Robert DeNiro offered a clarification of his joke at an Obama fundraiser Monday about whether the nation was “ready for a white first lady.” The line drew an outraged response from Newt Gingrich earlier in the day, who told a Louisiana audience that DeNiro was promoting racial conflict and that the president should apologize on his behalf.
DeNiro’s response was polite, if not particularly apologetic.
“My remarks, although spoken with satirical jest, were not meant to offend or embarrass anyone —- especially the First Lady,” DeNiro said in a statement to TPM.
A campaign spokeswoman for the First Lady, who was present at the fundraiser, said earlier in an e-mail that the joke was “inappropriate.”
It’s unclear whether that will be enough to satisfy Gingrich, who called the line “inexcusable” Tuesday morning and went off on a rant against DeNiro’s wealth and fame.
“What DeNiro 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 in Shreveport. “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 terribly unacceptable as what Robert DeNiro said.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.