Newt Gingrich didn’t turn down an opportunity take on his favorite foil – the media – Thursday in a presidential debate in Florida.
Asked by CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer whether he was satisfied with the level of transparency Mitt Romney had demonstrated by releasing his tax returns from 2010 and 2011, the former House Gingrich dismissed the topic out of hand.
“Wolf, you and I have a great relationship, it goes back a long way,” Gingrich said. “I'm with him. This is a nonsense question.”
“But, Mr. Speaker, you made an issue of this, this week, when you said that ‘he lives in a world of Swiss bank and Cayman Island bank accounts.' I didn't say that. You did,” Blitzer said.
Without missing a beat, Gingrich acknowledged that he had made it an issue, but drew a distinction between what he said on a television interview and what is fair fodder for a joint candidate appearance.
“This is a national debate, where you have a chance to get the four of us to talk about a whole range of issues,” Gingrich said.
Blitzer refused to give in, arguing that serious accusations leveled by Gingrich deserved to be interrogated in a debate. But when Gingrich’s assault on the media earned him his usual loud approval from the audience, he offered Blitzer an opportunity to “try again.”
“Wouldn't it be nice if people didn't make accusations somewhere else that they weren't willing to defend here?” mused Romney, who then defended his success in the private sector and said he was proud of what he had worked to achieve.
“Mr. Speaker, I'm ready to move on, if you are,” Blitzer said, aiming to move the debate forward.
“I'm happy to. I'm happy to simply say, you know, it would be nice if you had the same standard for other people that you would like applied to you and didn't enter into personal attacks about personal activities about which you are factually wrong,” Gingrich retorted. “So I would be glad to have a truce with you, but it's a two-way truce.”
The audience reacted with a mix of booing and applause.
Gingrich has faulted the media in almost every presidential debate, adeptly turning questions he finds unfavorable back on the moderator.
In another CNN debate last week in South Carolina, moderator John King opened the evening by asking Gingrich about an interview his ex-wife gave to ABC News where she alleged Gingrich had demanded an "open marriage." Gingrich dawned outrage at the question, earning him his strongest moment of the night and shifting the conversation away from potentially damaging allegations.
Blitzer defended King when CNN host Piers Morgan later said that King had attacked Gingrich, calling it an important question. And King was partially vindicated this week when Gingrich’s campaign conceded that he has incorrectly claimed to have offered rebuttal witnesses to ABC News before it aired the interview with his ex-wife.