OTR Interviews

Gingrich Blasts ABC Report on Charity, Says NBC Owes Wife Callista an Apology

Gingrich blasts president for making light of slow economic recovery

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 15, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is calling President Obama insensitive and uncaring. Now, it all started yesterday when President Obama either joked or admitted, take your pick, that "shovel-ready" was not as shovel-ready as he thought. Speaker Gingrich says those comments on the $800 billion stimulus plan show President Obama is out of touch.

Former Speaker of the House, presidential candidate, author of the brand-new book "A Nation Like No Other," Newt Gingrich joins us. Good evening, Mr. Speaker. And before we get to the shovel-ready comments that the president made, I'm curious if you have any response to the report by NBC that it is your wife, Callista, that essentially blew up your campaign and is the reason for the exodus -- or the exit of senior staff members.

NEWT GINGRICH, R-GEORGIA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE/FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Greta, I'm really glad you asked about that because you know Callista. We've spent time together. Like you, she's a cheesehead from Wisconsin. Like you, she bowls.

I just want the American people to know that Callista graduated as a piano major. She's played in the city of Fairfax band on the French horn since 1989. She sings in the basilica of the national shrine (INAUDIBLE) Immaculate Conception choir. She's the head of Gingrich Productions and has helped make seven different documentaries, one of which, about Pope John Paul II, was picked as one of the top three films by the Vatican this year about the pope. She chairs a foundation which has given away $800,000 to charities. And she's currently writing a children's book, in which Ellis the elephant introduces 5 to 8-year-olds to a sweet land of liberty, the history of America.

I say that as background because I thought NBC this morning, in a program that had nobody on camera, nobody quoted by name, that quoted reporters talking anonymously about cowardly people, who, frankly, lied about my wife -- and I believe NBC owes Callista an apology.

The fact is, my campaign is my campaign. Yes, we make decisions as a couple, but in the end, I take full responsibility. And I think the program this morning was totally irresponsible and personally reprehensible and the kind of thing that makes it hard to get decent people to run for public office.

VAN SUSTEREN: What was role -- what was her role in the campaign prior to the departure? What is her role now? And had there been any internal conflicts with Callista and any of the people who left?

GINGRICH: Look, Callista and I have a very similar relationship to Nancy and Ronnie Reagan. And people blame Nancy Reagan for things that Ronald Reagan did. The fact is, we are partners in thinking a lot of things through. We try to work out our schedule together. We try to work on a lot of projects together. We've made movies together. We've written books together.

I think that unnerved some of the -- some of the consultants who thought they ought to own everything, they ought to control everything. And they resented the idea that they had to have the two of us actually talk with them about things like our schedules.

So there's a fundamental difference between the modern world, where I think couples try to work together, and some of the consultants who I think, frankly, had no idea about how to deal with a couple that cared together about their lives.

VAN SUSTEREN: There's nothing I hate more than anonymous sources. It's a very easy way to slime somebody. Anonymous sources was supposed to protect someone who might be a whistleblower, someone from retribution from the government, getting fired, that kind of thing. When they do anonymous sources, that really bothers me. ... But I'm curious...

GINGRICH: And remember, these -- these -- by the way, these are supposed to be professionals, who we were paying, who supposedly had some sense of confidentiality, and who promptly, frankly, did some back-stabbing in a way that I just found amazing. After all my years in public life, I don't mind people attacking me. I'm the candidate. I'm a big guy. I can take it. But to go after anyone's wife I think is pretty despicable.

VAN SUSTEREN: Were there actual problems, though, with Callista and staff members?

GINGRICH: I have no idea. There were problems with me and staff members. I wanted to run an idea-oriented, grass-roots, solutions-based campaign that used Facebook and YouTube and all sorts of exciting things. And we had a couple staff members who wanted to run a 1952 campaign that I thought was hopeless and couldn't possibly win. So I'll take the responsibility.

I wanted a fundamentally different campaign than my staff did. I wanted -- and by the way, most of my original staff is still here. We only lost one person from my original team. Everybody else is an outside consultant who left, and they left because -- for example, the book you just mentioned, "A Nation Like No Other," is about big ideas. It's about the heart and soul of America.

