The Washington Post

Mitt Romney’s attack ad against Newt Gingrich in Florida

“While Florida families lost everything in the housing crisis, Newt Gingrich cashed in. Gingrich was paid over $1.6 million by the scandal-ridden agency that helped create the crisis.”

— voiceover in a new Mitt Romney ad attacking Newt Gingrich

The nasty nomination battle between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has moved to Florida, where Romney has launched a slashing ad attacking Gingrich for his business ties to mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Let’s take a look at the various claims in the ad.

“While Florida families lost everything in the housing crisis, Newt Gingrich cashed in. Gingrich was paid over $1.6 million by the scandal-ridden agency that helped create the crisis.”

The ad strains to make a connection between Gingrich’s service for Freddie Mac and the housing collapse in the economic crisis. The video cites a Kansas City Star editorial that said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “were at the heart of the crisis” but that’s a matter of opinion. Other experts disagree strongly.

Gingrich has asserted that he told Freddie Mac officials that their lending practices were “insane” but no evidence has emerged to back up that claim. Instead, Gingrich publicly praised Freddie Mac as “a model,” according to an interview on its Web site.

Gingrich’s firm has released one year of the consulting contract with Freddie Mac, which showed that he reported to the firm’s lobbying chief. Yet he says he did no lobbying for Freddie Mac. He also says that the payments went to one of his companies, so he personally did not receive $1.6 million.

The actual circumstances of Gingrich’s employment are difficult to pin down but thus far there appears to be little connection between Freddie Mac’s possible role in the housing collapse and Gingrich’s work for the firm, except for a coincidence of timing.

NEWT GINGRICH: “And I offered advice. And my advice as a historian … ”
VOICEOVER: “An historian. Really?”

The ad pokes fun at Gingrich’s statement during one of the debates suggesting he was hired by Freddie Mac because of his expertise as a historian. He did not actually say that, but it certainly sounded like that. (He said he gave “advice” and then the holder of a doctorate in European history lapsed in his standard shtick about being a “historian.”) But he said what he said, and can’t seem to live it down.

“Sanctioned for ethics … Gingrich resigned from Congress in disgrace.”

This melds together two separate facts in a misleading way. Gingrich was indeed sanctioned for ethics violations but did not resign until nearly two years later, after Republicans unexpectedly lost seats in the House and Gingrich faced a revolt against his leadership. The “disgrace” was not over ethics but GOP electoral losses.

“And then cashed in as a D.C. insider.”

No argument there. Gingrich has made a fortune from “Newt Inc.,” close to $100 million in revenue, befitting his stature as a plugged-in former speaker of the House.

The Pinocchio Test

The ad hints at some of Romney’s desperation to halt Gingrich’s momentum, given its leaps in logic and the telescoping of Gingrich’s ethics violation and his resignation from Congress. Gingrich’s past certainly provides material for a hard-hitting political ad, but elements of this one are misleading or lack context.

Two Pinocchios

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Glenn Kessler has reported on domestic and foreign policy for more than three decades. He would like your help in keeping an eye on public figures. Send him statements to fact check by emailing him, tweeting at him, or sending him a message on Facebook.
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