Robert De Niro says he meant no offense when he joked at a presidential fundraiser featuring Michelle Obama that America might not be ready for a white first lady.

The film actor said in a statement that he was speaking "with satirical jest" at the event Monday night in New York. De Niro says his remarks "were not meant to offend or embarrass anyone -- especially the first lady."

The joke drew a complaint from Newt Gingrich, who said the racial reference to the Republican candidates' wives was "inexcusable" and demanded an apology from President Barack Obama.

 

The White House referred questions to Obama's re-election campaign. Mrs. Obama's campaign spokeswoman Olivia Alair called the joke "inappropriate" but declined further comment.

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