(CNN) – Michele Bachmann continued her line against fellow GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich as the most “liberal” candidate on Saturday, releasing a Gingrich-signed letter that she said indicates his support of amnesty for 11 million illegal workers.
The letter, co-signed by Gingrich and 14 other conservatives and published in the Wall Street Journal in 2004, offered support for President George W. Bush’s proposal at the time for a guest-worker program.
“The president has shown courage by calling on Congress to place reality over rhetoric and recognize that those already working here outside the law are unlikely to leave,” the letter states. “Congress can fulfill its role by establishing sufficient increases in legal immigration and paths to permanent residence to enable more workers to stay, assimilate, and become part of America.”
But Bachmann’s campaign equated those words as proof that Gingrich “has a deep history of supporting amnesty” and that he’s “the most liberal candidate on immigration.”
“I don’t agree that you should make 11 million workers legal here because that in effect is amnesty and will only encourage more illegal immigrants to come here,” the Minnesota congresswoman said in a statement.
The attack follows a week of hard-hitting blows from the right against Gingrich over comments he made Tuesday in the CNN Republican National Security Debate, in which he supported a pathway to legal status for certain illegal immigrants who’ve lived in the country for decades.
Several of his onstage opponents quickly rebutted his remarks. In the following days, candidates repeatedly called Gingrich an advocate for amnesty in the media. Bachmann first labeled him the most “liberal” candidate on illegal immigration in an interview with “PBS NewsHour” on Wednesday.
Gingrich fought back Friday night at a campaign stop in Florida, forcefully countering the criticism: “I am not for amnesty for 11 million people. I'm actually not for amnesty for anyone. I'm not for a path to citizenship for any people who are up here illegally.”
But he stood by his remarks from the debate, saying he would back a system that gives "legality" to illegal immigrants already deeply assimilated in society.
Responding to Bachmann’s statement on Saturday, Gingrich’s campaign told CNN that her latest attack was “sad.”
"Two things are going on: Either the congresswoman is intentionally lying to people or she does not understand immigration reform,” said Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond. “Either way it is sad to see from a presidential candidate."
The former House speaker finds himself in the center of controversy after rising to the top tier of the GOP presidential field in recent weeks. He now stands at the top or is virtually tied with Romney in national polls.
- CNN's Steve Brusk contributed to this report.