De Niro’s First Lady Joke

De Niro’s First Lady Joke March 23, 2012

Robert De Niro spoke at a fundraiser that featured Michelle Obama and made a joke that I think is rather funny, but it seems to be causing a minor uproar. Newt Gingrich is throwing quite a hissy fit about it. Here’s the joke:

Newt Gingrich is incensed about a joke by actor Robert DeNiro at a fundraiser attended by Michelle Obama for the president’s re-election, in which the Academy Award-winning star used the word “white” to describe the Republican field’s spouses.

“Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?” DeNiro said. “Too soon, right?”

There’s nothing at all wrong about that joke. It’s clearly making fun of all the hand-wringing during the 2008 election about whether the country is ready for a black president. It’s even kind of clever. But leave it to Newt to get all melodramatic over it:

“I do want to say one thing, both on behalf of my wife and on behalf of Karen Santorum and on behalf of Ann Romney: I think that Robert DeNiro’s wrong,” Gingrich said, according to CNN. “I think the country is ready for a new first lady and he doesn’t have to describe it in racial terms.”

After condemning DeNiro as “rich enough he probably doesn’t notice the price of gasoline,” and “successful enough he probably doesn’t notice the unemployment rate,” Gingrich continued to express outrage over the line.

“What DeNiro said last night was inexcusable and the president should apologize for him. It was at an Obama fundraiser, it is exactly wrong, it divides the country,” he said. “If people on the left want to talk about talk show hosts, then everybody in the country should hold the president accountable when someone at his event says something that is utterly and terribly unacceptable as what Robert DeNiro said.”

Unfortunately, a spokesperson for the First Lady has now said the joke was “inappropriate.” They should have told Newt to go pound sand. For crying out loud, Newt Gingrich is complaining about racial insensitivity? The guy who goes around calling Obama the “food stamp president”?

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  • Who Knows?

    If the new First Lady was, Callista Gingrich, Karen Santorum, or Ann Romney, then no. We’re not ready for a white First Lady.

  • Oh, come on, Ed. You know damn well that it’s not racial when Newt says it.*

    * It’s race-baiting then. True story.

  • jamessweet

    Yeah, I saw this last night and was confused. I actually can see an argument from Michelle Obama’s perspective that the joke was racially insensitive. It’s tough to say. Obviously nothing untoward was intended there, but there’s always a danger in a white guy making a joke which highlights racial differences, no matter how benign the joke itself.

    But why the fuck would Callista Gingrich, Karen Santorum, and/or Ann Romney be offended?!? That doesn’t even make any fucking sense. Is Gingrich really trying to allege that DeNiro was making some serious remark that they can’t be first ladies because they are white?!?? Seriously?!?!?!? That is so fucking stupid, I can’t even fathom it.

    Of course, we know what is really going on here: Gingrich wants to remind all the Rethuglican voters that Michelle Obama is black black-y McBlack-ity, and so he used DeNiro’s joke as an opening to do that without actually saying it himself.

  • laurentweppe

    There’s nothing at all wrong about that joke. It’s clearly making fun of all the hand-wringing during the 2008 election about whether the country is ready for a black president.

    I remember saying during the 2008 election: “a black first lady? Already done during Jefferson’s presidency, move along”

  • laurentweppe

    Arg, blockquote failed me:

    There’s nothing at all wrong about that joke. It’s clearly making fun of all the hand-wringing during the 2008 election about whether the country is ready for a black president.

    I remember saying during the 2008 election: “a black first lady? Already done during Jefferson’s presidency, move along”

  • You’d think my jaw would stop dropping every time a Republican complained about someone “dividing the country”, but nope. Every time. And it’s starting to hurt.

  • fastlane

    And jamessweet’s third paragraph pretty much nails what I was thinking.

    It’s Whitey McPasty trying real hard to remind all the GOP slobberers that they don’t want none o’ them uppity negroes in the White House.

  • dingojack

    “… successful enough he probably doesn’t notice the unemployment rate.”

    But, of course, The Amphibian does – therefore he’s unsuccessful.

    Yep, just what America needs, another Republican loser in the Whitehouse…

    🙂 Dingo

  • Brownian

    but there’s always a danger in a white guy making a joke which highlights racial differences, no matter how benign the joke itself.

