The HillTube

Romney blasts Gingrich over attacks on debate moderators, news media

Mitt Romney attacked his GOP presidential rival Newt Gingrich over what has to date been one of Gingrich’s most effective debate methods — going after the moderators and the media for questions he deems inappropriate.

“It’s very easy to talk down a moderator,” Romney said Wednesday on Fox News. “The moderator asks a question and then has to sit by and take whatever you send to them. And Speaker Gingrich has been wonderful at attacking the moderators and attacking the media.”

The raucous conservative crowds at the debates have played a big role in the Republican primary season, often rewarding Gingrich with wild applause for his sharp retorts to the debate moderators.

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At a debate before the South Carolina primary, Gingrich castigated moderator Juan Williams for asking if the former House Speaker thought his statements about black people on food stamps and putting poor children to work as janitors were offensive. The crowd strongly backed Gingrich in the exchange.

And at the next debate Gingrich doubled down, excoriating CNN moderator John King for asking about his ex-wife’s claim that he had asked for an “open marriage.”

“I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office,” Gingrich said. “I’m appalled you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.”

The former House Speaker used the momentum from the debates to notch a convincing victory in the South Carolina primary.

“That’s always a very favorite response for the home crowd,” Romney continued on Wednesday. “But it’s very different to have candidates going against candidates, and that’s something I’ll be doing, going against President Obama, if I get the chance to be our nominee.”

At Monday’s debate in Florida, NBC asked the crowd to hold their applause until the breaks, and moderator Brian Williams didn’t offer any opportunities for Gingrich to go after him.

As a result, some of Gingrich’s attacks that might have energized his supporters at previous debates seemed to fall flat. At one point Gingrich even seemed flustered, and paused in silence to collect his thoughts.

Gingrich responded on Tuesday by saying he won’t “allow” the moderators of future GOP presidential debates to keep the crowd out of it.