We’ve already given you the debate in 100 seconds, but one clip getting a lot of play on Tuesday morning is the slightly contentious exchange between Fox’s Juan Williams and Newt Gingrich regarding racism and Gingrich’s comments about blacks. We highlighted the exchange in part last night, but below is an expanded version.
In short, Williams wanted Gingrich to defend his statements about food stamps and Barack Obama. Gingrich did, but in a way that dismissed the question as a “gotcha” — and in a way that drew jeers from the crowd for Williams and cheers from the crowd for Gingrich. In fact, Gingrich even secured a standing ovation.
Talking Points Memo explains (as well as has some of the transcript):
After the debate, Fox News commentator Frank Luntz — who was apparently in the room — was surprised at the crowd’s reaction. He said it was the first time he’d ever seen a debate audience give a candidate a standing ovation during an ongoing debate.
What led to such a response? This question from Williams started it.
“Speaker Gingrich, you said black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps. You also said poor kids lack a strong work ethic and proposed having them work as janitors in their schools,” Williams asked. “Can’t you see that this is viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans?”
“No. I don’t see that,” Gingrich said flatly.
The crowd cheered for that one. But they really got going when Williams followed up with this:
I have to tell you my Twitter account has been inundated by all races, who are asking if your comments are not intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities. You saw some of this reaction dug your visit to a black church in South Carolina. We saw some of this during your visit to a church in South Carolina where a woman dad’s asked you why you referred to President Obama as the food stamp president. It sounds as if you are seeking to belittle people.The crowd booed Williams as he tried to get the question out. When Gingrich responded, they (according to Luntz) jumped to their feet and gave him a standing ovation.
“Well, first of all, Juan, the fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history,” Gingrich said. “I know among the politically correct you are not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable.”
Gingrich ended with a rousing, finger-pounding explanation that citizens are endowed by their “creator” with the right to pursue happiness and that he was going to find ways to help “poor people” in their quest for upward mobility. That set the crowd ablaze: