Gingrich defends food stamp comment
January 6th, 2012
05:12 PM ET
11 years ago

Gingrich defends food stamp comment

Newport, New Hampshire (CNN) – GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is standing by a recent statement interpreted as racially insensitive prompting reaction from a major civil rights organization.

"And so I'm prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I'll go to their convention to talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps," Gingrich said Thursday.

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The NAACP, responding to reports about the line in the speech, said the former speaker's comment is "problematic on several fronts."

"It is a shame that the former Speaker feels that these types of inaccurate, divisive statements are in any way helpful to our country," said President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous in a written statement.

The quote in question came from a speech in Plymouth, New Hampshire when Gingrich was laying out his "food stamps versus paychecks" argument, a frequent topic on the stump when he talks about President Barack Obama's liberal policies and the need for change.

On the campaign trail Gingrich often argues that more people are on food stamps under the Obama administration and that he would pursue policies that get people back to work. He has previously labeled Obama a "food stamp president."

Jealous charged Gingrich of feeding a stereotype. "The majority of people using food stamps are not African-American, and most people using food stamps have a job," he said in the statement.

The former speaker believes his comment Thursday has been taken out of context.

"I think you would have to be nuts to read those two paragraphs and conclude anything except that I was saying that every young American deserves the right to pursue happiness. Every young American deserves a chance to have a job. Every neighborhood in America deserves a chance to have pay checks instead of food stamps," he said.

Gingrich added that this is another example of being labeled a racist for challenging government entitlements such as welfare, which he said he will continue pursuing "even if it makes liberals uncomfortable."

"And for the life of me I can't understand why having a conservative Republican who cares about young people having jobs should be seen as such a terrible idea or should be seen as somehow a racist characterization," he told reporters.

In addition to talking his food-stamp-vs.-paycheck argument on the stump, Gingrich often talks about speaking to the NAACP, as well as other groups, in an effort to reach out to all Americans.

Based on previous experience with Gingrich, the NAACP is not so convinced.

"We invited Speaker Gingrich to attend our annual convention several times when he was Speaker of the House, but he declined to join us," Jealous continued. "If he is invited again, I hope that he would come, with the intention to unite rather than divide."

The Gingrich campaign was unable to confirm or deny Jealous' assertion because they didn't have on hand the former speaker's schedule from the '90s.

– Follow Shawna Shepherd on Twitter: @ShepherdCNN

Also see:

Huntsman hits Romney ahead of N.H. primary

Boston Globe backs Huntsman

FIRST ON CNN: Santorum to make large ad buy in South Carolina

Santorum tangles with Gingrich, same-sex marriage supporters

McCain courting former South Carolina backers for Romney

Filed under: 2012 • New Hampshire • Newt Gingrich
soundoff (118 Responses)
  1. GOP Hate America

    funny the only people I know that are on food stamps are trailer trash that complain about people getting food stamps and vote republican.

    January 6, 2012 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  2. Ramesh Shrestha

    I think Newt Ginrich is a hatemonger. People from all racial/ ethnic backgrounds are on foodstamps and other welfare programs in America. Even if there may be some fraud in welfare system, most people are on welfare either because of their inability to engage in gainful activities due to disability or failure on the part of the system such as bad economy. Having that said, it is unfair to ostracize one particular race or ethnicity. It is unfortunate, hurtful and politically incorrect. It is one good thing to demand reform on welfare system; it is awful to attack a race in particular. That is cheap politics.

    January 6, 2012 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  3. Ruth

    Don't bother Newt with the facts, his mind is made up.

    January 7, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  4. Katie

    To those of you posting statistics saying that of all groups a higher percentage of whites are on food stamps, I challange you to post what percentage of the white population and what percentage of the black population are on food stamps. Then we'll see the real picture.

    January 7, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  5. TheDudeAbides

    There are too many African Americans on food stamps. There are too many white Americans on food stamps. There are too many Latino Americans on food stamps. There are too many Chinese, Native American, Bosnian and every other nationality and ethnic Americans on food stamps.

    The only person who is actively working to get people off food stamps is Obama, the person Newt accuses of perpetuating food stamps.

    January 7, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  6. matt houst

    I'm not African American and our family was on food stamps for a few years. We finally found jobs and got off of them. Thank the U.S. for that program or else we would not have had food to get the energy to look for jobs and would have ended up in jail because we probably would have stolen food from the grocery stores without money or job prospects. Or eat out of dumpsters.

    January 7, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  7. Whoosh

    @gt...When truth crashes to the earth it rises again a lie just lie there. Go check the facts and stop being a believe all dumbAzz right winger blowheart. jeez!

    January 7, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  8. Julie

    That's fine. If you want to say that young Americans deserve jobs instead of food stamps then just say that. Don't be surprised that when you attach the statement to a specific ethnic group that it is interpreted as being targeted at that group. Duh!

