Newt Gingrich on McCain-New York Times Controversy

This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," February 22, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Now for the top story tonight. Let's bring in former Speaker of the House and current FOX News analyst Newt Gingrich, who is in Washington celebrating the big success of his brand-new book, "Real Change."

OK, Mr. Speaker, we were distressed — I think that's the best word — to see John McCain get hammered by The New York Times. And The New York Times so feebly explaining itself. Sloppy piece of journalism in my opinion. What say you?

NEWT GINGRICH: Oh, I think deliberate character assassination. I don't think it was sloppy. I think The New York Times is a hard-left publication desperate to defeat the Republicans. And I think that they're quite prepared to use their news pages in a way that you — when Dan Rather did this on CBS News, it ended his career. But the owner of The New York Times is a very, very left-wing person. And I think he's prepared to see the newspaper continue to decay as long as it reflects his ideology.

O'REILLY: Do you believe Senator McCain handled it correctly? Would you have done something differently?

GINGRICH: Look, I think Senator McCain understood that he has a lifetime record of being a person of great integrity. I think he knocked it down decisively and got rid of it. I actually think both — Senator Obama when he told the reporter they ought to be ashamed of themselves for asking about it showed a bit of class in terms of recognizing that people are sick and tired of smears and innuendos and the kind of gotcha news coverage that is so totally biased.

O'REILLY: All right. Now here's what Hillary Clinton said when she was asked about it. Let's roll the tape.


MEREDITH VIEIRA, CO-HOST, "TODAY" SHOW: One moment during the debate last night, you alluded to a very personal crisis in your own life involving infidelity. So I want to ask you your opinion of what Senator McCain is going through now.

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I'm not going to comment on that. You know, Senator McCain is a friend of mine. I respect his service to our country.

MEREDITH VIEIRA, CO-HOST, "TODAY" SHOW: So if you become the nominee, that will be off limits?

CLINTON: Well, I want to talk about what I'm going to do for the country. There are legitimate differences between me and Senator Obama, between me and Senator McCain. You know, I think most Americans want to know what are we going to do for you.


O'REILLY: Well, I don't think it's going to be off limits as far as the lobbyist is concerned. I think both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton when they, if they get the nominee, whoever it will be, will bring up the lobbyist stuff. They can't bring up the other stuff because it's so tawdry, and Americans are so angry.

GINGRICH: No, but who is that — how are they going to bring up the lobbyist when they both have all sorts of relationships with supporters and with organized groups? I mean, what's the allegation here?

She has said — the lobbyist has said John McCain never did anything for her. John McCain said he has never done anything for her. There's substantial evidence that, in fact, it was given to The New York Times that McCain explicitly refused to do things she asked him to do. They have written proof of it. And The New York Times refused to write the parts that made John McCain look good. It is a total one-sided left-wing hatchet job. And every person at The New York Times tonight ought to be ashamed for themselves for the lack of quality in that newspaper.

O'REILLY: Now there's one thing that I would do differently than John McCain. And I want to get your opinion on it. I believe that John McCain has to galvanize the Republicans and independents that would vote for him, as Barack Obama has galvanized the Democrats and independents with energy and with a passion. Now that's what I believe that McCain can't campaign the way he used to, can't be low key. He's got to infuse his campaign with energy.

There's no better way to do that than to take on The New York Times and the unfair liberal media, the NBC News people. There's no better way than to say, you see, this is what I mean. This is what's wrong here, that these people aren't being honest, they're not reporting the news. And we have to stop this. Make them the villain, and that will galvanize people around John McCain. Would that be a foolish strategy?

GINGRICH: It's not a foolish strategy. And I ran into several people yesterday who said they had sent money to John McCain, they were so angry at The New York Times. So in that sense, it may actually bounce back in his favor.

O'REILLY: But he didn't attack The Times. He just said he was disappointed.

GINGRICH: Well, but I think that's who John McCain is. Look, I think he has to be who he honestly is. The fact is, if you watched the debate last night, the Democrats offered him a number of targets that are vastly more important to the average American. Senator Clinton promised a massive tax increase. Both of them were opposed to English as the official language of government, which is the position of 87 percent of the American people. Senator Obama said some things about Afghanistan that I think are probably flatly untrue. There are a number of places where I think Senator McCain can pick deliberate and principled arguments that will matter to the average American that are a lot more important than attacking The New York Times.

O'REILLY: OK. So you say go after your opponent rather than the media, which a lot of people don't even care about. All right. I wanted to get your — because you know, I'm so angry with — and it's personal with me because I'm in the profession. You know, it'd be personal with you, too, if you saw corruption in politics when you were Speaker of the House.

I am so disgusted with American journalism right now in this country. It is so corrupt. It is so massively corrupt, and such a violation of the privileges the founding fathers have given us in the media, I can't tell you how sick to my stomach I am. So I'm probably clouded by that.

Now I see Hillary Clinton losing both states next Tuesday. If she wins in Ohio, it'd be razor thin. And that, I think, is it for her. What do you think?

GINGRICH: Well, I think mathematically, she's got bigger and bigger problems. I thought she was extraordinarily good in her closing statement last night and very sincere and very personal. But I thought overall, she did not knock Senator Obama out. He's a very impressive performer. And as the poll indicated this evening, he's now catching up with her in Texas, where she thought she had a lock.

You know, when you tune in and you see 19,000 people in Houston, 20,000 people in Dallas, there's phenomena underway out there that makes Senator Obama different than almost any politician since Ronald Reagan. And I think that she's having a very hard time coping with that reality.

O'REILLY: OK. And I agree with you because the phenomenon is that some Americans feel that they've never been represented by the white guys of privilege who have been president. Now I wouldn't call President Clinton that. He wasn't — certainly not a guy of privilege.

And then they see a guy who they believe is going to be more concerned with them than politics as usual. And that's what your book is about. And I think that's why your book is a huge best seller for you, because you do say we have to get away from what we've had for the last 30 years in this country, right?

GINGRICH: Yes. I think that's the biggest challenge for Senator McCain. I wrote "Real Change" to outline the scale of change I think we really need. And I think that if you look at it step by step, we have a platform with the American people in there that has absolute support by Democrats, Republicans and independents. And the objective fact is the average American is not happy with where they are. They want a different energy strategy, a different education strategy, a different health strategy, and that would require real change.

O'REILLY: All right. Mr. Speaker, as always, thank you.

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