PENSACOLA, Fla.--With his poll numbers lagging in Florida, Newt Gingrich returned on Monday to his tried-and-true offensive against the media, declaring that if he’s the Republican nominee, he will not debate President Obama if a reporter serves as a moderator.
“The reporters who run the debates have no interest in asking any question which will affect Obama,” Gingrich told a crowd gathered to see him at the Pensacola airport. “That’s why, as your nominee, I will not accept debates in the fall in which the reporters are the moderators because you don’t need to have a second Obama person on the debate. “
It is not the first time that Gingrich has threatened such action during his week in Florida. At a tea party event in Coral Springs last Wednesday, he told the crowd that he would “tolerate” the media-hosted primary debates, but in the general election he would want to set the terms of the debate with the president himself.
“We should be able to talk to the American people without reporters playing gotcha, being clever, or having 60-second rules like ‘What would you do about Nigeria in 60 seconds?’ or ‘What’s your answer to Social Security in 30 seconds?’ ” Gingrich told the enthusiastic crowd.
And yet, for all his bashing of the “elite media,” Gingrich also tends to embrace the media’s work when it suits his purposes.
After his now-infamous dressing-down of John King in a CNN debate for asking the former speaker to respond to his ex-wife’s allegations that he wanted an open marriage, Gingrich praised the moderator’s performance.
“I thought John did a great job,” Gingrich told CNN host Anderson Cooper after the debate. “It was direct, it was tough, you could see the differences.”
Out on the stump, Gingrich frequently reinforces his positions by pointing to reporting done in mainstream outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and even the chief nemesis of the political Right, The New York Times.
He has repeatedly used the fact-checking work done by news outlets to combat attacks against him by other candidates and their super PACs. In Iowa, Gingrich often railed against an ad run by the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC attacking him on a variety of topics, including the $1.6 million he received from Freddie Mac; the $300,000 penalty he paid for ethics violations; and charges that he supported amnesty for illegal immigrants and worked with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and ex-Vice President Al Gore on global warming.
“I’d just suggest you look at The Washington Post, which says that the latest Romney ads got four `Pinocchios’ [for untruthfulness], and I’ll rely on their judgment.” Gingrich told reporters at a press gaggle in Des Moines back in December.
Gingrich is touting the support of his various surrogates, including businessman Herman Cain and Michael Reagan, who appeared with him at stops throughout the day. He also named Todd Palin during a stop in Fort Myers, telling the crowd that the former Alaska governor’s husband would be recording a call to supporters on his behalf and campaigning for him as well.
Rebecca Kaplan contributed