Gingrich expands debate threat
January 31st, 2012
02:47 PM ET
6 years ago

Gingrich expands debate threat

(CNN) – For much of the election cycle, Newt Gingrich has been challenging President Barack Obama to Lincoln-Douglas style debates, modeled after the long philosophical discussions between Abraham Lincoln and his opponent Stephen Douglas in 1858.

The Republican White House hopeful took his proposal a step further on Monday, saying he would not accept a debate moderated by reporters should he win the nomination and campaign against Obama in the fall.

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"The reporters who run the debates have no interest in asking any question which will affect Obama," Gingrich said at a Pensacola rally ahead of Florida's critical primary. "We don't need to have a second Obama person at the debate."

Gingrich has repeatedly called for a series of the three-hour, moderator-free debates with Obama, threatening to follow the president on the campaign trail during the general election until he agrees to the debates.

Gingrich has not shied away, however, from attending any of the journalist-moderated primary debates so far. And there are more coming, with CNN hosting a debate in Arizona on February 22.

The former House speaker has been vocal about his distrust of journalists, most notably making headlines after lambasting the news media at a South Carolina debate on the heels of an ABC News interview with his ex-wife.

At the time the interview aired, polling in the Palmetto State showed Gingrich had closed the gap on rival Mitt Romney with support growing for the former speaker's candidacy.

When asked during CNN's South Carolina debate if he wanted to address the controversy, Gingrich pivoted off of it to criticize the media, a topic that always plays well with conservative primary voters.

Describing the debates as a "game show approach," Gingrich said in a Fox News interview Monday that reporters should not have the authority to "decide what question matters."

"They get to decide what topic to bring up," Gingrich said. "I think that's absurdity."

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced last fall the dates and locations for four general election debates in October. The schedule includes three presidential debates and one for the vice presidential nominees.

According to the commission, debate moderators will not be selected until the summer. In the last election cycle, the moderator list included high-profile journalists, including Jim Lehrer and Gwen Ifill of PBS's "NewsHour," Tom Brokaw of NBC News, and Bob Schieffer of CBS News.

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Filed under: 2012 • Florida • Newt Gingrich
soundoff (63 Responses)
  1. The Real Tom Paine

    How about a dual on the moon using lasers?

    January 31, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  2. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    At first, the GOP historian challenged Obama to as many debates as Lincoln and Douglas had in the presidential election of 1860, but then he found out there weren't any. I think Newt, if he wins the nomination, should demand that there be no debates because he gets in trouble when he has to think on his feet.

    January 31, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  3. CBR

    His position is curious considering that the League of Women Voters have run presidential debates for the last few presidential elections. I am not sure that he can dictate how the debates will be run . The Republican debates have been too many, too free swinging and dominated by one or two candidates. WE need to hear from all the candidates and the moderators did not make sure this happened.

    Should he be the candidate he just might have to change his stance. Absolutes never seem to be a winning strategy.

    January 31, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  4. dcmisty

    Okay, does that mean Newt will drop out of the remaining debates??? Or is he the typical Repub..."my way or the highway"! Apparently he hasn't gotten the message from the voters that they are fed up with that kind of ultimatum. OR is it Newt fears being made to look like the egotistical little man that he is!

    January 31, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  5. wilson james

    Doesn't matter. Newt is not going to be in the debates. And furthermore: Who should decide what the questions are? The parties? The candidates? The media are uniquely qualified to know what readers and listeners are talking about and concerned about. The adversarial nature of politicians and press is a cornerstone of democracy. Conservatives don't like ithe media because they question candidates and remind voters.

    January 31, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  6. Thomas

    "They get to decide what topic to bring up," Gingrich said. "I think that's absurdity." LOL. Look up "absurdity" in the dictionary and there's a photo of Newt.

    January 31, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |

    It doesn't matter what style of debate you want newt, because you are not going to win the nomination, not now, not ever. This guy is so full of himself it's sickening and on top of everything else he's a first class idiot without any class.

    January 31, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  8. teena

    Not another "MY way or the Highway republican"! Just go home Newt, take your toys out of the sanbox, and play by yourself.

    January 31, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  9. yogi

    Gingrich is so full of himself, mostly hot air, he won't be in the position to debate Obama, he would be no match in any way to the real intelligence and insights of Obama. When Gingrich talks it is always with such pompous and in such a grandiose way, it almost seems he is very intelligent, but he is just trying to be the intellectual he is not, neither the historian. What a waste of time this man is. And what is up with the plastic doll at his side all the time, the only expression you see once in a while on the face is because of the batteries inside, wow what emptiness...

