Clyburn: Gingrich ‘tends to fly off the handle,’ can’t ‘envision’ working with him

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) ripped his former colleague and GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, saying he “can’t quite envision” having to work with him again because he “tends to fly off the handle.”

Speaking Monday on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe," Clyburn said the former House Speaker doesn’t have the temperament to be president.

“I think that Newt is very professorial and he’s always good to listen to — not quite as good to work with,” Clyburn said. “He tends to fly off the handle. He will say almost anything in order to get a charge. I’m sure that he’s not serious when he says a lot of these things.”


Clyburn recounted Gingrich’s reaction to hearing of a woman in South Carolina who drowned her two sons in 1994.

“The mother killing her two children in South Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick the society is getting and how much we have to have change,” Gingrich said at the time. “I think people want to change and the only way you get change is to vote Republican.”

“That was just beyond the pale with me,” Clyburn said on Monday.

“It’s just the most amazing thing that he will just say these things, and then he figures out some way to justify it later,” he added. “I don’t think the voters in the Republican primary are going to reward him with the nomination.”

Clyburn is the second high-profile former colleague of Gingrich’s to publicly criticize the former House Speaker in the last two days. Over the weekend, Republican Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.) blasted Gingrich, and even indicated that he might not support him in the general election if he wins the Republican nomination.

“His life indicates he does not have a commitment to the character traits necessary to be a great president,” Coburn said. “I am not inclined to be a supporter of Newt Gingrich, having served under him for four years and experienced personally his leadership.”

Clyburn agreed.

“I think watching Newt’s rhetoric when he was the Speaker and the fact that he always tended to reach out and work with people that he considered to be the underdog, yet he would go right on TV the next morning and just denigrate their existence,” Clyburn said.

As an example, Clyburn cited Gingrich’s recommendation last week that “poor children” be put to work as janitors because they don’t know how to make money “unless it’s illegal.”

“I mean, how do you talk about poor schoolchildren the way he talks about poor schoolchildren after going around touring with Rev. Al Sharpton in these schools and seeing how energetic these young people were?” Clyburn said. “And having been with them on TV – you wouldn’t get any of that if you watched him operate in this primary.

“So it’s kind of interesting as to what kind of personality this is, and I cannot see him being president of the United States,” he added.

Gingrich continues to outperform the rest of the GOP field in the most recent polls, leading in three of the first four early-voting states of Iowa, South Carolina and Florida.

Clyburn predicted that Gingrich would win the South Carolina primary.