10 of The Craziest Things Newt Gingrich Has Ever Said
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is the latest not-Romney to capture the attention of GOP primary voters. With a solid lead in three early primary states, he’s giving the erstwhile front-runner a serious run for his money. While Newt may be the flavor of the moment, the Iowa caucuses are just three weeks away, so while he's behind in fund-raising and has had trouble organizing a nationwide campaign, it's impossible to count him out.
In light of his resurgence, let’s take a trip down memory lane and examine some of the most absurd statements Gingrich has made over the years. Rehashing every outrageous comment by Gingrich would be a lengthy endeavor, so this is not a comprehensive list.
1. No free speech for you!
In 2006, at an awards dinner honoring the preservation of free speech no less, Gingrich unleashed the scary specter of terrorism to argue that free speech must be curtailed, which he admitted would ignite “a serious debate about the First Amendment.”
Either before we lose a city or, if we are truly stupid, after we lose a city, we will adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find to break up their capacity to use the Internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech, and to go after people who want to kill us to stop them from recruiting people before they get to reach out and convince young people to destroy their lives while destroying us.
His remarks immediately sparked controversy, leading him to write an op-ed days later in which he clarified that the First Amendment should not be used as a shield for terrorists working “to build 'franchises' among leftist, antiglobalization groups worldwide, especially in Latin America.”
2. Muslims don’t count
Remember last year when the right freaked out over Park 51, the planned Muslim Community Center in lower Manhattan? Because of its location, two blocks from the World Trade Center site, the right renamed the proposed interfaith, Muslim-run community center the “ground zero mosque.”
Some of the most appalling right-wing statements against Park 51 came from none other than Newt Gingrich, who made one bigoted comment after the next. First, he demanded that America adopt the same religious intolerance that marks the repressive monarchy of Saudi Arabia: “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
He then proceeded to equate American Muslims not just to terrorists, but Nazis, arguing that building a mosque near Ground Zero “would be like putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum.”
3. Yay for child labor!
Newt Gingrich longs for an era when children as young as five could slave away for 14 hours a day in a sweatshop. At least that’s the impression he gave when declaring to a crowd at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government that child labor laws should go.
“It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child [labor] laws, which are truly stupid,” said Gingrich, adding, “Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor, and pay local students to take care of the school.”
Weeks later Gingrich doubled down:
Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works, so they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday.
They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of "I do this and you give me cash" unless it’s illegal.
But not to worry, even Gingrich has his limits. When speaking to WNYM radio host Curtis Sliwa, he clarified, “Kids shouldn’t work in coal mines; kids shouldn’t work in heavy industry,” but he still supports having poor school kids scrub toilets in public schools.
4. Blame the gays
In October, during a campaign stop in Iowa, Gingrich called gay marriage a “temporary aberration” that “fundamentally goes against everything we know.” He reminded his audience that “marriage is between a man and woman” and “has been for all of recorded history.”
This coming from a past adulterer who has been married three times. It’s not the number of marriages or even the affair that makes this statement outrageous, but rather the hypocrisy. In his personal life, he has no problem disrespecting the so-called “institution of marriage,” yet when it comes to giving same-sex couples the right to marry, Gingrich is suddenly raging with concern about the sanctity of marriage and commitment.
And, as someone who constantly reminds his audiences that he's a historian, it's odd that Gingrich doesn't know that polygamy has been the most common domestic arrangement in human history.
Gingrich’s disdain for LGBT marriage equality was on display one month earlier during an interview with Catholic radio, where he cast blame on same-sex marriage for the country’s economic woes.
5. Life as a white man is so unfair
Gingrich, like most conservatives, loves to play the victim card, like the time he called then Supreme Court Judge nominee Sonya Sotomayor a “reverse racist.” This was in response to a statement made by Sotomayor during a 2001 lecture at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, where she said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.”
However, Gingrich and his fellow conservatives conveniently ignored the broader context of Sotomayor’s speech. She was making reference to former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's famous saying: "A wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases.” Sotomayor went on to say that she hoped her gender and race would give her unique insight into cases that others on the bench, such as wise old men, may lack.
Gingrich was so outraged by her remark that he went to Twitter to air his grievances. "Imagine a judicial nominee said 'my experience as a white man makes me better than a Latina woman.' New racism is no better than old racism,” wrote Gingrich, adding: "White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.”
