Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) — a central figure in both Newt Gingrich's 1994 Republican takeover of the House and the 1997 "coup" that forced Gingrich's resignation — called the former House Speaker "erratic" and questioned his conservative credentials in a radio interview Wednesday.

"What has been said about Newt is pretty much true — he had to step down because the Republicans, the conservative Republicans wouldn't vote for him again as Speaker," DeLay said on the Michael Berry show.

DeLay was pressed as to why conservatives had abandoned Gingrich.

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"Well, because he's not really a conservative," DeLay said. "I mean, he'll tell you what you want to hear, he has a sort of uncanny ability, sort of like Clinton, to feel your pain and know his audience and speak to his audience and fire them up, but when he was Speaker, he was erratic."

In 1997, DeLay and a group of other Republicans — including now-Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerIsrael should resist Trump's efforts to politicize support Lobbyists race to cash in on cannabis boom Rising star Ratcliffe faces battle to become Trump's intel chief MORE (R-Ohio), Republican leadership chairman Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.) and Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) — worked to oust Gingrich from the Speakership. Gingrich successfully averted that attempt, but resigned in 1998 after GOP losses in the midterm elections.

DeLay was himself forced to resign from the House after being indicted on money-laundering charges in an attempt to circumvent campaign finance law. DeLay was later convicted and sentenced to three years in prison but is appealing the decision.


DeLay's criticism of Gingrich has largely mirrored that of Rick Santorum, who knocked Gingrich's "grandiosity" and called him a "very high-risk candidate" in last Thursday's GOP debate.

"The issue is discipline. The issue is leadership," Santorum said.

"If you look at his leadership, when he was in the House of Representatives, there was a conservative coup within three years of him becoming the Speaker and eventually was forced out because of, well, you know, issues of being able to focus, execute, discipline, order, not taking, you know, not doing things that, that are coming out of left field.

"You see this repeatedly," continued Santorum. "This is not the kind of leadership we need to take on Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDemocratic governors fizzle in presidential race Obamas reportedly buying Martha's Vineyard mansion Trump has 62 percent disapproval rating in new AP poll MORE."

Both Santorum and DeLay worked to place Republicans in high-level lobbying positions during their time in Congress, although Santorum has denied direct involvement in the "K Street Project," a venture between DeLay and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist aimed at increasing conservative representation at top lobbying firms.