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."

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 SebeliusJerry Moran: 'I wouldn't be surprised' if Pompeo ran for Senate in Kansas Mark Halperin inks book deal 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care 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 CoburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach President Trump’s war on federal waste American patients face too many hurdles in regard to health-care access 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.


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.