OTR Interviews

Gingrich: Attacks on Romney's Bain Capital record not about free enterprise, but about character, values and judgment

Gingrich defends group's attack film on Romney, attacks GOP presidential front-runner's claims of being a job creator


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 11, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Right now, and first of all, we're going to -- the fight , of course, gets fierce, almost blood on the floor in South Carolina. Even the voters are getting in on the campaign strategy. One voter confronted former speaker Newt Gingrich about his attack on Governor Mitt Romney's business record.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you missed the target on the way you're addressing Romney's weaknesses. And 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 and would like you to...

NEWT GINGRICH, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I agree with you. I agree with you.


GINGRICH: I think that it's -- it's an impossible theme to talk about in the back -- with Obama in the background, that 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, which I -- as a Reagan Republican, it frankly never occurred to me until it happened. So I agree with you entirely.


VAN SUSTEREN: So did former Speaker Gingrich just admit he was wrong? Well, we spoke with him a short time ago.


VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, nice to see you, sir.

GINGRICH: Hello, Greta. It's great to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Mr. Speaker, I'm going to sort of sort out this latest sort of kerfuffle about the political headline, which seems to indicate that you thought you'd crossed the line in the attack on Governor Romney and Bain, the -- where he -- the venture capital firm that he worked with or was a partner at. And then I see a statement by your representative which said that you -- that basically, the headline is misleading, that you are not backing down on the aggressive attack on Bain Capital. So where are we on this?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I'm not attacking Bain Capital, I'm questioning Mitt Romney's judgment. I'm questioning Mitt Romney's decisions. He's the person who has gone around now saying that his business career is one of his two credentials. The other is his governorship.

He doesn't want to talk about his record as governor because it's too liberal for a Republican primary, and he doesn't want anyone to talk about his business career. The Washington Post today gave him three Pinocchios for his claim that he created 100,000 jobs.

I've raised the question, which I think is a totally legitimate question, what about some companies that Bain took over that went bankrupt. And all I've said is, you know, this isn't about free enterprise. I mean, this is one of those phony efforts to throw up a smokescreen. This isn't about capitalism. This isn't even about private equity funds. This is about one person who wants to be president of the United States.

He owes the country an explanation. Why were certain decisions made? How were they done? What was the consequence of them? Does he stand by them in retrospect? Now, surely, if he's going to go around running for president saying his 25-year business record is proof, he ought to be willing to discuss the 25-year business record instead of suddenly jumping up and saying any question's a sign you're attacking free enterprise. That's baloney.

I have a very long record as a Reagan conservative. I have consistently worked to make sure we had more enterprise, not less, more jobs, not less, more entrepreneurs, not less. And in fact, I would say that Mitt Romney did pretty well under the tax laws that I helped Ronald Reagan pass in the 1980s.

So he ought to be happy with my role in expanding free enterprise and my role in the 1990s as Speaker in cutting the capital gains tax. The largest tax cut in capital gains in American history came while I was speaker. So this is not about free enterprise...


GINGRICH: ... this is about one person...


GINGRICH: ... Mitt Romney, and what he did.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, so what I understand from what you said is that you're not anti-venture capitalism, that you are pro-capitalism. So let me ask you the other question. At what point, though, is it sort of fair to sort of clamp down on venture capitalism? Is there a point where there is abuse, that it's not just sort of open -- you know, open season for venture capitalists to do whatever they want?

GINGRICH: Well, I think there's always some boundaries of free market behavior that you watch and you check. So like we do with insider trading, where we say, Hey, that's breaking the rules. There may well be circumstances -- the question here is, various newspapers have reported and an entire documentary has been made about three or four cases that are very specific.

Now, I think if Governor Romney thinks there's nothing there, he ought to just hold a press conference, walk the news media through it, explain how it was done, let people see it. But I find it strange that they are so sensitive on this issue that they've sort of pushed the panic button.

