UPDATE: De Niro apologized for the joke he made at an fundraiser for President Barack Obama, in which he said America was not quite ready for another white first lady.
My remarks, although spoken with satirical jest, were not meant to offend or embarrass anyone -- especially the first lady, he said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.
Robert De Niro was joking at an Obama fundraiser in New York Monday night when he said America was not quite ready for another white first lady, but Newt Gingrich is not laughing.
The Republican presidential candidate demanded an apology from the actor as well as from President Barack Obama while at a campaign stop in Shreveport, La.
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I do want to say one thing on behalf of both my wife, and on behalf of Karen Santorum and on behalf of Ann Romney, and that is I think Robert De Niro is wrong, Gingrich said to a crowd, according to CNN. I think the country is ready for a new first lady, and he doesn't have to describe it in racial terms.
The former House speaker went on to describe the joke as inexcusable.
This is not about the first lady. It's about the president, and that's where De Niro missed the whole point.
De Niro's comments came at a star-studded fundraiser for Obama for America that he hosted at the Greenwich Hotel, which he owns. The event was headlined by Michelle Obama.
Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady? De Niro said to an audience who replied no. Too soon, right? he said.
Soon after Gingrich blasted De Niro and the president Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Michelle Obama also criticized the comments.
We believe the joke was inappropriate, Olivia Alair, campaign press secretary to the first lady, said in a statement obtained by CNN.
Standing before a crowd in Louisiana, Gingrich claimed De Niro was too successful or wealthy to notice rising gas prices or unemployment. He said it wasn't right for the actor to joke about race.
It is exactly wrong, it divides the country, he said. If people on the left want to talk about radio talk show hosts, then everybody in the country ought to hold the president accountable when somebody at his event says something utterly, totally unacceptable as Robert De Niro said last night, and I call on the president to apologize for him.
Gingrich concluded his tirade by mentioning his wife, who was standing next to him.
I have a personal preference for Callista to be the first lady, but I'd also be very proud, very honored to have Ann Romney as the first lady, Karen Santorum as the first lady. What De Niro said was just beyond the pale.