Gingrich: My Comments 'Inaccurate and Unfortunate'

Wednesday, 18 May 2011 07:18 AM

By Hiram Reisner

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich admits he “made a mistake” in criticizing House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan, saying his words were “inaccurate and unfortunate.”

Gingrich told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren Tuesday the questions he was asked on “Meet the Press” were “hypothetical baloney” and, in retrospect, he should not have answered.

Gingrich also refused to address reports that he and his wife, Callista, had owed as much as $500,000 to the Tiffany jewelry company among other debts.

“I made a mistake — and I called Paul Ryan today, who’s a very close personal friend — and I said that. The fact is that I have supported what Ryan’s trying to do on the budget — the budget vote is one that I am happy to say I would have voted for,” he said. “Let me say on the record: Any ad which quotes what I said Sunday is a falsehood. I have said publicly those words were inaccurate and unfortunate. And I’m prepared to stand up, when I make a mistake — and I’m going to on occasion — I want to share with the American people that was a mistake, because that way we can have an honest conversation.”

Gingrich had spent most of Tuesday apologizing for comments he made Sunday to host David Gregory on “Meet the Press.” On the NBC talk show, Gingrich called Ryan’s plan “right-wing social engineering.”

“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate,” he said, on Ryan’s proposal.

The former House Speaker again tried to clarify his comments to Van Susteren.

“If you got back and listen to the question David Gregory asked me, I should have said ‘I’m not going to answer it’ — it’s [a] hypothetical baloney-question that had no hope of happening,” he said. “The Republicans don’t control the Senate; they don’t have the White House. They can’t do what [President Barack] Obama did.”

"I was trying to say something that is important —we are at the beginning of a process of solving the entitlement problems of the United States. I would like to see sooner, the opportunity for current seniors to choose a plan comparable to his and with it have the right to private contracting and the right to spend their own money,” Gingrich added. “Because it is a choice, not a requirement. I don’t see why would you want to keep seniors trapped in a government program and tell them they have no right to choose.”

Van Susteren tried to broach the question of the Tiffany’s debt and other financial obligations, but Gingrich would have none of it.

“Later on I want you to watch this segment — notice I talked about jobs, I talked about the price of gasoline, I talked all these real problems for real Americans,” Gingrich said. “And my answer to you is: I’m not commenting on stuff like that. I'm perfectly happy to talk about what we need to do for America and what we need to do to help Americans. But I frankly don’t want to play the gotcha games in Washington.”

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