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He starred as The King of Comedy, but anyone who has seen We're No Angels or The Fockers films knows that telling jokes is not Robert DeNiro's forte. With a decent script in his hands, Bobby D. is dynamite, but pity the poor interviewer trying to squeeze a few extemporaneously thoughts (or laughs) out of him.

At a Monday night presidential fundraiser in New York that featured Michelle Obama, DeNiro led with the following quip: "“Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney...Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?”

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It was intended as a joke against outmoded thinking, but that didn't stop the equally humorless Newt Gingrich from leveling accusations of racism against the Oscar-winning star of Raging Bull and Goodfellas. The racial reference to the Republican candidates’ wives was “inexcusable” in his eyes and Gingrich demanded an apology not from DeNiro, but from President Barack Obama!

Newt's a fine one to point fingers. Unfortunately, the presidential wannabe wasn't aiming for cheap laughs when he called Barack Obama, "the most successful food stamp president in American history". Nor was he attempting to tickle ribs when a speech he wrote clearly stated that Latinos and blacks don't understand the "key to future wealth," but Asians do. Does America need to take advice on racial sensitivity from a man who referred to Spanish as "a language of the ghetto"?

According to CBS News, Mrs. Obama’s campaign spokeswoman Olivia Alair called the joke “inappropriate” but declined further comment.

Instead of channeling Johnny Boy or Jake LaMotta, DeNiro buckled under the weight of Republican pressure. He apologized by saying, “My remarks, although spoken with satirical jest, were not meant to offend or embarrass anyone — especially the first lady,”

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Comments

David Elliott March 21, 2012 @ 8:29 p.m.

Maybe Bob just didn't have f-words to enhance and protect his reach for blithe, topical irony. His reliance on those and various epithets is the lubricant of his attempts at wit in "Being Flynn." The man's career is a demonstration that the articulation of feelings had better not rely on words.

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Scott Marks March 22, 2012 @ 8:32 a.m.

Agreed. He should have called in Mardik Martin or Paul Schrader to help punch up his speech.

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