Barbour: Media sound bites make Gingrich seem like 'a jerk'
May 19th, 2011
10:18 PM ET
12 years ago

Barbour: Media sound bites make Gingrich seem like 'a jerk'

Washington (CNN) - Now that he's officially out of the race for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is candidly sharing his thoughts on the field of potential candidates.

During an interview with CNN Chief National Correspondent John King Thursday, Barbour said that announced candidate Newt Gingrich was "thoughtful and smart" but appeared to be a "jerk" in the press.

When questioned about his thoughts on Gingrich, whom he considers a friend, Barbour admitted that he, too, has had regrettable moments in the public eye.

"I've said stuff in my career that I wish I could take back," he said on CNN's "John King, USA."

But according to Barbour, when it comes to perception, it isn't all Gingrich's fault.

"When you're running for president you can't take anything back, and that's just the way it is ... there are people in politics that the press treats more favorably than others ... Newt's not one of those," he said.

"What the press chooses to cover and how they cover it is for some candidates better - and they get put under the filter. And (others) get the spotlight put on them hard as they can. Newt has always suffered from that."

The spotlight has been particularly bright on Gingrich since his appearance Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," in which he called the Medicare provision in the House GOP budget plan proposed by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan a "radical change."

"What you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options, not one where you suddenly impose it," Gingrich said on the show. "I am against Obamacare imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change."

Gingrich has spent the last several days walking back the comment, and on Tuesday spoke on the phone with Ryan in an effort to mend fences. A spokesman for Ryan said the congressman "accepted former Speaker Gingrich's apology."

Gingrich told CNN earlier this week: "Let me just say I think Paul Ryan did a great job overall but I think the Medicare part needs to go through a public process, discussion, and improvement and modification and I think it can. I think he has the beginning of what could be an extraordinary plan."

The bottom line on Gingrich's rocky ride with the media is no mystery, as far as Barbour is concerned.

The "liberal media elite" are certainly "just beating Newt over the head," he said.

Barbour recalled the impression the former speaker of the House made on colleagues when he was chairman of the Republican National Committee.

"If you heard make a 45-minute speech, even moderately liberal people would say, 'Man he is thoughtful and smart!' But the sound bites made people think, 'What a jerk!'"

Barbour also finds solid GOP nominees in two potential candidates who have not yet announced.

Of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who has said that he "won't take much longer" on deciding whether he'll seek the GOP nomination, Barbour repeated his recent words of praise: "Mitch is a smart guy, I think he would make a good president," he affirmed.

"I told him when I was thinking about running that even if I ran, he ought to run. That it's good for the field, to have many good candidates."

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who recently resigned from his post as U.S. ambassador to China and has been criticized by some who believe he is too moderate, also has Barbour's approval.

Declaring there's "no question" Huntsman is a conservative, Barbour conceded that they don't agree on some issues, but, "he was in the Reagan administration," and "elected and re-elected" governor of a "very conservative state."

"So if you ask me is Jon Huntsman qualified to be the Republican nominee for president of the United States, the answer is of course he is," Barbour said.

soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Sgt Schultz

    Fact matter. Quit the bait and switch by blaming the media. Newt meant what he said about Ryan's plan being radical and said what he meant. Just because the Republican Establishment doesn't like what Newt said, doesn't make him a jerk. It is the oppressive right-wing social engineering, corporatist, sell-out to Big$ lobbyist vultures that makes Republicans look like jerks.

    May 19, 2011 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  2. Dan from Tx

    Newt will regret that moment of honesty for the rest of his life.

    May 19, 2011 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  3. ja

    IF THE SHOE FITS, WEAR IT, IT DOES, Newt should have followed Haley's lead, and withdrawn

    May 19, 2011 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  4. normajean

    "SEEMS LIKE'.....Gov.Barbour, ..... he doesn't SEEM like a jerk.....he IS a jerk. For the last several days he has passed on to the media several different interpretations of the the incident and has never given the same explanation twice!! He doesn't know what he thinks, but manages to keep the spotlight on himself by pontificating.....Frankly a number of us out here are tired of listening to him and even more tired of looking at him. Please ask him to cease and desist!!!!!!

    May 20, 2011 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  5. Lee, Mays Landing New Jersey

    What does he mean "seems like"... He is... He was for Obamacare (the old republican plan of the mid 90's) before he was supposed to be against it.... And yet he's against it and for it at the same time.
    The basic memo is that republicans are supposed to be AGAINST everything Obama is for, no matter how mindless and inconsistent with their own prior positions may be!
    Every single republican leader not only "seems like" but "is" disgusting.

    May 20, 2011 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  6. Danny Cali

    I think every one of GOP should get nominee but not going to get elect for President this time because we already have one that going to take this country to new chapter.

    May 20, 2011 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  7. Glenda

    What do you expect out of Liberal Press. It is so bad in the U.S. there is nothing you can believe anymore from 90% of the Press, Newspapers, Journals, TVs, Radios and what come from the Oval Office.

    May 20, 2011 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  8. Republicans Are The American Taliban

    "What the press chooses to cover and how they cover it is for some candidates better – and they get put under the filter. And (others) get the spotlight put on them hard as they can. Newt has always suffered from that."

    Why not blame the microphone for what came out of his mouth??

    May 20, 2011 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  9. bobden

    It isn't the media that make grinch look like a jerk. It's his mouth and what he says that makes him look/sound like a jerk.

    May 20, 2011 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  10. Susan

    The liberal media attacked Gingrich??? It was actually the GOP and the conservatives who went after Gingrich until he hunkered down and stepped back in line. All the "liberal media" did was broadcast the interview during which Gingrich was given a very open ended question and he chose to point out the flaws of the Ryan plan. Too bad that is probably the last time we are going to hearing his honest and thoughtful opinion....from now on we can obviously expect him to be giving us the party line....if he wants to stay in the race that is.

    May 20, 2011 02:32 am at 2:32 am |
  11. LegendRx

    Don't blame the media for Newt's pompous arrogance. When you live by the sword, you die by the sword. No excuses . . . period!

    May 20, 2011 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  12. Tony


    Do the ultra-right conservatives seriously believe that when they say something, and everyone watches them say it, they can blame the "liberal media" for reporting accurately what they said? I know Barbour is from the South, but even people in the South are smart enough to recognize a load of crap when they smell it!

    Gingrich-Barbour, what a team!

    May 20, 2011 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  13. Seattle Sue

    Mr. Barbour, I watched Meet The Press and I heard what Gingrich said. Now are you telling me that I just didn't understand Newt(the weasel) or is this just more of your lies? You must think the American people are stupid. Of course that must be the reason you were elected Governor Of Mississippi or you stole that election.

    May 20, 2011 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  14. nimitta

    Barbour: What you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options, not one where you suddenly impose it.

    Yeah, Haley, just the way people voluntarily migrated to integration in Mississippi, after having voluntarily given up slavery. Party of Lincoln indeed! I wonder which side of the civil rights struggle your people were on...

    May 20, 2011 08:35 am at 8:35 am |