(CNN) – Mitt Romney's campaign reacted sharply Tuesday to rival Newt Gingrich's reprimand of debate moderators who disallow audience participation.
"It sounds like Newt Gingrich is running for pouter-in-chief," Romney strategist Eric Fehrnstrom said. He added a piece of historical context, noting the 2008 Commission on Presidential Debates, which organizes and regulates debates between the two general election candidates, prohibited audience participation.
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"Is Newt saying he won't debate Barack Obama in a general election? That would be disastrous for our party," Fehrnstrom said.
Earlier Tuesday, Gingrich said he would protest if debate moderators require audiences to be silent. On Monday, Gingrich participated in an NBC News debate with the three other candidates in which the audience was nearly silent.
"I wish, in retrospect, I'd protested when Brian Williams took them out of the debate. It's wrong," Gingrich said on Fox News.
At the CNN Southern Republican Debate ahead of the South Carolina primary, many of Gingrich's responses drew long applause lines from the audience of Republicans. Other candidates also produced reaction from the audience, both positive and negative.
Gingrich said on Fox Tuesday the silent NBC debate was a reflection of the organizers' bias.
"I think he took them out because the media's terrified that the audience is going to side with the candidates against the debate," Gingrich said. "It's happened in every debate. We're going to serve notice on future debates that we're just not going to allow that to happen. That's wrong. The media doesn't control free speech, people ought to be allowed to applaud if they want it. It's almost silly."
CNN's Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this report.
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Me, I love deafening silence after a point is made....allows it to reverberate around the room and among the audience, so there is silence and time to actually digest what was said.......
Newt, if you can't debate effectively without an audience cheering you on, how are you going to debate Obama when the audience is taken out of the equation? Newt clearly showed he is an average or even below average debater when the cheap applause lines are not a factor. We need a thoughtful discussion of the issues and the differences between candidates without the rabble-rousing demagoguery.
If the candidates wish to have audience they need to convey that to the debate organizers. If the debate is run by a moderator and no provisions will be made for audience participation then the candidates who want audience participation should refuse the invitation. Newt cannot reprimand the moderator during the debate.
Cheering, etc, does break up the flow of the debate. It also gives the impression that the audience is for or against a candidate. Given the small number of people who can attend that does impact the fairness of the audience.
Come on Newt, find a real issue that is important to the American people like jobs or health care.
Tit for tat. Congress should be silenced tonight when Obama speaks. Crowds should be silenced when he gives speeches. IT IS THE *SAME* THING. Obama followers want to cheer him on, we want to cheer Newt on. The Lame Stream Media can't have it both ways and silencing audiences IS, most definitely, an infringement on free speech.
If you can't rally yourself without the aid of an audience, then how can you function. If Gingrich needs outside gradification, then there are going to be serious problems. I think he just likes the spot light and will be in trouble like when he paused in last night's debate. It was almost Perry like.
Cant believe that Newt even made it an issue. In previous elections, haven't the debate audiences asked to hold applause until the end? I found the debates where the cheering or booing going on distracting because the noise covered up some of the participants' answers. It's rather like graduation audiences being asked to hold applause until the end but too often break out cheering for someone and then you cant hear the next graduate's name being read. Really rather rude.
@Russ. A campaign debate is not a campaign rally. If the candidate doesn't like the rules, then they do not have to participate in the debate. Do they? It's as simple as that.
I agree with Newt if you are for the first amendment then you should allow clapping. I love this the establishment is scared and so are the liberals. Go Newt!
These events really are not debates. The sponsors can set the rules. Don't like the rules – don't play. Maybe people should listen to the answer and reflect on the entire performance before being allowed to applaud? gingRICH didn't like what happened because things didn't go quite as he planned.
@Texas rules: Defining your own set of debate rules is also freedom of speech. If you do not like the terms, then you do not have to participate. No one is compelling anyone to participate. You always have the freedom to choose.
@Rudy NYC: The "silent audience" rules have NEVER been enforced, this season nor any other. The LSM is enforcing it now because Newt ripped John King a new fourth point of contact last Thursday night. I was in Iraq on my second tour when the 2008 campaign was active, and therefore a bit busy on the other side of the planet. Whatever debates there were, for either party, I doubt this "shut up" rule was enforced. I'm sure it wasn't enforced for Obama... silencing applause for a black man. The horror. So now, it's a different ball game. It just shows how you CNN liberals can't stand it when a Republican has people who like him enough to applaud and cheer. Whomever gets the Republican nomination, Rudy NYC, I'll bet you a pizza from your favorite NYC pizza joint that Obama's "debate followers" won't be silenced... certainly, their "silence" warning won't be ENFORCED. I'm good with PapaJohn's; you probably have more particular taste.
Perhaps at some point Republicans will get down to the basics of what their party platform actually stands for? All this back and forth between what's really important to Republicans is fascinating. Pouting; debate audience applause; whose terrifying the media most. Great priorities, guys. Seriously.
The GOP audience cheers putting people to death, boo's gays in the military and shouts in excitement of an uninsured person being left to die. Why would anyone want them to exemplify their party? Oh, I know, because their the GOP and this exemplifies their party so called moral high ground.
@Anonymous: Speaking only for myself, I fail to see how my not mentioning what matters to me (Second Amendment, abortion, subsidies, bla bla bla) has any bearing on audiences being silenced. I'm sure liberals have a good idea what matters to them... I'm equally sure they have their own important-to-them complaints about debate formats. For the purpose of these comment exchanges, I'm currently concerned about the audience being told they can't practice a commonly-accepted form of free speech, applauding and cheering. If you want to take off on a tangent, that's fine, but
basics of [the] party platform" weren't the point of this CNN piece. My priorities are intact and doing well, thank you, and I'll vote accordingly come November... and during my state's primary as well.
Here is one example of the 2008 debates. “No cheers, no applause, no noise of any kind,” as Jim Lehrer reminded them in 2008".
There are other such headlines you can google for yourself.
Newt never answers a challange. He is arrogant and thinks he is above answering questions regarding his past!! That won't fly Newt. People have already caught on to your tricks. Don't answer the question, but question the moderator motives. You are an idiot. Your time has come and gone. You had your chance in the 90's but unfortunatley, you had to resign in shame....see ya.
Obviously Newt isn't all that confident in his debating "skills". What's up Newt? Can't get that mojo working if you don't have your posse cheering on your every word? Newt said, "I wish, in retrospect, I'd protested when Brian Williams took them out of the debate. It's wrong." Wrong for who? DId anyone else complain? No. You sounded like a teenager who couldn't have his way. Without your "hecklers" stroking your ego, you had to be quicker with your responses and didn't have time to think of clever one liners to some of the charges the Mittster had for you. On one occasion your lag time with a reply was so deafening, it made me think of Mr. "Oops" Rick Perry. You couldn't hide behind the audience in this debate and it showed us the REAL Newt.