Gingrich says Ron Paul needs to answer for 'really nasty' newsletters

Newt Gingrich has turned his sights on rival GOP front-runner Ron Paul, knocking the Texas congressman for the newsletters from the 1980s and '90s that carried his name and contained racist and homophobic content.

“I think that Congressman Paul has to explain his own situation and how he could have had a decade of newsletters that had his name on it that he apparently wasn’t aware of,” Gingrich said.

Paul says he didn’t write the newsletters, didn’t read them at the time, and disavows them now.

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The newsletters were also an issue for Paul in the 2008 campaign cycle, and he has become increasingly irritated with having to defend himself against them again in 2012. Earlier this week he walked out of an interview with CNN’s Gloria Borger after she pressed him on the issue.

Speaking with Fox News on Friday, Paul cited his record of fighting to end the drug war, which he says disproportionately targets minorities, and his work to highlight the disproportionate number of African-American men imprisoned in U.S. prisons.

Still, Gingrich says the newsletters raise questions about Paul’s candidacy.

“These things are really nasty, and he didn’t know about it, wasn’t aware of it,” he said. “But he’s sufficiently ready to be president? It strikes me it raises some fundamental questions about him.”

This isn’t the first time the two have sparred.

In 1995, then-House Speaker Gingrich backed a former Democrat in an attempt to win Paul’s congressional seat.

And since Gingrich’s surprising rise in the polls for the 2012 GOP nomination, the Paul campaign has gone after him hard in attack ads, calling him a “serial hypocrite” and a lobbyist who has profited from his Washington insider status.

In the latest American Research Group poll, Paul leads the GOP field in Iowa, but is ahead of Gingrich by only one point.