    January 7, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  9. steve harnack

    I said just yesterday that with Newt dropping like a rock in the polls that he would soon be saying something bigoted. It seems like every surge in the polling numbers for every Republikan candidate follows such statements, be it Perry, Cain, Santorum or Gingrich. AT least Romney and Paul seem to disparage all poor people equally.

    January 7, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  10. Terry, VA

    But Newt, Obummie doesn't want blacks to have paychecks. He wants them to be dependent on the government. Heck, he wants the whole country to be dependent on the government. He already has 20 million people unemployed or underemployed. That doesn't count the number that just quit looking for jobs.

    January 7, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  11. qwedie

    Newt was raised in an orphanage. It is quite obvious that he just wanted a job and to make something of himself. The idea if drawing food stamps and selling drugs just didn't appeal to him.

    January 7, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  12. JohnRJ08

    So, Mr. Gingrich, to whom are "blacks" supposed to make this demand for paychecks instead of food stamps? The big corporations that are sitting on nearly $2 trillion in profits but not hiring, or the government? But I thought that the government didn't create jobs. I thought only rich people and corporations could do that. As both of those are paying record low taxes and earning record incomes, one wonders what other worldly incentives they might need to start hiring anybody, including all those blacks who wouldn't be able to feed their families without food stamps.

    January 7, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  13. smb

    Do the republican candidates honestly think they are going to win over the minority vote by constantly referring to them as poor, stupid and lazy?

    January 7, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  14. zigzag102

    Better being on food stamps and welfare than on a job where you are last hired, first fired.

    January 7, 2012 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  15. vicki willis

    Why? This man can't keep his penis in his pants! Why should we can what this man says. We women have not forgotten what he did. But a cute want to be blond wife he has! Go home Newt

    January 7, 2012 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  16. Victoria avgam54

    funny how newt says this about barack but fails to realize he was raised by a poor single mother on food stamps. Obama belives all kids should have the chances he did to grab onto the economic and educational ladders and climb on up. I have never seen a better example of american exceptionalism than in president Obama.

    January 7, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  17. DC Insider

    I am not black, but I would rather have food stamps than to have Gingrich as President.

    January 7, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  18. DC Insider

    If both Humpty Dumpty and Newt both fell down in a New Hampshire snowbank, which one do you think could get back up?

    January 7, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  19. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    The context is that he is an a$$h0le.

    January 7, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  20. Tony in Maine

    One more example of how completely out of touch with reality gasbag Republicans are. They sit in their leather chairs, sipping brandy and harrumphing about those who whould not work totally unaware that there are no jobs. The pigs have shipped what few were left to the 3rd world to lower costs. I try truly hope Gingrich wins the nomination so Obama can filet this "intellectual" for all the world to see.

    January 7, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  21. Luke Brown

    Most people on food stamps are white, and nearly 40% are children. Anyone I have ever known on food stamps would have preferred to have a job. Most adults on food stamps do get jobs eventually, unless they are physicially or mentally disabled.

    There is a 58 year old mentally retarded woman in our town who help out financially each month. She gets $38 in food stamps each month. I'll mention Newt's comments to her. Maybe that will inspire her to find a job. (Newt, how's about send me a list of employers looking to hire older, mentally retarded people. PS ... she doesn't have a car. While you were Speaker Congress cut her food stamps and money for public transit in her neighborhood. )

    Hey, GOP candidates, Life is rough enough for these Americans anyway, do you really need to stigmatize them to get yourselves elected? BTW cutting taxes for the super wealthy really does not translate into jobs for these folks. Ask them.

    January 7, 2012 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  22. sule

    As a black man, I applaud Newt for speaking the truth. The reference to his comments was about NAACP, an organization that caters to black issues mostly. Enough with this political BS. This food stamp or welfare programs in general has made us blacks lazy and very depended. This not only a black issue. White, Hispanics as well are guilty too.

    January 7, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  23. Dean


    First Newt's idea to employ inner city kids as janitors (because they don't live around folks with a "work ethic" – HA!) and now he assumes all Black people are receiving food stamps.

    FACT: 61% of welfare recipients are White; 33% are Black.
    FACT: 34% of food stamp recipients are White; 23% are Black.

    To ThinkAgain – do the math.....Only 13% of the people in the U.S. are Black so 13% use 23% while 87% use 34%. That means that the percentage of Blacks on food stamps is much higher than any group.
    And I suppose you also think that the rich pay no income tax.

    January 7, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  24. Dean

    DC Insider

    I am not black, but I would rather have food stamps than to have Gingrich as President

    Elect Obama and you just may get your wish.

    January 7, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  25. mdreader

    This phony (his real name is Newt McPherson, and his adopted name is Gingrich, actually pronounced "Ging-rick" and not Ging-rich) comes from a redneck town in PA that has half the population on food stamps. His whole family prounces the name Ging-rick, as do all in PA who have this name. He calls himself a "Son of the South"....he was born and raised in a poor hick town in Dauphin County, PA (suburban Harrisburg), not Gerogia.

    January 7, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
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