    What's this that these guys want apologies for everything? Kids or what... vvvveeeeeeyyyvvveeeyyy...

    March 20, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  2. Orwell proven

    De Niro had it wrong. The country is not ready to have another republican nut case as POTUS.

    March 20, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Did Newt Gingrich, or any Republican, apologize for the host of biased remarks from Donald Trump? No, in fact most seemed to support the atmosphere of doubt and latent hatred that Trump was feeding.

    March 20, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  4. markiejoe

    Omigod, Newt. Talk about being clueless. De Niro's line was a riff on the indefensible hackneyed racist line Republican candidates have implied - or said outright - since time began. Dead on satire, albeit at the wrong place.

    March 20, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    newt should apologize first for calling Obama a foodstamp president, president alge, etc

    March 20, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  6. brian in denver

    I, for one, am not ready for the likes of Calista, Karen or Ann – or any of their spouses – to occupy the White House. & if DeNiro feels the need to apologize for his relatively harmless remark, so be it. But it's absurd to think that the President owes anyone an apology in this case. The GOP is desperately grabbing at straws here.

    March 20, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  7. Moder8

    That was a joke dummy and a pretty funny joke if you ask me. It was not even the least bit insulting to Newt's helmet haired third wife. See that would be an insult!

    March 20, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  8. g

    "wake up people", no such thing as the race card? Give me a break. Nobody is being stopped from speaking up for themselves, but some people make EVERYTHING about race. That is what the race card is.

    March 20, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  9. Get real

    So when Foster Friess, a supporter of Rick Santprum, told a joke about women holding a Bayer aspirin between their knees as a form of birth control the joking was inexcusable but now it's okay? Yeah, double standard for sure. DeNiro does a great job playing mobsters but supporting them takes away from his likability.

    March 20, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  10. Robert

    Funny, the GOP doubled down on their mouth piece and then they want the president to appologize for something he didn't say?
    Do these people understand the meaning of reality or have they gone so far right that they're off the map?

    March 20, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    You sure he said "white" and not "robot"?

    March 20, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  12. Supa

    Hey Ryan, when Democraps make racist comments its a joke, but when republicans do you communists want to hang them. Double standard?

    March 20, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  13. Get real

    Our country is no longer one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Quite the contrary. Time to get back to God and the rest will follow.

    March 20, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  14. Malory Archer

    ron, why should the president apologize? I don't recall any of his opponents apologizing for their party's defacto leader's disgusting comments about an individual. In fact, I seem to recall that several tighty righties have gone on his show to apologize to HIM for having the unmitigated gall to call him out on other hateful, divisive statements he's made over the years.

    March 20, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  15. Lean6

    People who insist that President Obama was elected because of "white guilt" have to be the biggest waste of human tissue on the planet. Perhaps it's the only way that they can accept viewing such an accomplishment in the face of their own limitations. Just like the people who say that if they were rich, they'd take Angelina Jole from Brad Pitt. Yes. Pretty juvenile. Go play with clay.

    March 20, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  16. Kat

    The joke was funny. Get over it.

    March 20, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  17. Bella

    I think he should run...........AS we say in NY,'get in the truck"

    March 20, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  18. Tim

    Some people need to liten up

    March 20, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  19. Epiphany

    "The idea of looking at politics through eyes of race should be over. That's just over."

    Really? From the "fried chicken" signs, the "Barack Hussein Obama" remarks, to the Birthers, yea it's just over. I can understand if you're a right winger calling on Obama's left wing moves, but don't pretend they never played the race card.

    March 20, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  20. Ilaria

    Gingrich said. "I think the country is ready for a new first lady and he doesn't have to describe it in racial terms."

    ...since when did Newt become racially sensitive?
    How about the "food stamp president" quote ?

    March 20, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  21. dman6015

    Bobby D! Well, you stepped in it a little this time. Time to leave politics to the politicians. Stick with your day job.

    March 20, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  22. NoKidding

    So during the 2008 campaign, when the repubs called Obama names (they still are) because his dad was from Kenya, shouldn't GW Bush have apologized for it?

    March 20, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  23. meteorcrater

    I think that regarding Callista Gingrich, DeNiro meant to say that "America is not ready for an albino First Lady."

    March 20, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  24. Justice

    "Mr. Izz
    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."

    Really? That's funny because the last campaign had all the republican actors, politicians and presidential candidates and VP claiming candidate Obama "wasn't one of us" for months. None of you had a problem with that, or the all the other racist signs, comments, stuffed animals etc produced by the republicans. Your "double standard" claim is epic fail.

    March 20, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    I know it makes people who want to be able to make slightly racist jokes about black people mad, but we aren't on equal footing in the comedy department. You can't ignore 200 years of recent history. My great great grandpa owned somebody elses great great grand pa. My Great Grand Pa killed people to defend the right to own black people. My grand pa benefitted from a caste system that locked black people out of equal opportunities. My dad doesn't have any black friends and gets nervous in all black neighborhoods. I didn't interact with black people until I was in my 20s. Blacks haven't been on equal economic footing or social footing since we owned them. As a multi-million dollar "historian" Newt should be aware of that.

    When deNiro says "we're not ready for a white first lady" he isn't implying anything racist, because he knows everyone listening knows that what he is saying is absurd because over 99% of our first ladies have been white. When people asked "is the country ready for a black president" in 2008 (lot's of them did, publicly) It was racist, because it was implying that segregation may still have a place in our politics. I'm sure I'm just stating the obvious here, but sometime it needs to be said.

    March 20, 2012 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
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