Some of these consultants didn't understand why that mattered to a campaign, and yet I would say the heart and soul of America is what this is about. Barack Obama stands for European secular socialism. We stand for American exceptionalism. It couldn't be a bigger choice than that, but some of the consultants didn't get that at all.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know who it is on your staff who you suspect NBC spoke to, number one? And number two, did NBC call you or Callista before this report?

GINGRICH: We didn't -- we don't comment about anonymous back-stabbing comments.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know who it is, though? I mean, generally...

GINGRICH: I wouldn't respond tonight...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, I know if someone -- I mean, I got a pretty good idea if someone -- someone takes a slap at me, who it is. Do you have a pretty...

GINGRICH: I have no idea. And I'm not -- look, I don't care what the staff did. NBC is supposed to be a responsible news organization. And I think for them to attack somebody's wife is utterly reprehensible. And I hope none of them ever have the experience of having their spouse attacked in that kind of reprehensible matter.

VAN SUSTEREN: Would it be newsworthy if the person had been identified? I mean, is it -- the thing that bothers me is...

GINGRICH: Well, at least...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... anonymous.

GINGRICH: At least you could have -- at least you could have had a straight argument and explained who the person was. We had several people who quit, frankly, who had failed totally in their professional duties and who for the last month had not been doing their jobs. So I'd have been perfectly happy if they wanted to step up because we would have pointed out chapter and verse about why they were gone, and it wasn't for a very good reason.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let's move on, then, to the president's comment -- shovel-ready. Some people have said the president was joking. I actually -- you know, I think it was sort of an awkward laugh at a comment that he made. I found more troubling the fact that the shovel- ready wasn't shovel-ready when we needed it to be shovel-ready. But you -- you took -- you call it uncaring.

GINGRICH: You know, there are 14 million Americans who are out of work. One out of every four American families is in a house which is now worth less than the mortgage. The president ought to have some deep sense of concern every day. Recently, he said he wasn't worried about a second dip recession. Well, he ought to be. He ought to be deeply concerned.

Yesterday, he sort of laughed off the fact that his primary solution, which was big government spending, turned out to be totally unready. Now, that meant that millions of Americans are in pain tonight because the Obama depression has failed to produce jobs.

And let's be clear this is his depression. Whatever George W. Bush did in 2007 and 2008 is long gone. Every recession since World War II ended and we had a substantial recovery by this stage. This is the only one which has continued for the longest time since the Great Depression to be at 9.1 percent unemployment. This is a depression if you're one of the people who's unemployed. And it's the Obama depression, and he ought to have some sense of concern for the pain his policies are causing Americans.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, if this were a president -- a Gingrich presidency, day one, what would you do to get us out of this financial mess? Give me your first week.

GINGRICH: Well, the first week, if we had -- if we picked up 12 Senate seats and about 30 to 40 House seats so we had working control of the Congress, the first week we would repeal the Dodd-Frank bill, which is killing the housing business, killing small business, killing independent banks. We would repeal Sarbanes-Oxley, which is killing venture capital. We would repeal the capital gains tax so that billions and billions would flow in the United States.

We'd establish a 12.5 percent corporate tax rate, so a trillion dollars in repatriated money would come back home. We'd establish 100 percent expensing so that every business could write off all of their investments in new machinery in one year. We'd abolish the death tax permanently so family-owned businesses could focus on job creation.

And we'd replace the Environmental Protection Agency with an environmental solutions agency. We'd modernize the Food and Drug Administration. And we would create an American energy plan so that American money, $500 billion dollars a year, was spent in America buying energy from Americans, which by itself would lead to a dramatic improvement in the economy. Those steps would lead to you a dramatically healthier economy and millions and millions of new jobs.

VAN SUSTEREN: How are you going to pay for it?

GINGRICH: First of all, if you can go back -- when I was speaker, we cut taxes and unemployment dropped from 5.6 percent to under 4 percent. If we could get under 4 percent unemployment, we would pay for an amazing amount. If you took the...

VAN SUSTEREN: But this ... I mean, unemployment's a late indicator.

