Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign says it's not backing down from its criticism of rival Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital.
His spokesman strongly denied a report to that effect, calling the story "misleading."
The article, published in Politico and headlined "Newt Gingrich on Bain attacks against Mitt Romney: I crossed the line," is based on a response the former House Speaker gave a voter at a book signing in South Carolina on Wednesday.
"The phrase 'I crossed the line' was never uttered from Newt, despite the headline from Politico," Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said in a statement.
According to the report, Dean Glossop, an Army Reservist from Inman, S.C., warned Gingrich that an argument against free-market principles was a difficult one.
“I’m here to implore one thing of you. I think you’ve missed the target on the way you’re addressing Romney’s weaknesses. I want to beg you to redirect and go after his obvious disingenuousness about his conservatism and lay off the corporatist versus the free market. I think it’s nuanced,” Glossop said.
Gingrich acknowledged that the messaging was difficult, but the campaign insists that he did not intend to imply that he was walking back his criticism.
“I agree with you,” Gingrich said, according to the article. “It’s an impossible theme to talk about with Obama in the background. Obama just makes it impossible to talk rationally in that area because he is so deeply into class warfare that automatically you get an echo effect. … I agree with you entirely.”
The statement from Gingrich's campaign went on hammer the former Massachusetts governor again over his time at the firm — and defend Gingrich from charges that the attacks were anti-capitalist.
“This issue at hand is neither about Bain Capital, private equity firms, nor about capitalism. It is about Mitt Romney’s judgment and character. It was Governor Romney’s decision to base his candidacy, in large part, on his background as a portfolio manager. Thus, it is entirely legitimate to ask questions about whether he is accurately presenting how he conducted himself during that career," Hammond said.
The influential Wall Street Journal editorial page denounced the criticism as “crude and damaging caricatures of modern business and capitalism” on Tuesday, saying that “desperate” GOP candidates “sound like Michael Moore,” the left-wing filmmaker and provocateur.
Romney said that Gingrich was putting "free enterprise on trial" while campaigning Monday in New Hampshire.
"I thought it was going to come from the president and Democrats from the left, but instead it's going to come from Speaker Gingrich and apparently others. That's just part of the process. I'm not worried about that. I've got broad shoulders," he said.
But Hammond insisted the criticism was fair, and that the campaign had no intention of backing down.
“Instead of accepting the responsibility to answer questions about his business background, the Romney campaign is throwing up a smokescreen about an attack on capitalism. That’s just more pious baloney from Mitt Romney and his campaign," he added.