Can Gingrich take the Palmetto State?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," January 20, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST OF "HANNITY": And tomorrow, voters in South Carolina will head to the polls for the first in the South Carolina primary and ahead of that critical vote, the final four GOP contenders, they went head-to-head last night in a debate that aired on CNN. And in typical fashion, the left wing network decided to open up the debate by targeting the man who currently leads in the polls in the Palmetto State, that's former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Watch this.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: As you know, your ex-wife gave an interview to ABC News and another interview to the Washington Post and this story has now gone viral on the internet. In if she says that you came to her in 1999 at a time when you were having an affair, she said you asked her, sir, to enter into an open marriage. Would you like to take some time to respond to that?



I think -- I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office, and I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.


Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine. My two daughters -- my two daughters wrote the head of ABC and made the point that it was wrong, that they should pull it, and I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate.


KING: As you noted, Mr. Speaker, this story did not come from our network. As you also know, it is a subject of conversation in the campaign. I get your point; I take your point --

GINGRICH: John. John, it was repeated by your network. You chose to start the debate with it. Don't try to blame somebody else. You and your staff chose to start this debate with it.


HANNITY: Now, we'd show you the rest of that standing ovation, but unfortunately this is only an hour-long show.

And joining us now tonight from South Carolina with a preview of tomorrow's big primary day is presidential candidate, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Mr. Speaker, welcome back, sir.

GINGRICH: Good to be with you. We are very excited. As you can see, we have the aircraft carrier Yorktown behind me. So, tonight General Livingston of Congressional Medal of Honor winner is going to introduce me out of veterans rally here at the Yorktown in Charleston.

HANNITY: You know Frank Luntz in the debate Monday night when I was in South Carolina said that that was the first time that there had been a candidate that got a standing ovation. You guys have had what? Sixteen, 17 debates now up to this point. This was an extended standing ovation.

Here's my take, is that people now have identified left wing, biased reporting, the media’s abusive, they have an agenda, they gave Barack Obama a pass, and now they’ve identified it, and when called out on it, you see the reaction. And I wonder if the term John King is going to now become a part of a lexicon at some point? Your reaction.

GINGRICH: Well, look, I think that there’s a deep sense, because we had the same thing happened Monday night, and we've had it in I think two or three other debates, people are just fed up with liberal elitists in the media telling us what we need to think and how we need to behave and what words we’re allowed to use.

And I have found that if you stand up for core American values and you stand up for basic decency and you are prepared to not flinch and not back down, that the American people are delighted to have a leader with the guts to take them head on.

And frankly, if we’re going to change Washington, this is the tip of the iceberg. I mean, there are judges, there are bureaucrats, there are laws, there are members of Congress, this is going to be a running challenge to the old order and the old establishment. And much of it will be like that interaction with John King.

HANNITY: You know it's very interesting to me because I'm watching all the candidates are being attacked. You know, for example, when the media talks about the fact that Mitt Romney has a blind trust, he has bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, what's the implication, that he may be trying to dodge his taxes, he's putting his money where we hear that drug dealers put their money, or the fact that they’ve questioned the decision of Rick Santorum after he sadly lost a child. They questioned his decision on how to handle a very personal, serious family matter, or they’ve interviewed in the press former boyfriends of Senator Santorum's wife.

In your case, this is a what, a 13, 14-year-old issue and this is how they start the debate when the country is $16 trillion in debt, ostensibly 20 million people are underemployed or unemployed. And I guess that's -- do you think that's part of the reason for the reaction last night?

GINGRICH: Yes, I think so. I think there are two parts. One is that people instinctively understand that we have very, very real problems. And so, they would really like to have the news media focus on the real challenges. How do we create jobs? How do we balance the budget? What do we do about the Middle East? I mean, these are huge. And they watch them get junk involved. I mean, the other week we had a debate where one of the questioners went off for 15 minutes on a 1963 contraception law, and everybody is, you know, scratching their head going what is this about? What’s the hidden agenda for this? I picked it up in 2007 and 2008 when I thought that the media was deliberately trying to minimize the Republican campaign and the Republican candidates to the advantage of Barack Obama. And I think we have a lot of that still today.

HANNITY: You know, it's fascinating though, when you make a comparison, and we go back to 2007 and 2008, and, you know, I remember, I spoke to you at the time. I took a lot of heat for bringing up controversial issues.

The president of the United States admitted in his own book of having used cocaine. The media never asked him about it. He hung out with an unrepentant terrorist, started his political career in his house, sat on boards, went to meetings with him, went to Jeremiah Wright's church. The media for the most part, one question on Bill Ayers, I don't remember any questions on past drug use. What do you see in this? Is there a huge double standard in the media --?


HANNITY: -- as it relates to the way conservatives are treated? Go ahead.

GINGRICH: Look, there's an enormous double standard because the elite media, in particular, led by the New York Times, is just unendingly left-wing. I've recently been talking about food stamps. I ended up on a show the other morning where the questioner said, isn't it racist to use the term food stamps in South Carolina? And I stopped, and I said, you know, I started talking about Barack Obama as the best food stamp president in August of 2010.

I’ve discussed it in Iowa, in New Hampshire; I've used the phrase all over the country. But they have this automatic mind-set that they want to define us in ways that will make us unacceptable and they just can't help themselves. And what I discovered is the American public now instinctively sides with the conservative against the liberal media.

HANNITY: But, you know, it's amazing -- but the numbers speak for themselves. You know, we've got $5 trillion in brand new Obama debt in this country after three years. If you go back to July of 2008, then candidate Obama said that George Bush was irresponsible and unpatriotic because in eight years, he accumulated $8 trillion in debt, Mr. Speaker. So, I'm looking at this as 12 million more Americans now dependent on food stamps. So, if you say that, where is the racial component here? I'm trying to understand or because if you look at the --

GINGRICH: Look, the racism is all in the mind of the liberal. The liberal can't defend their policies. They can't defend their institutions. They can't explain schools that failed poor children, they can't explain neighbors that are un-policed, they can't explain entire areas with no jobs. So, obviously rather than defend their failures they attack us and they say, oh, you wouldn't be saying that if you weren't a racist.

We have to have the courage to make fun of them, to go straight at them, to tell the truth, stick with the facts. And I think that frankly, we’re winning the argument in the country at large and people in the country overall have been increasingly realize how shrill and how fundamentally dishonest the left wing media is.

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