Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich called on President Obama to apologize for comments made by actor Robert De Niro at a fundraiser Monday.
"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," Gingrich said.
What did the actor say to draw such a harsh rebuke?
De Niro told a New York City crowd of about 90 people, including his wife and First Lady Michelle Obama, that it was "too soon" for a "white first lady."
"Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white First Lady?" the 68-year-old asked, jokingly.
The crowd roared. Someone yelled "No!" De Niro asked, "Too soon, right?"
Gingrich said the comments made by De Niro "divide the country.""If people on the left want to talk about radio show hosts, then everybody in the country ought to hold the president accountable when somebody at his event says something as utterly, totally unacceptable as Robert De Niro said last night," he said.
If that sounds like a defense of Rush Limbaugh, it sort of is. Newt has a point about double standards of media coverage, but De Niro was likely making light of the fact that so many people viewed Obama's 2008 candidacy in racial terms.
In any case, Gingrich said the president should hold De Niro accountable.
"On behalf of my wife, and on behalf of Karen Santorum and on behalf of Ann Romney, I think Robert De Niro is wrong. I think this country is ready for a new First Lady and he doesn't have to describe it in racial terms," he added.
The White House and the First Lady's office agreed with Newt. "We believe the joke was inappropriate," said Olivia Alair, Michelle Obama's press secretary.
The proceeds from Monday's event benefitted the Obama Victory Fund, a joint venture supporting the Obama campaign and Democratic National Committee.
De Niro's comments: