Robert De Niro apologizes for "white first lady" joke

Wed Mar 21, 2012 9:21pm EDT
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(Reuters) - Actor Robert De Niro on Wednesday apologized for joking at a Democratic fundraiser with Michelle Obama about the possibility of having a "white first lady" at the White House after November's presidential elections.

The Oscar-winning star of "The Godfather: Part II" and "Raging Bull" said he had intended no offense with the remark about the wives of Republican presidential contenders Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.

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

De Niro found himself in hot water after Monday's fundraiser in New York when he introduced Michelle Obama as the main speaker.

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

Newt Gingrich called the remarks inexcusable and divisive. Michelle Obama's office said the joke was "inappropriate."

(Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy)

Jury president of the 64th Cannes Film Festival Robert de Niro arrives on the red carpet for the screening of he film "Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" at the 64th Cannes Film Festival, May 14, 2011. REUTERS/Yves Herman