Robert De Niro feels the wrath of an unamused Newt
Hollywood star forced to apologise after joking about the Republican contenders’ wives
THE actor Robert De Niro has been forced to apologise after making a joke against "white First Ladies" after the Republican Newt Gingrich complained to the White House.
At a Democratic Party fundraiser in New York, the Hollywood star was introducing the event’s main speaker, Michelle Obama, when he decided to break the ice with a gag about the Republican rivals for First Lady, come the presidential election in November.
De Niro said: "Callista Gingrich, Karen Santorum, Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady? Too soon, right?"
Most people saw the funny side. But Newt Gingrich, who has been campaigning for the Republican nomination with his third wife Callista on his arm, took offence. He called De Niro’s joke "inexcusable" and, as the BBC reports, demanded that President Obama apologise on the actor’s behalf.
"I think the country is ready for a new first lady," said Gingrich, "and he doesn't have to describe it in racial terms."
As a result, Michelle Obama’s office issued a statement saying they found De Niro’s comments "inappropriate".
And the Oscar-winning actor has piped up himself. "My remarks, although spoken with satirical jest, were not meant to offend or embarrass anyone - especially the First Lady."
While the Gingriches took De Niro’s joke to heart, the wife of the current frontrunner in the Republican contest brushed it off. Ann, wife of the Mormon billionaire Mitt Romney, told Piers Morgan on CNN that she had taken the comment as a "joke".
"In politics the fastest way to get in trouble is make a joke," said Ann Romney. "So I think Robert De Niro just learned that."
Perhaps she had in mind a recent attempt at humour by Foster Friess, the financial backer of her husband’s biggest rival, the ultra-conservative Catholic Rick Santorum.
Friess left a TV interviewer speechless last month when he made a joke about contraception. "Back in my days," he said, "women used Bayer aspirin as birth control.
"The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly."
Within hours, Santorum was on TV apologising for his backer’s copmment. "It was a bad joke, it was a stupid joke," he said. "It’s not reflective of me or my record on this issue."