6. Obama the secret Kenyan
It seems like it was ages ago that Gingrich told the National Review that President Obama was some sort of undercover Kenyan out to destroy America. That is the conclusion he reached after reading a Forbes article by Dinesh D’Souza that accused Obama of having an “African socialist” agenda that he adopted from his Kenyan father. From the National Review interview:
Gingrich says that D’Souza has made a “stunning insight” into Obama’s behavior — the “most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.”
“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anticolonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich asks. “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”
“I think Obama gets up every morning with a world view that is fundamentally wrong about reality,” Gingrich says. “If you look at the continuous denial of reality, there has got to be a point where someone stands up and says that this is just factually insane.”
The words speak for themselves.
7. Religious radical atheists?
In March, Gingrich gave a chilling speech about the frightening future in store for his grandchildren if godless liberals have it their way. Or was it Muslim liberals?
I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they're my age, they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.
Who knew that one could be both a secular atheist and radical Muslim at the same time?
8. So what if women get paid less?
In the land of Gingrich, the fact that women still make less than men isn’t all that important. During a recent campaign stop at Harvard, Gingrich fielded a question from freshman undergraduate Holly Flynn, who said:
I’d like you to clarify your stance on women’s rights. And I’d like to know what you’d do to ensure gender equality in the United States. Given that even today, women make 77 cents to every man’s dollar.
Not only was Gingrich dismissive of the pay gap, he even twisted the facts around to showcase men as the real victims here:
Well, the latter is going to change dramatically in the next generation, because more women are going to college than men. And they’re doing better than men and entering professions more than men,” replied Gingrich. “In fact, if anything, you’ll be here in 15 years wondering what we’ll do about men inequality and male unemployment. Because the people who had the deepest decline of income are males who don’t go to college.
His analysis feeds into a larger narrative that says women are rising to the top and men are losing out, which is most apparent in what Alice O’Conner calls “the myth of the mancession,” referring to the notion that the recession has been far more devastating for men than women. O’Conner notes that men lost a greater share of jobs when the recession first hit, but only because “they are disproportionately represented in traditionally hard-hit and better-paying sectors of the economy.”
9. Guilty until proven innocent
At the Nov. 22 CNN Republican debate on National Security, Gingrich said, "I think it's desperately important that we preserve your right to be innocent until proven guilty,” but only “if it's a matter of criminal law.” He rejects applying these same basic standards in cases of national security — crimes for which he believes due process should be thrown out the window.
Gingrich makes the bizarre argument that if we allow alleged terrorists due process, America could be nuked. His words: “If you're trying to find somebody who may have a nuclear weapon that they are trying to bring into an American city, I think you want to use every tool that you can possibly use to gather the intelligence.”It's unclear what this unlikely Jack Bauer scenario has to do with trying people who are already in custody.
10. Torture is not torture
At a town hall last week at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, an audience member asked Gingrich about his position on torture. Newt replied:
Waterboarding is by every technical rule not torture. [Applause] Waterboarding is actually something we’ve done with our own pilots in order to get them used to the idea to what interrogation is like. It’s not — I’m not saying it’s not bad, and it’s not difficult, it’s not frightening. I’m just saying that under the normal rules internationally, it’s not torture.
I think the right balance is that a prisoner can only be waterboarded at the direction of the President in a circumstance which the information was of such great importance that we thought it was worth the risk of doing it, and I do that frankly only out of concern for world opinion. But we do not want to be known as a country that capriciously mistreats human beings.
Besides the fact that (a) waterboarding is morally reprehensible and (b) torture doesn’t work, there is no doubt under international law that waterboarding is indeed a form of torture, according to Juan Mendez, the United Nations’s Special Rapporteur on Torture. The U.S. Army Field Manual also bans the use of waterboarding, because it’s considered a form of torture.
11. Bonus: Death to drug dealers
In 1995, when Gingrich was Speaker of the House, he advocated using the death penalty against drug dealers, saying, "You import commercial quantities of drugs in the United States for the purpose of destroying our children. We will kill you."
When recently asked in an interview with Yahoo News whether he still supported executing drug dealers, he danced around the question, suggesting that drug cartel leaders should face the death penalty (which they already do in some circumstances).
He then praised Singapore, which enforces corporal punishment such as caning for minor offenses and the death penalty for drug offenses, as a model for drug policy, saying, “Places like Singapore have been the most successful at doing that. They've been very draconian. And they have communicated with great intention that they intend to stop drugs from coming into their country.”