GINGRICH: Wait a second.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's one of the last things to change so that we have -- I mean, how -- how do you pay for this?

GINGRICH: Well, wait a second. First of all, I participated in 1981, '82, '83 with Ronald Reagan in exactly this problem. Jimmy Carter had destroyed the economy. Reagan came in. But November of 1982, the recovery began. In the first seven years of the Reagan recovery, the economy grew - - if you take the same measures in today's economy, the economy grew by the equivalent of $4.4 trillion, created the equivalent of 25 million new jobs. And by the 7th year, revenue for the federal government was up $800 billion.

Now, when you take people off of food stamps, off of unemployment, off of Medicaid, and you put them over here earning a living, taking care of their family and paying taxes, that's the biggest single step to a balanced budget you can get.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, that is predicated on the -- you say that you pick up those Senate seats that you need to have a Republican Senate. Now, let's assume that you didn't. Let's assume that you...

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: Then you have a totally different problem.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's a...

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: Look...

VAN SUSTEREN: We've got to address that because that's a realistic possibility that that's not going to happen so that there's smooth sailing for...

GINGRICH: Oh, I...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... for -- if a Republican becomes president.

GINGRICH: I believe if we run a team campaign and we have a new Contract with America...

VAN SUSTEREN: If it doesn't?

GINGRICH: ... in September of next year, we will pick up 12 Senate seats. Look, if you have...

VAN SUSTEREN: But you may not. That's the problem. You've got to be realistic. What if you don't?

GINGRICH: OK...

VAN SUSTEREN: What are going to do -- what can you do about the economy?

GINGRICH: Well, my realistic answer is if you have Harry Reid in charge of the Senate and labor union-controlled Democrats and trial lawyer- controlled Democrats in charge of the Senate and left-wing Democrats who believe in big government and high taxes, this country is going to stay in a mess for another 10 years.

That's why we have to have a team election next year, in which we have senators, House members and the president all elected as a team, as we did in 1980, when Ronald Reagan picked up control of the Senate when nobody thought he could, we did in 1994, when we had a huge sweep. We came close last time. I believe we can have a sweep. And frankly, part of the purpose of writing "A Nation Like No Other" was to outline American exceptionalism so we can have a clear choice. Do you want European socialism with Obama, you want American exceptionalism with us? You can't have both. They're fundamentally different.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you're getting squeezed in another way by -- you don't like the NBC report today about Callista. There's an ABC News report which suggests -- and I say suggests because I've read through carefully. It does not accuse you of illegal behavior, but it walks all around it, saying that you've merged your charity and your campaign. And actually, it's quite a lengthy report. Do you want to respond to it? Are you doing anything wrong with your charities and your campaign?

GINGRICH: You know, that report is so inaccurate. Reverend Jim Garlow of San Diego, who's the head of Renewing American Leadership, sent me a very despairing e-mail yesterday and said he told the facts to the ABC reporter and he was told by the ABC reporter, frankly, they didn't care what the facts were, they were going to do a hit piece. And they just -- they actually literally didn't care what the facts were.

I'm trying to talk about how you create jobs. I'm trying to talk about how you balance the budget. I'm trying to talk about what we can do to get home ownership back in good health. I'm trying to talk about how to have an American energy policy. And you have these great networks that could be covering substance, and they're off on trivia. And I think it's very sad and it's part of the American problem that these kind of networks don't want to deal in substance.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I've got a few problems with the article, one of which is that I think what's buried in the article is that it doesn't -- it actually doesn't accuse you of illegal behavior. When I first looked at it, looked -- I thought that it did. It says that you violated the spirit of charities and campaigns. And it's a far cry from violating the law. That just sounds like someone who wants to -- who doesn't like -- who doesn't like what you're doing. That's the first thing.

However, it says in the article that when you were confronted by it that you got in your waiting car and slammed the door. And you may not want to talk about this, but the media is going to be asking you questions. And you know, you better be ready to answer them. And probably the better way to answer them would be to say, I'll line up my lawyers and my accountants, and you can ask them the questions, whether or not we've somehow merged the campaign and the charity.