But understand me. This is not about free enterprise. This is about the character, values and judgment of a particular person who is running for president of the United States. And it strikes me, just as with his record as governor, where his record's very different from his advertising, he owes the country some candor and he owes the country some facts. That's all I'm saying.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, there was a super-PAC that ran lots of ads against you in Iowa, really took a run at you. Now there's a super-PAC that are supporters of you in South Carolina that are taking a run a the Governor Romney. It seems -- and this is a -- I mean, I underline "seems" -- it seems like a lot of -- a lot of your critics think it's OK what happened to you with super-PACs in Iowa, but think you're going too far.

Do you have an explanation why some conservatives like -- all right, go ahead.

GINGRICH: Look, I think the establishment wants Mitt Romney to be their candidate. I think the establishment thought it was terrific when there was -- and somebody said, I think it was Rush today who said that the -- 90 percent of all the negative ads run last week were run against me in the whole, out of the whole ticket, 90 percent. Forty-five percent of all the ads run in Iowa were negative ads attacking me. Romney already has attack ads up in Florida attacking me.

So you know, it seemed to be just fine to the establishment when I was the guy getting beaten up because, after all, I'm the outsider. I'm the change agent. I'm the guy who wants to break up their game. Now, all of a sudden, when it's their candidate, oh, that's a bad thing to do.

I think it's actually kind of funny to watch the very same people who were happy a week ago now suddenly shocked that it's a two-way street. As you know, Greta, because we talked about it, I spent three weeks getting attacked and doing nothing. For three weeks, I said, I'm going to stay positive and I called on Governor Romney to cut this stuff out. And for three weeks, he came back with sort of smart-alec comments about having broad shoulders and taking the heat and all that stuff.

All right, now we're in South Carolina, which is my country. This is where, as a Georgia conservatives, I have a pretty good idea how to campaign. And we're going to make it a clear race, a Reagan conservative from Georgia or a moderate from Massachusetts. And I think that the state that produced Mike Dukakis and John Kerry is not going to send a very strong candidate into South Carolina.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I can understand you wanting to come back with ads, since you got hit so hard in Iowa. But have you boxed yourself in by saying in Iowa that you weren't going to do it and that you were going to take sort of the high road, and now not you directly, but a super- PAC associated with you is taking a strike at Romney? I mean, how do you explain that

GINGRICH: Well, let me strike a blow for candor. At the end of the Iowa campaign, Callista and I spent a full day talking about this. Given the fact that Governor Romney is prepared to spend millions and millions and millions of dollars in attack ads, I either get out of the race and unilaterally disarm, or I have to find a way to draw his record and to lay out his liberalism on issues like abortion, gun control, raising taxes.

I mean, these are all issues which when the voters of South Carolina understand them, he's going to get remarkably few votes down here because he's not pro-life. He, in fact, wrote Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in American, into "RomneyCare." He has tax-paid abortion in "RomneyCare. His administration approved building an abortion clinic for Planned Parenthood. He appointed pro-abortion judges. These things all happen after he claimed he was pro-life.

So you take that -- take -- there's a site called Romneytaxes.com...

VAN SUSTEREN: So I guess it's fair...

GINGRICH: ... look at it...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... to say you are going to fight back. I guess that - - I mean, from the candor and the conversation with...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... you're going to fight back.

GINGRICH: We're going to fight back. And my only point is I'm out in the open about it. I tried to do it the other way. I like the other way better. I'd rather go back to being all positive. That would mean getting out of the race. I'm not getting out of the race. I'm not going to yield to some guy who's a moderate who can't possibly articulate conservatism.

I'm going to fight for the nomination because I think I can beat Barack Obama in the debates, and I think I can defeat Barack Obama by offering a straight Reagan conservative model that the country's going to really want.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, thank you, sir. And I hope you'll come back soon...

GINGRICH: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... because this could be...

GINGRICH: I'll be back.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... a long and interesting race. Thank you, sir.