KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Former speaker of the House and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, here to campaign for U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin (R), didn’t mention Benghazi or secret e-mails in his Wednesday morning remarks.
But as he left to catch a plane, I asked him about the interview he gave Tuesday night on Fox News’ “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” about the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi.
“A U.S. senator told me two days ago that he believes several networks have e-mails about a group [that was] planning a counterterrorism move,” Gingrich responded. “They were told to stand down, that this was not a terrorist attack.”
He would not reveal the name of the senator and did not repeat his assertion as he did on Fox News that the e-mails are “a rumor.” The Washington Post has found no evidence to support any claim about such e-mails.
Gingrich was in town to keynote two fundraisers for Akin, the beleaguered candidate who lost major GOP support after his “legitimate rape” comment in August. A Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch poll showed Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire MCCaskill leading 45 to 43 percent over Akin.
The biggest applause came when Gingrich told the crowd that this was “a unique election,” saying that “there is no other way that will send a bigger signal to the moneyed Republican establishment that votes matter, citizens matter, what people want matter” than to elect Akin to the Senate.
About 100 people attended the morning event at Kansas City’s historic Union Station, but they were almost outnumbered by protesters, including women,senior citizens and at least 35 firefighters from Local Union No. 42 .
Akin has voted against SAFER grants, which fund emergency personnel — including firefighters and EMTs — when local budgets are reduced. Matt Stigall, political and legislative business agent with the International Association of Fire Fighters Local No. 42 in Kansas City, said the grant was keeping one pumper company and an entire fire station in service in Kansas City this year.
Losing that grant “will negatively impact the people of Missouri,” Stigall said.
The Missouri chapters of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the Fraternal Order of Police announced their endorsement of McCaskill, a former arson investigator and Jackson County prosecutor, in September, citing her strong record of standing with Missouri’s first responders.
Diana Reese is a freelance journalist and a former editor of Missouri Life magazine. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.