LAS VEGAS — Former GOP White House hopeful Newt Gingrich, who has been accused of using racially charged language in his descriptions of President Obama, said he didn't believe there was anything racial about Donald Trump’s false claims that Obama was born in Kenya.

“I know that there is a desperate need to attach racism to everything but in fact I think that Donald Trump said what he said because it’s the right thing for him to say,” Gingrich said to reporters in the lobby of the Trump Hotel here. “I think that Obama creates very powerful emotions about him, largely because of the radicalism of his views. I think that's the key fact.”

Trump's widely discredited claims about Obama's birth certificate overshadowed GOP front-runner Mitt Romney's message on the economy last Thursday, yet Gingrich said that it’s a media-driven story.

“Nobody runs around saying whether Colonel [Allen] West was born in the United States. He's an African American, you know.  He's a congressman. Nobody runs around and says was Tim Scott born in the United States. He's a congressman. He's an African American,” he said. “So the idea of asserting that any charge against Obama somehow manages magically in the media to get back to racism, I think is just one more device to protect Obama.”

Asked if the issue, which Democrats have seized on to suggest that Romney is unable to stand up to certain elements in his party, could cause damage, Gingrich said Republicans remain focused. “Governor Romney's not distracted. The Republican Party's not distracted. We believe that this is an American-born job-killing president. Other people may believe that he was born somewhere else and still kills jobs, and that's an argument over background,” he said. “The key fact is for any American who’s worried about the economy, Obama is a job-killing president. I'm happy to say I believe he was born in Hawaii. It doesn't change the fact he’s killing jobs, and therefore I think that’ll be the central issue of the campaign.”

Romney is set to host a fundraiser Thursday evening with Trump that Gingrich will also attend. The former House speaker said it was “perfectly reasonable” for Romney to have a fundraiser with the real estate mogul and reality TV star, even given his outlandish, off-message claims.

“Far be it from me to suggest to the Donald what he should do. No, I'm not afraid of him. I just know it's hopeless to suggest anything to him about what he should do,” said Gingrich. “He's a loose entrepreneur. He has made his fame by being who he is."