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Gingrich Apologizes to Paul Ryan for 'Right-Wing Social Engineering' Criticism

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich apologized to Rep. Paul Ryan on Tuesday after panning Ryan’s Medicare plan as “right-wing social engineering.”

Gingrich and Ryan traded emails and spoke on the phone, a call that “went really well,” Gingrich’s spokesman Rick Tyler told Fox News.

The former House speaker also held two conference calls with Tea Party leaders, one on Monday night and one Tuesday morning, to explain what he meant by his comments Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Politico reported. “We’ve tried to correct the record and admit it could have been done better,” Tyler told Politico. “We move on.”

Gingrich went "On the Record" with Greta van Susteren Tuesday night to respond to criticism over his comments.

"I want to set a precedent for new kinds of presidential campaigns," he told van Susteren. "I made a mistake and I called Paul Ryan today, who's a very close personal friend, and I said that."

Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, argued Monday that his proposal is not “radical,” as Gingrich alleged in the interview over the weekend. And he questioned why Gingrich was choosing to align himself with Democratic critics of the GOP budget proposal.

"With allies like that, who needs the left?" Ryan quipped, during an interview on Laura Ingraham's radio show.

Ryan was in Chicago on Monday to defend his budget outline, which calls for phasing out direct Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals in favor of a system of subsidized private insurance for seniors. Republican leaders in Congress generally have supported the plan, though a handful have indicated it is just a starting point for negotiations. But Gingrich, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press" just days after announcing his presidential campaign, launched a broadside on the program Sunday.

"I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate," he said when asked about Ryan's proposal.

Gingrich called for a "national conversation" on Medicare but described Ryan's proposed overhaul as "too big a jump."

Ryan took issue with Gingrich's characterization.

"What we're simply saying is don't give the power to a bureaucrat to ration care," Ryan said. "Hardly is that social engineering and radical. What's radical is kicking the can down the road, not doing anything to fix this problem and watching the whole system implode on itself."

Ryan reiterated that his proposal would leave benefits untouched for Americans 55 and older, while giving younger workers a choice of "guaranteed coverage options," offering more government aid to those who are poor, sick or both.

Such a proposal, though, is estimated to cost seniors more out of pocket over the long run, leading to charges from Democrats that the Republican budget is unfairly placing the burden for reducing the deficit on the backs of seniors.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said last week that the proposal would undermine America's social contract, though she told CNBC on Monday that Medicare is "on the table" in ongoing budget talks.