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)

    Also, if I recall, wasn't the MASS MEDIA asking everybody under the sun if America was ready for a Black president, and by extension that would mean a Black First Lady? Where was all the freaking hoopla and calls for apology then? Oh, I forgot, the Black man and his wife are NOT entitled to an apology when they are insulted no matter that they are our President and our First Lady. And that when they are being insulted AMERICAS is being insulted.
    Screw you Newt and all like you!

    March 20, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  2. Jerry5555

    The fact that a man with no political experience became president is a joke. Community organizer! Enough said about this joke and his taste for supporters. Oh yeah, but im sorry – Romney, a self-made business man who is extremely experienced in politics and a moderate is terrible because he's smart enough to make millions for himself. That goes against Obama's theory that you don't have to work, the government will just support you.

    March 20, 2012 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  3. Nobodies Pon

    Wait a darn minute their has been fourty three white presidents one black. If a black person votes for black person just because he is black doesnt make him a bigot. It makes them proud because four hundred years of slavery and another hundred of being treated as second class citizens, and many of the laws that give black people rights have expiration dates and have to be voted on from time to time. The black race in is in limbo politically more than anyone. We got people killing our children in cold blood and nothing is even being done. dnokc

    March 20, 2012 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  4. Rutcut

    That joke was so offensive I may never vote again.

    March 20, 2012 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  5. Niko_in_Richmond

    Why should the president apologize for something a grown man said? Have we gotten that silly in our politics that we apply everything that someone's "supporter" says to the candidate? It would be one thing if the comment was made in a prepared script provided to DeNiro by the Obama campaign; however, that is not the case. Some of you people really need to grow up and get a life. There are more important things to be upset about, like the Republicans attempt to continue cutting the funding for programs that help the neediest among us.

    March 20, 2012 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  6. Larry L

    @Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)

    Great comments! You make excellent points.

    Still, I prefer our President to be better than what I've seen from the Republican "swift boat" crowd. He remains the gentleman and adult in the room – in spite of the racist and low-class attacks from Teavangelicals. He is the one who practices his Christian faith. Ironic...

    March 20, 2012 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  7. Niko_in_Richmond

    Aren't the Republicans always the ones who try to say that their "supporters" don't speak for the campaign? hmmmmmm. I guess that is the case if you are a Republican, but all bets are off for Democrats.

    March 20, 2012 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  8. mary

    Me thinks Ole' Newt is getting desparate!!!

    March 20, 2012 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  9. notogop

    Watch out Callista! If Newt is gullible enough to think a moon station is feasible, he could well think DeNiro is right and divorce you and get him a new black wife. He does have a track record to consider.

    March 20, 2012 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  10. James Mason

    If the only thing the GOP has left to run on is ill-conceived jokes at Obama fundraisers – things must be pretty good!

    March 20, 2012 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  11. Independent

    GIVE ME A BREAK When Obama was running for president Fox commentators and other right wing propagandist often questioned America’s readiness for a Black First Lady. No one asked for an apology when there were serious discussions about the race of the First Lady. Now when someone makes a JOKE, not a serious statement about race, a joke mind you, Obama should apologize??

    The joke was based upon those positions taken by the Right regarding the race of the First Lady. You can’t introduce a topic into the public forum then when someone makes a joke claim that this is a new topic. It was only 4 years ago but this is clearly a case of the Right having amnesia.

    March 20, 2012 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  12. Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)

    Jerry5555 spoken like a true Patriot Idiot. Bush was also a businessman, with experience in GUBMINT and look at the big huge Christmas crap he took under our tree and left it wrapped as a present for us to find. The bubble blew up under this business magnate, and we're still uncovering crap that he left off the budget. I don't want Romney to come in and ship what American jobs we have left overseas, or to further enrich himself and his cronies which is ALL your businessmen with GUBMINT experience have proved tobe really , REALLY good at.

