Robert De Niro is in hot water with First Lady Michelle Obama over a joke he told during a New York City fundraiser for the president. He drew the rebuke because the joke had racial overtones.
Michelle Obama attended the $5,000 a plate fundraiser at his Tribeca restaurant, which was filled with prominent Democrats and celebrities.
Among those in attendance were Beyoncé and husband Jay-Z, Whoopi Goldberg, Star Jones, actors Ben Stiller, Angela Bassett and Alfre Woodard and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, according to The New York Daily News.
De Niro quipped that the wives of the Republican presidential hopefuls were all white and questioned whether the country was ready for a white first lady.
“Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney,” De Niro said in his welcoming remarks. “Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?”
The crowd roared at the joke and someone yelled “No.”
“Too soon, right?” De Niro shot back.
Today, (Mar 20) Michelle Obama’s campaign press secretary Olivia Alair said in a statement that “the joke was inappropriate.”
Later in the day, De Nero issued his own statement regretting the comment. “My remarks, although spoken with satirical jest, were not meant to offend or embarrass anyone — especially the first lady.”
Despite his quick response, the matter didn’t end there. Republicans also got in on the act. GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich called the 72-year-old actor’s comments “inexcusable” and tried to shift blame onto the president.
“What De Niro said last night was inexcusable and the president should apologize for him. It was at an Obama fund-raiser, it is exactly wrong, it divides the country,” he said.
“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. I think the country is ready for a new first lady, and he doesn’t have to describe it in racial terms.”