“I’m standing next to a guy who is the most blatantly dishonest answers I can remember in any presidential race in — in my lifetime.... I don’t know how you debate a person with civility if they’re prepared to say things that are just plain factually false.”
— Newt Gingrich, Jan. 29, 2012
The slugfest between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich comes to a head Tuesday in Florida, where Gingrich is running behind because of a deluge of negative campaign ads by Romney and his allies and the perception that Romney bested him in the last two debates.
It’s tough to keep up with the various charges the two men have thrown at each other — Gingrich even brought up an ancient Romney veto concerning kosher food on Monday — so here is a guide to their most recent and most frequent claims.
(In addition to various columns on attack ads and charges, we previously looked at some of Romney’s claims about Gingrich when the battlefront had first moved to Florida.)
“His experience as speaker of the House end[ed] so badly, with an ethics scandal and him having to resign in disgrace and with his own members, 88 percent of them Republican members, voting to reprimand him.”
— Romney, Jan. 30, 2012
Here, the former Massachusetts governor echoes one of his TV ads, which we have already labeled as misleading. Gingrich was reprimanded, but he did not resign until two years later for reasons that had nothing to do with the reprimand he received from the House over an ethics issue. That issue involved whether it was proper for a tax-exempt foundation associated with the speaker to finance a college course that he had put together.
Instead, Gingrich resigned because House Republicans unexpectedly lost seats during the 1998 midterm elections. The Romney campaign sent us a few news clips making reference to the ethics probe when Gingrich resigned but neither The Washington Post article nor the New York Times article on his resignation made any mention of it.
In fact, as our colleague Karen Tumulty noted, shortly after Gingrich’s resignation, “the Internal Revenue Service — having conducted its own investigation--determined that there was nothing illegal about the arrangement. The IRS concluded that the course was indeed “educational in content” (as opposed to political), and that the Progress and Freedom Foundation’s support for it was “consistent with its stated exempt purposes.”
“We nominated a moderate for president in 1996 and he lost, badly. We nominated a moderate for president in 2008 and he lost, badly. If we nominate a Massachusetts liberal, I don't see how he defends 'Romneycare' as being different from 'Obamacare.' I don't see how he defends his gun control as being different, his pro-abortion position as being different, or for that matter his tax increases being different.”
— Gingrich, Jan. 30, 2012
Gingrich, after weeks of calling Romney a “Massachusetts moderate,” now calls him a “Massachusetts liberal.” But Romney is no John Kerry, Michael Dukakis or Ted Kennedy. He ran as a relatively moderate Republican when he sought Kennedy’s Senate seat and won the governorship, but since then has staked out more conservative positions.
Here Gingrich is echoing some of the points made in a humorous cartoon ad, imagining a debate between Romney and President Obama, produced by the pro-Gingrich super PAC, Winning Our Future. We previously awarded One Pinocchio to that ad. As we noted, Romney’s positions on abortion and gun control are now different, but Gingrich, particularly in this statement, suggests they have not changed.
The reference to tax increases references another Winning the Future cartoon ad, in which the imaginary Obama congratulates Romney for disguising tax increases with phrases such as loopholes and fees. That charge is accurate. We have previously given Romney One Pinocchio for claiming he did not raise taxes as governor.
“Romney as governor eliminated kosher food from retired Jewish senior citizens on Medicaid and he has no understanding of the importance of conscience and importance of religious liberty in this country.”
— Gingrich, Jan. 30, 2012
The Hill amusingly said that in the primary’s waning hours, Gingrich threw the “kosher kitchen sink” at Romney. While we are not sure what this claim says about Romney’s understanding of religious liberty, it turns out that in 2003 he did indeed veto $600,000 in spending to run Massachusetts’s eight kosher nursing home facilities.
Romney’s campaign said he was practicing fiscal restraint in a time of fiscal crisis, but his veto was quickly overridden by an unanimous vote in the House and an overwhelming vote in the state Senate after tales emerged of people in their 80s and 90s faced with having to leave their homes or break kosher tenets for the first time in their lives. The New York Post resurrected this story in an article last week.
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