GINGRICH: Look, I'll be glad to take coaching, but what I said to the young lady was very straightforward. I had just given a speech about repealing the Dodd-Frank bill. I'd just given a speech about creating jobs, helping small business, helping independent banks, raising the value of housing for people who are in real trouble. And I said to her, Cover the speech.

And she didn't -- they sent an entire crew from New York for the purpose not of covering the speech, not of finding out what a presidential candidate wanted to do to help working Americans, not to look at the substance of the campaign, but with a report that I thought, frankly, was baloney. And I'm not going to dignify baloney. I think they ought to learn how to cover the speeches...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know what...

GINGRICH: ... and actually report on what candidates are running on.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, you act like you just landed here, like you've suddenly discovered that the media does these things.

GINGRICH: No.

VAN SUSTEREN: And you may want to take the high road on it, but the problem is that the article that gets out, unless you actually go through this article and you read the fact that the pastor backs you up, that they don't accuse you of illegal behavior -- but not everybody's going to do that. So you may not like it and you may want to take the high road, but the problem is, is you're getting hit with this stuff, and it's a lousy way to run a campaign.

GINGRICH: Well, let me also suggest to you that a network that wants to do a hit piece will take whatever I said, twist it, and decide to do with it what they want to because they get to edit it. I didn't get an offer from ABC to have an unedited sit-down. I didn't get an offer to show exactly what I said.

You know, lots of people thought that I did very well in the debate Monday night because I wasn't edited by the elite media. I wasn't censored. They didn't cut it up. They didn't contextualize it. I had no reason to believe that a network that was out to do a hit piece would be in any way fair with anything I said to them.

And I want to make a pact with the American people. I'm running for president in part to change the sick environment that we're currently in. And I want to suggest to the American people -- when you got 14 million people unemployed, when you have huge crises in the Middle East, when you have one out of four families in a house that is worth less than its mortgage, maybe the news media ought to slow down a little bit and pay attention to substance. I know it's a bold idea. Maybe I'm too much of an idealist...

VAN SUSTEREN: I know, but you know what?

GINGRICH: ... but I'm willing to try it out.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, here's free advice. If you want to beat the media at its own game -- if you want to answer this, instead of letting an article like this go out there and make all sorts of suggestions -- in fact, if you read through it, you would have thought that you were convicted in the 1990s for an ethics problem with the IRS when the IRS cleared you. You paid a $300,000 fine to the House, but the IRS cleared you. And you got to read deep into it.

But if you really want to -- if you really want to run for office, you need to -- you need to put an accountant and a lawyer who have handled all these charities and the transition to the campaign, put them in a room -- if you think you're going to be edited, put a camera on it, record it yourself so that you have back-up. But you got to face this head on.

GINGRICH: That's a good idea. And I'll tell you, I think Reverend Jim Garlow will be glad to come on the show and tell you he told them the facts. He gave them all the evidence. He went on camera. And they, frankly, didn't deal with the facts in an honest way.

But I'm going to try your idea next. And maybe we'll start running our parallel interview and we'll say, Great, glad to be interviewed. We're going to film the interview. You edit it the way you want to. We're going to put the raw interview up on YouTube, and we'll let people decide whether or not your network is being fair. That's a good idea, and we're going to follow it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. You going to give up or you going to keep forging on in the campaign?

GINGRICH: You know, my dad served for 27 years in the infantry. I ran for five years to win a congressional seat, lost twice. I spent 16 years helping create a majority. I believe this country is in deep, deep trouble. As a citizen, there's not a chance I give up because I believe my children and my grandchildren's future is really in deep trouble. Callista and I are dedicated to try and help this country have a better future.

And I don't think that any kind of distorted and dishonest and negative reporting is going to have any effect on us except to increase our determination to reach out to the American people. That's why at Newt.org, we have a whole range of opportunities for people to help, and that's why I'm going to continue developing books and writing about ideas like "A Nation Like No Other" because I actually think these things matter. And I think our country is faced with the biggest election since 1860. And we need people of courage, not people of timidity.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, thank you, sir.

GINGRICH: Thank you.