Politics

Gingrich: Robert De Niro "Should Be Ashamed of Himself"

SHREVEPORT, Louisiana - Robert De Niro made a joke last night that Newt Gingrich did not find very funny.

"Callista Gingrich, Karen Santorum, Ann Romney -- now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?" De Niro joked at an Obama fundraiser Monday night, which was headlined by the first lady. The crowd responded, "No!"

"Too soon, right?" De Niro added.

Stopping by Strawn's Eat Shot Too, a local diner known for its strawberry pies, Gingrich began his remarks by slamming the Oscar-winning actor.

"I think the country is ready for a new First Lady and he doesn't have to describe it in racial terms," the candidate said, saying the actor should be "ashamed of himself" for his "inexcusable" remarks. Gingrich called on the president to apologize for De Niro.

"It was at an Obama fundraiser, it is exactly wrong, it divides the country and 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 as utterly, totally unacceptable as Robert De Niro said last night," he said.

Gingrich said that while he preferred his wife Callista as First Lady, he would be "very proud and very honored" to have Ann Romney or Karen Santorum in the White House.

"These are fine ladies, as is Michelle Obama, but this is not about the First Lady, it is about the president and that is where De Niro missed the whole point," he said.

President Obama's election to the White House was heralded as a racially transcendent moment, but the issue of racial acceptance continues to bubble up in the public sphere, employed by both the right and the left as a means to score political points.

De Niro himself is married to philanthropist Grace Hightower, who is African American, and Gingrich has said he would like to address the NAACP convention as the presidential nominee; intersections of race and public opinion however have proven to been fraught with divisive conjecture.

Gingrich also continued to challenge President Obama to a debate on energy but upped the stakes.

"We ought to debate on pay-per-view and we ought to charge ten bucks to watch the debate, and it ought to go to a charity of our mutual choice," Gingrich said, predicting "It would be the largest charity fundraiser in the country this year."