Piers Morgan is astonished at Newt Gingrich's outrage over Robert DeNiro's knock on GOP white First Ladies – but it's a slim chance the liberal CNN host would be trying to calm the tempest if Michelle Obama were the butt of a celebrity joke.
DeNiro, speaking at an Obama fundraiser, had joked that after seeing the wives of the Republican candidates, America wouldn't be ready for a "white" First Lady. Newt Gingrich denounced the joke as "inexcusable," and then Morgan decided to pounce on that "hideously politically correct overreaction" to "poor old" Robert DeNiro's joke on his Thursday night show. [Video below the break. Audio here.]
Morgan may be defending the right to make jokes, but his double standard for political satire is quite clear. He laughed out loud last July when his guest Bill Maher used the vulgar term "M***" in reference to conservatives Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin. In contrast, he stood up to defend President Obama against what he saw as "racist" elements of the Tea Party in October.
So while Morgan praised DeNiro's "joke" and denounced racist, sexist, and bigoted jokes at the end of his show, he laughed at Bill Maher's vulgar slam of conservative women and encouraged him. "May you remain gloriously uncensored," he told Maher, and added, "Love the show."
On Thursday night, Morgan also praised Maher's "brilliant" New York Times op-ed telling the public to take a joke and stip taking affront to political satire.
"[W]ith regard to all the innocuous asides of politicians, pundits, co-workers, your neighbors – let's just get a grip, shall we? Instead of pretending to take imaginary offense. Have a laugh," Morgan told his audience at the show's end.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on March 22 on Piers Morgan Tonight at 9:57 p.m. EDT, is as follows:
PIERS MORGAN: Well, tonight's "Only in America," I'm sorry. I'm really, really, really sorry about everything. Because one thing's for sure. I'm going to offend somebody in the next couple of minutes. Somewhere out there someone is going to be really upset. When did a harmless joke become a criminal offense? On the left, on the right, or on the GOP campaign trail, any attempt at humor is now met with instant ferocious condemnation and gaffes offaux outrage. Into groveling apologies and desperate pleas for forgiveness.
Look at poor old Robert De Niro. Introducing Michelle Obama at a fundraiser, he had some fun with a joke about the wives of Republican candidates. Asking the crowd do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady? It may not have been the funniest joke in the world, but what it was, quite obviously, was a joke.
A light-hearted flip on the type of remark that Mrs. Obama had to put up with in reverse from certain quarters in deadly seriousness for the most of the last election campaign. It was not, as some have tried to portray it, an offensive racial slur by De Niro. Yet this didn't stop one of my guests tonight, Newt Gingrich, yesterday labeling the remarks inexcusable and divisive, almost compelling Michelle Obama's office to then call them inappropriate.
Now given this hideously politically correct overreaction, I confidently expected Mitt Romney's wife Ann, one of the three targets of De Niro's joke to have a similar sense of humor failure. This is politics after all. And an easy chance to make Democrats squirm. But then she said this.
ANN ROMNEY, Mitt Romney's wife: I took it for what it was, a joke. And, you know, again, we take everything so seriously, we have to be so correct and everyone's got to apologize.
We're all overreacting to so many things and making things so difficult. Which means we have to watch every single word that comes out of our mouth.
(End Video Clip)
MORGAN: Hallelujah. In one fell swoop of common sense, the whole indignant balloon popped. If Ann Romney, the supposed victim of De Niro's joke, can laugh, why the hell can't everybody else?
Bill Maher, in a brilliant op-ed piece in the New York Times today cut to the heart of this nonsense. He (Unintelligible) who said, in a country where nobody can say anything offensive ever again. He's pleading to stop all the apologizing. He said this.
"Let's have an amnesty on every made-up, fake, totally insincere, playacted, hurt, insult, slight and affront. Let's make this Sunday the National Day of No Outrage."
I couldn't agree more. Now this doesn't mean that people should feel free to be homophobic or sexist or bigoted or racist. Well, that's a Rush Limbaugh or Kirk Cameron, even Maher himself with that ugly profanity about Sarah Palin, should be held to account for unnecessarily inflammatory language, but with regard to all the innocuous asides of politicians, pundits, co-workers, your neighbors – let's just get a grip, shall we? Instead of pretending to take imaginary offense. Have a laugh. Go on. Robert De Niro, as Ann Romney said, was being funny. That's it.