    I like how this is put. Not that it can never be done, but the danger is always there.

    But why the fuck would Callista Gingrich, Karen Santorum, and/or Ann Romney be offended?!?

    Because, for all their counter claims about humourless liberals, conservative talking heads generally aren’t that funny. They understand dog whistling, and they get that there’s the potential for humour in power disparities (they just don’t understand which which side of the disparity needs to be the target), and worst of all, they can never, ever, ever tolerate being the butt of the joke.

  • What DeNiro said last night was inexcusable and the president should apologize for him.

    Yeah, because whoever does whatever, it’s Obama’s fault and Obama has to apologize. (And when he does apologize for the actions of other Americans, it’s anti-American.)

    The joke wasn’t that funny to begin with, and Newt Blingrich’s response to it was just another Republican disgrace.

  • Robin Raianiemi

    In the increasingly unlikely event that Newt Gingrich gets elected President*, I think Callista should be called the “Third Lady”, in reference to Newt’s views on marriage being so disposable.

    (*Various disasters could strike President Obama, Mitt Romney, Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum, and Ron Paul, and usher in a Gingrich presidency. Let us all hope such a cosmically unlikely event, however, does not occur.)

  • dingojack

    How appropriate that the ‘the third lady’ should be (temporarily) married to the turd third(-rate) man.

    Dingo

  • The Lorax

    I agree with Robin: Third Lady is actually very catchy, and I could see Romney or Santorum using that against Gingrich.

  • John Hinkle

    What DeNiro said last night was inexcusable…

    …says something that is utterly and terribly unacceptable as what Robert DeNiro said.

    Ah yes, it’s like Newt is an affront magnet. And they’re always extremely serious affronts, of the absolute worst kind. He’s always astonished or appalled, like a family patriarch scolding a child who crayoned the wall.

    In case you haven’t noticed, Newt, no one gives a damn about your supposed sensibilities. Your rhetorical ploys have been overused by a washed-up has-been presidential wannabe loser. They’re diluted and have about as much power as flies buzzing in my ears.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Am I the first to use “weapons grade projection” here?

  • d cwilson

    Hell, even if Newt is elected president in November, odds are good Callista won’t even be in his wife by then.

  • Scott Simmons

    I didn’t know that Callista Gingrich was black!

  • I heard about the big pearl-clutching going on but had not been bothered enough to look it up.

    Jesus donkey-raping Christ, THAT is the joke? Seriously?

    Not only do conservatives not do comedy, they don’t even understand it. Kind of like the economy.

    That is not gut-busting funny, but it is humorous and not at all offensive.

  • Taz

    If Gringrich is truly offended then he’s an idiot. Frankly, I think he’s lying.

  • bksea

    This strikes me as an attempt at showing that “both sides are just as bad” after the Rush Limbaugh scandal. I am sure the Rethuglicans have been scouring the airwaves for something to throw back in the face of the Democrats. The fact that this is the best they could come up with shows how much both sides are NOT just as bad. Even if you thought DeNiro’s comments were offensive, they were not even on the same planet as those of Rush.

  • I’m sure it’s a great political move for a gaggle of white stiff straights to contrast themselves to Robert DeNiro.

  • bahrfeldt

    Dingojack says “How appropriate that the ‘the third lady’ should be (temporarily) married to the turd third(-rate) man.”

    Newt’s religion of the week denies the legitimacy of his first two marriages, allowing him to claim to be only a serial fornicator not the serial adulterer we know him to be.

    Raging Bee says “The joke wasn’t that funny to begin with, and Newt Blingrich’s response to it was just another Republican disgrace.”

    Yeah, the joke was pretty lame, Gingrouch is Beelzebub and Republicans have no shame and feel no disgrace (except, just maybe, about poor relatives). As proof it’s lame, Frau Romney said she liked it.

    Taz says “If Gringrich is truly offended then he’s an idiot. Frankly, I think he’s lying.”

    You are correct and he’s not an idiot. Besides, his lips were moving.

  • The people Newt is speaking to are the ones who believe strongly in reverse racism.

  • harold

    Also hilarious –

    successful enough he probably doesn’t notice the unemployment rate

    It is verboten for a Republican to refer to someone as “rich” or “wealthy”. They have to be referred to as “successful”. Even a rich liberal Hollywood actor must be referred to in this way.

