Robert De Niro Owes No One an Apology

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Robert De Niro Owes No One an Apology
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Robert De Niro's joke may have been ill-timed, but it's not offensive.

Veteran actor Robert De Niro seems to have sprung a bit of a bear trap on himself in the wake of a joke he made at a fundraiser for the Obama re-election campaign in New York City on Monday night. Speaking in front of a crowd of Obama supporters, De Niro was set to introduce First Lady Michelle Obama to the packed house of excited attendees. The "Meet the Parents" star's opening joke however, has caused quite a controversy.

"Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?" While edgy and certainly not a joke that was meant to "play it safe," it's hard to imagine that the actor would have anticipated such a fervor. The White House was quick to distance themselves from the joke, and Republican Presidential hopeful and current third-place holder Newt Gingrich said "It was at an Obama fundraiser. It is exactly wrong, it divides the country." Rick Santorum, another GOP hopeful also commented, saying basically that's what Hollywood does.

De Niro himself came out and said that he regretted telling the joke and that his lines were, "... spoken with satirical jest, were not meant to offend or embarrass anyone, especially the first lady." But is all this outrage over the Academy Award winning actor's joke seems a bit out of place when one looks at it through a different prism or two. Maybe the joke was best delivered in a different venue, but put into a different context, there's very little that's actually offensive about what he said.

De Niro Is In an Inter-Racial Marriage - Claims of either De Niro, or his joke being racist or racially insensitive down stand up when you consider that his wife, actress Grace Hightower is an African-American herself. The two have been married since 1997, and the couple has had two children together. It would seem fairly apparent from these facts that race is not an issue the Hollywood icon even considers relevant.

It Was Satire - While it's true that satire is the form of comedy that's most hard to detect when done right, it should have been fairly apparent that De Niro's joke was a harmless reference to the fact that before President Obama took office, every first lady up to that point had been Caucasian. The same joke, told on either "The Daily Show" or "The Colbert Report" would have been laughed off by both The White House and Conservative pundits as just being another satirical joke. So why does it make it offensive and in bad taste when an actor makes the joke?

The Joke Was Insensitive, But Not Offensive - While it could be argued perhaps the joke was insensitive, given the hyper-aware culture we live in today, it was most definitely not offensive. Humor is most certainly subjective, and what offends one, may not offend the other. In this particular case though, when the joke itself is deconstructed (which is the quickest way to make a joke un-funny), it's one simple premise was based on historical fact, and therefore in no way should be considered offensive, or even derogatory in any way. No negative comments were made about the women De Niro referenced, and none of the words he used were even unprintable or unrepeatable.

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