Michelle Obama's Aide Calls Robert De Niro's White First Lady Joke 'Inappropriate'

Michelle Obama Robert Dinero Inset - H 2012
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Michelle Obama Robert Dinero Inset - H 2012

UPDATED: De Niro issues a statement, saying that he did not mean to offend anyone.

Robert De Niro was issued a rebuke by the Office of the First Lady a day after he hosted Michelle Obama at a celebrity-packed fund-raiser at his New York restaurant.

In a speech that opened the $5,000-a-plate event, the Oscar winner welcomed Obama and joked about the wives of the all-white Republican presidential primary candidates.

Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney," De Niro said during his opening remarks. "Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?”

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On Tuesday, Obama's campaign press secretary Olivia Alair said, "We believe the joke was inappropriate," according to CNN.

De Niro responded later in the afternoon, issuing a statement that said, "My remarks, although spoken with satirical jest, were not meant to offend or embarrass anyone --- especially the first lady."

Newt Gingrich earlier Tuesday took issue with the joke, saying, "Both on behalf of my wife and on behalf of Karen Santorum and on behalf of Ann Romney, I think that Robert De Niro's wrong. I think the country is ready for a new first lady, and he doesn't have to describe it in racial terms."

Gingrich continued, saying that, "What De Niro said last night was inexcusable and the president should apologize for him. It was at an Obama fund-raiser, it is exactly wrong, it divides the country." He then drew an equivalence between what De Niro had said with things said by conservative talk show radio hosts, hinting at Obama's condemnation of Rush Limbaugh following the host's attack on Sandra Fluke.