    There is at least one major right wing cause donor, I am blanking on his name, who inherited all his money, has never held a job, and is rumored to be a personally unpleasant and miserable alcoholic. But he isn’t “rich”, he’s “successful”.

  • mucklededun

    Here’s a quick rule of thumb:

    The ones who are offended are the fools.

    The ones who are only pretending to be offended are

    the hypocrites.

    That’s how to tell them apart.

  • brucefong

    Yea I noticed that too. It is only wrong to be rich if you do not think like them.

    For example my coworker says that Trump is a smart man but that Warren Buffet is a moron.

  • macallan

    I’m ready for a green first lady.

  • Captain Mike

    After condemning DeNiroLimbaugh as “rich enough he probably doesn’t notice the price of gasoline,” and “successful enough he probably doesn’t notice the unemployment rate,” Gingrich DeNiro continued to express outrage over the line earn money as an entertainer.

    I actually can see an argument from Michelle Obama’s perspective that the joke was racially insensitive. – jamessweet

    I can’t. I can tell that there’s an argument there, probably, but I can’t tell what it is, because I’m racially clueless.

    I grew up white, vaguely middle classish and definitely liberal, surrounded by other white, middle classish and mostly liberal people, sprinkled with a mix of middle class liberals of other races. All of these people kept telling me “Race doesn’t matter!” in ways both overt and subtle. It turns out, well intentioned though they were, that this isn’t the case.

    I’ve thought about starting a Twitter feed called “isthisracist?” so I can post things that I think MIGHT be racist, but I’m not sure HOW they’re racist. The idea being that other people would come along and tell me, in precise terms, why it’s racist.

    It’s race-baiting then. True story.- Modusoperandi

    See? I don’t even know what race-baiting is. Encouraging black people to bite you? I don’t get it. Don’t tell me to just Google it, either. I’m entitled and I want a personal explanation. Preferably a pornographic one, but I’m willing to accept just about anything.

  • spamamander, hellmart survivor

    A green first lady? William Shatner can’t be president, he’s one o’ them Canucks.

  • Captain Mike

    For example my coworker says that Trump is a smart man but that Warren Buffet is a moron.

    Warren Buffet is, to the best of my knowledge, literally the only hedge fund manager in the entire world who manages to beat blind guessing. Probably not a moron. He also knows that Men’s Wearhouse offers good deals:

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/if-i-see-a-shirt-i-like-ill-usually-just-buy-it,11523/

  • Captain Mike “See? I don’t even know what race-baiting is.”

    Do you know it when you hear it, but don’t know what it’s supposed to do, or can you not detect it at all, or do you simply don’t know what the term means?

    Race baiting isn’t all that complicated. It’s generally just using loaded terminology to feed the ugly side of Man an intended narrative with a built in conclusion to get people to do things that their better angels would not do.

    What image does “food stamp president” build in your mind? When you think of “food stamp president”, who are the people in the image in your head on those food stamps? (Or “welfare queen”, or any of the many things Obama and his family have been called to “Other” him or, to cast a wider net, “9/11 mosque” or, heck, “That kid with the banjo in Deliverance”)

  • I’ve come to believe that Newt’s purpose is about much more than making money or winning office. He’s a sadistic man who takes pleasure in harming people.

    Going all the way back to the days of Tip O’Neil, I remember Newt on C-Span, boasting and smirking about the ways he would childishly ridicule O’Neil because of his weight. When O’Neill would be approaching from the other direction on foot, Newt would dramatically lurch toward the wall as if O’Neill needed the entire width of the capitol building corridors to pass. He actually took great pride in putting on this show for fellow representatives. He sounded like a detestable middle school bully.

    I wonder if he tortured animals as a child? He has that vibe.

  • More race-baiting from Gingrich.

  • Michael Heath

    Dr. X links and writes:

    More race-baiting from Gingrich.

    On today’s Meet the Press, moderator David Gregory asked for Gov. Haley Barbour’s reaction to Newt Gingrich’s statement. Mr. Barbour flunked by defending Mr. Gingrich’s remarks by dishonestly perpetuating Gingrich’s misrepresentation of the president’s remarks which led to Gingrich’s linked response. There is only right answer if one a reasonable person:

    “Why would anyone consider what that bigoted demagogic buffoon has to say about anything? “

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