    March 20, 2012 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  13. Sue

    The GOP just doesn't get it! They're so into their own little world that they're oblivious to the fact that most of the world is making them the butt of NUMEROUS jokes. And believe me, there's an endless amount of material out there! De Niro's joke is NOTHING, compared to what I've heard espoused by the right.

    March 20, 2012 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  14. Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)

    Larry L

    @Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)

    Great comments! You make excellent points.

    Still, I prefer our President to be better than what I've seen from the Republican "swift boat" crowd.
    Thanks Larry, and of course you're right, I too (grudgingly) admire that characteristic in our President. It is probably one of the things that makes me such a fierce supporter of him. But good gracious these people really burn me up with their ability to be so freaking two-faced in their approach and reproach.
    Obama 2012. Seriously America.

    March 20, 2012 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  15. asdf

    "That's where DeNiro missed the point." – It was a joke, Newt. I think you missed the piont.

    March 20, 2012 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  16. ME

    this is all they have... they are so yesterday news.. especially around November. the grinch spoke and it matters not...

    March 20, 2012 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  17. Peter

    So, the president should not apologize when the country does something obviously wrong and stupid, but he should apologize for someone's else's remarks? If Republicans can't even be rational in a situation like this, how can they be expected to be rational when the stakes are higher in the White House? They can't.

    March 20, 2012 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  18. ME

    this is all they have... they are so yesterday news.. especially around November. the rebubicans spoke and it matters not...

    March 20, 2012 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  19. itmattersnot

    this is all they have... they are so yesterday news.. especially around November. the rebubicans spoke and it matters not...

    March 20, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  20. Sirned

    Oh please righties, your fake indignation for what your party does 24\ 7 about blacks on talk radio and you have the Gaul to yell foul on a joke that points out how Republicans were upset over a black first lady? De Niro was just playing up the fear you righties have over blacks being in power and giving you a taste of your wn medicine..lighten up! I didn't hear you rise up over Newts comments about blacks....

    March 20, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  21. Cole Sear

    @Jerry5555 On what planet is Mitt Romney "self made." Yes, he is successful, but he was born to millionaire parents.

    And on what planet did Obama have "no" political experience? He was a sitting US Senator.

    Learn to make an argument that is not replete with errors and logical fallacies.

    For the record, I admire both Romney and Obama. They are both fine men and good Americans.

    March 20, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  22. DC

    Newt Limbaugh? Rush Gingrich? With so much empty gas in the room between these two I get a bit light headed and confused. In any case Bobby D. giving an off the cuff quip abut 4 more Obama years and Rush calling a woman he's never met a slut, and asking her to post porno films on Youtube simply because she thinks health plans are wrong to fund boner meds like Viagra but not contraception, is not in the same ball park, not in the same league, not even in the same sport. Get some perspective Newt.

    March 20, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  23. Brandon

    Never thought I'd be daydreaming about winter, but I can't wait until this election is over. It bums me out so much to watch family and friends towing the party line (either side). I lose a lot of respect for people I love every four years.

    Reading message boards like these does little to inspire my confidence in our society.

    March 20, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  24. jsmoulder

    Funny how all of you liberals say it is ok when a liberal jokes about something but go up in arms ready to fight when a conservative says something, joke or other wise. Which shows that liberals only agree with freedom of speech when they are talking, everyone else does not deserve freedom of speech.

    March 20, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  25. Joe

    As it was pointed out before, this was a good natured joke, saying "Obama should be President for another 4 years". Nothing more behind it, to call this racism is either plain ignorant, or an effort to shot back at Obama by any means possible. Either way, Gingrich's response was inappropriate, and DeNero's remark was not. Can we all please get over skin color issues?
    And to the few posters who are still believing Obama stands for Communism – by all means, Obama is an "middle of the road" President, if I have ever seen one. I strongly believe that anybody who opens their mouth and says "Marx" or "Socialism" doesn't even understand what that really is about. If we all would carry the opinon "my money belongs to me, and I will never share", why in the world are we one nation? Just to have a strong military, that's all? Can that really be? I hope not!

    March 20, 2012 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
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