[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/09/art.gingrich.srlc2.cnn.jpg caption="Newt Gingrich is emerging as one of Michael Steele's most vocal defenders."]New Orleans (CNN) – As Michael Steele faces continued questions about his leadership of the Republican National Committee, Newt Gingrich is emerging as one of his most vocal defenders.
The former House speaker - who has had a friendly relationship with Steele for years and even penned the introduction to Steele's book - told Republicans to lay off the chairman earlier this week, urging them to focus instead on defeating Democrats in November.
Gingrich continued to stand up for the embattled party chairman on Thursday in New Orleans, where he was set to speak to the opening session of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.
In an interview with CNN, Gingrich was asked if Republican donors were right to have questioned Steele's financial stewardship.
In nine of the 14 months Steele has led the RNC, the committee has spent more than it has raised. That's on top of the recent scandal involving an expenditure at a sex-themed Hollywood nightclub.
"That's just so factually false. I'm amazed that a serious reporter could ask it," Gingrich responded.
Gingrich said questions about Steele's fiscal record were "false," because the RNC had its best fundraising month in recent memory in March, banking $11.4 million.
"They have raised over $100 million. They have $11 million in the bank with zero debt," he said. "Here's a guy who helped win New Jersey, helped win Massachusetts, helped win Virginia. They have had the biggest fundraising month in their history, and you're raising fundraising questions?"
Pressed again on the committee's spending habits - they kept just $2 million of that March fundraising total - Gingrich blamed the "elite media" for keeping the pressure on Steele.
"Go ask the DNC to release all their records, go ask the DNC to be accountable, go ask the DNC to where they spend their money," he said. (The DNC has released all their records: Both party committees publicly file their financial records every month, as is legally required.)
"I think it's better for Republicans to be unified and to focus on Pelosi, Reid and Obama rather than allow ourselves to be split by what I think are largely fundamentally inaccurate reports," Gingrich said.