    January 31, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  10. Uthor

    Gingrich won't need to worry about this.

    January 31, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  11. yogi

    I forgot.... four more years of vision, integrity, dignity, and insight:
    Obama 2012

    January 31, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  12. big bubba tadsworth

    For a guy that's about to get blown away in Florida, Gingrich is making a lot of demands. It doesn't matter what he wants, he will never get the nomination.

    January 31, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  13. Willie K.

    I don't think old Newt is going to be following anybody around after today. Unless his casino buddy has a lot more dollars than sense and is willing to keep throwing his money away on a loser.

    January 31, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  14. Lee

    Geeze Newt. When more people click on a story in the media about your ex-wives rather than clicking on the link to your website, dosen't that tell you what the people want to know about? How can you blame a reporter for asking the questions that most people want to know about? If you want to represent the United States of America, you are going to have to answer to everyone, not just those you feel like answering too.

    January 31, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  15. JohnW

    If these debates happen, I hope Obama brings his hip waders and a shovel...

    January 31, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  16. Calgary Canuck

    It amazes me that the myth of liberal media bias exists in the United States (except that its a convenient whipping boy for the right). The so-called liberal media was completely compliant and unquestioning during the build up to Dubya's Iraq fiasco. It is also amazing how many Americans seem to have forgotten how Gingrich tried to have Clinton impeached for having an affair, whilst he was doing the same thing. It's sad that someone like that should have so much support.

    January 31, 2012 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  17. BR

    The poor GOP.. the media are all out to get them... Fox news too?

    January 31, 2012 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  18. big bubba tadsworth

    Gingrich has become, unhinged. For a guy who's not go get the nomination, he's awfully demanding.

    January 31, 2012 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  19. jaywing

    Gezzz... I'd like to comment but, really, Newt is so disconnected from reality, on so many levels, that it's hard to find a place to start. I suppose the moon craziness might be a good starting point, but then we'd need to send Newt there to answer the questions in some meaningful way. And of course, his "pants would be on fire" (as in FactCheck) as he was speaking.... in a vacuum (and that is hard to do).

    January 31, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  20. Matt


    What is really absurd is a losing presidential candidate who expects to colonize the moon and establish a 51st, challenging a current President who is concerned about issues affecting the 50 stats, to a debate.

    How weirder and more absurd can a presidential candidate get?

    Newt is a real weirdo...isn't he? What other proof do we need anyway?

    January 31, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  21. Matt


    What is really absurd is a losing presidential candidate who expects to colonize the moon and establish a 51st state, challenging a current President who is concerned about issues affecting the already 50 states, to a debate.

    How weirder and more absurd can a presidential candidate get?

    Newt is a real weirdo...isn't he? What other proof do we need anyway?

    January 31, 2012 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  22. kenny

    Gingrich is one of those people that has to control everything and it must be the way he wants it to be least he will not attend. Like who cares if he doesn't attend. I can see him as POTUS about to meet the President of Russia and he conveys to the Russians that he has these conditions that must be met. It's about like Sarah Palin getting the questions in advance when she did FOX NEWS Interviews. They can't shoot from the hip without either shooting themselves in the foot or shooting blanks.

    January 31, 2012 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  23. simp

    No worries big head newt, you won't be debating anything with President Obama because you won't make it to the general election. You are so arrogant and ignorant. Maybe that endorsement by the other womaniizer herman cain has you all confused, you lost the women vote with that endorsement loser.

    January 31, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  24. Scott O' Canada

    Dear Newt,
    You sir, are absolutely right. Why should you be made to stand up in front of millions of people and have to answer the hard questions, especially when those "lamestream" media types are asling questions about such irrelevent things as character, morals and leadership. You should demand that you frame the questions so you'll more easily have an opportunity to answer them. Never let you opponent, or an independent media, define who you are. Makes sense if you don't think about it. Unfortunately, it looks as though this will probably be something you'll never have to worry about anyway.

    January 31, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  25. Ken in MD

    Ah yes, the mythical "liberal media". Newt only wants to ask questions put forward by Fox News, so he knows his interests are at the forefront. No real media allowed. They might ask a hard question. Of course he would just blame them for asking and dodge the question anyway, like he's done in all the previous debates.

    January 31, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
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