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Gingrich demands Obama apologize for De Niro joke


SHREVEPORT, La. -- Newt Gingrich slammed Robert De Niro’s comments last night at a fundraiser for President Obama, demanding that the president apologize for the actor's joke that America isn't yet again ready for a white first lady.

“I do want to say one thing on behalf of both my wife, and on behalf of Karen Santorum and on behalf of Ann Romney, and that is I think Robert De Niro is wrong,” Gingrich said as he began his speech at Strawn's Eat Shop Too. “I think the country is ready for a new first lady, and he doesn’t have to describe it in racial terms.”

At an Obama for America fundraiser in New York City Monday night, attended by Michelle Obama, De Niro joked about a possible GOP first lady.

"Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?" De Niro asked at the top of his remarks at Locanda Verde restaurant as the crowd yelled “no.” “Too soon, right?," he said.

A spokeswoman for the first lady issued a statement shortly after Gingrich concluded his remarks, calling De Niro’s comments “inappropriate.”

"We believe the joke was inappropriate," Olivia Alair, campaign press secretary to the first lady, said in a statement.

Gingrich criticized the remarks as “inexcusable” and called on President Obama to personally apologize.

“It is exactly wrong, it divides the country,” the former House speaker said. “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, and I call on the president to apologize for him.”

While Gingrich stood up for all three women involved in the actor’s joke, he of course has his favorite.

“I have a personal preference, obviously, for Callista to be the first lady,” the speaker said to cheers in the room. “But, I tell you, I would be very proud and very honored to have Ann Romney as the first lady or Karen Santorum as the first lady. I think that just what De Niro said is just beyond the pale and he should be ashamed of himself.”

NBC's Carrie Dann contributed to this report.