Former Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-Fla.) offered a stunningly candid rebuke of Newt Gingrich on Tuesday, calling him a "bad person" and accusing him of demonizing his political opponents.

"When he puts on his political helmet, he is a terrible person," Scarborough said on his "Morning Joe" show on MSNBC. "He may be a nice person at home, [but] people that don't know Newt at home need to know this."

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Scarborough ticked off a list of comments Gingrich has made about his opponents before singling out Gingrich's comparison of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mike Roman says 3M on track to deliver 2 billion respirators globally and 1 billion in US by end of year; US, Pfizer agree to 100M doses of COVID-19 vaccine that will be free to Americans The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former HHS Secretary Sebelius gives Trump administration a D in handling pandemic; Oxford, AstraZeneca report positive dual immunity results from early vaccine trial Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Kathleen Sebelius MORE (D) to Josef Stalin. 

"I may disagree with her personally, but she's given her life to political service," he said. "He compares her to Josef Stalin, who killed 30 million people?"

He also blasted Gingrich for calling Democrats a bigger threat to the United States than Nazis and the Congressional Budget Office a socialist institution, and for insulting conservative commentator Glenn Beck.


"He dehumanizes people," Scarborough said.

The former Florida congressman, a member of the class of 1994 that gave the House Speakership to Gingrich, also said that close friends of his who still serve in Congress, including Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnInspector general independence must be a bipartisan priority in 2020 Congress must protect federal watchdogs Tom Coburn's annual gift to taxpayers MORE (R-Okla.), have emailed him privately "every day, saying, 'How many times does Newt have to teach these people he's bad for the conservative moment?' "

But anticipating the blowback he would receive from bloggers and Gingrich supporters, Scarborough later clarified that he does now know Newt personally and was speaking only about his political behavior.

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Scarborough's remarks came as Gingrich appears to be in a position to usurp Mitt Romney's front-runner status; Romney has held tight to his place at or near the front of the GOP pack for the entirety of the race. A new poll Tuesday from The Washington Post and ABC showed Gingrich with a double-digit lead on Romney among Iowa caucus-goers. 

Scarborough served in the House for three terms in the 1990s, part of the time under Gingrich.

His disdain for Gingrich is well-known — he has frequently penned editorials during the campaign laying out his beef with the former Speaker — but Tuesday's comments hit a more personal and caustic note than anything he has said previously.

- This post was updated at 1:46 p.m.