Newt Gingrich labeled Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney today as a "liar" who would lie to the American people if he won the White House.
At the same time, the former House speaker said during a CBS News interview, he would vote for Romney if he won the GOP nomination because he would be "less destructive" than President Barack Obama.
Gingrich made the comments today on "The Early Show"
in response to CBS News chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell’s questions about his statements assailing the former Massachusetts governor and the Romney-supporting super PAC whose negative campaign ads have hurt his campaign.
Story continues below video.
The fusillade, occurring as as the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses loom tonight with Romney as the front-runner, began after O'Donnell said: "You scolded Mitt Romney, his friends who are running this Super PAC that has funded that, and you said of Mitt Romney, 'Someone who will lie to you to get to be president will lie to you when they are president. I have to ask you: Are you calling Mitt Romney a liar?"
"Yes," Gingrich replied.
"You're calling Mitt Romney a liar?"
"Well, you seem shocked by it!" said Gingrich. "Yes. I mean, why — "
"Why are you saying he is a liar?" O'Donnell pressed.
"Because this is a man whose staff created the PAC, his millionaire friends fund the PAC, he pretends he has nothing to do with the PAC — it's baloney. He's not telling the American people the truth.
"It's just like this pretense that he's a conservative. Here's a Massachusetts moderate who has tax-paid abortions in 'Romneycare,' puts Planned Parenthood in 'Romneycare,' raises hundreds of millions of dollars of taxes on businesses, appoints liberal judges to appease Democrats, and wants the rest of us to believe somehow he's magically a conservative.
"I just think he ought to be honest with the American people and try to win as the real Mitt Romney, not try to invent a poll-driven, consultant-guided version that goes around with talking points, and I think he ought to be candid. I don't think he's being candid and that will be a major issue. From here on out from the rest of this campaign, the country has to decide: Do you really want a Massachusetts moderate who won't level with you to run against Barack Obama who, frankly, will just tear him apart? He will not survive against the Obama machine."
Interviewing Gingrich with O’Donnell was Bob Schieffer, who hosts “Face the Nation” on CBS, who said, "A Massachusetts moderate that you have just said is a flat-out liar — that does raise the question, Mr. Speaker. If he does get the nomination, do you think that you can find a way to support him, or will that just be a little too much for you?"
"Sure," Gingrich replied.
"You could? You'd support a liar?"
"No, I would support a Republican candidate against Barack Obama because I think Barack Obama is tearing the country apart.
"But, let's be clear," Gingrich said. "Which part of what I just said to you is false? Why is it that, if I'm candid in person and I wanted to be honest in person, that's shocking? If [Romney's] PAC buys millions of dollars in ads to say things that are false, that's somehow the way Washington plays the game. Isn't that exactly what's sick about this country right now? Isn't that what the American people are tired of?"
O’Donnell interjected: "But what you said, if somebody would lie to you to get to be president, would lie to you when they are president. So you're saying that Mitt Romney would be a liar as president — how can you support somebody like that?"
"He would be much less destructive than Barack Obama," Gingrich said. "Look, if you think Barack Obama is not a risk to the country's future, then he's somebody you can vote for. I think if you watch what the White House is doing right now, this whole effort to govern without the Congress is stunningly unconstitutional."
"But Mr. Speaker, what you're saying is 'Folks, Barack Obama is so bad that we'd be better off electing a bald-faced liar to the presidency, somebody that we would never know if he was telling the truth.' That is pretty strong stuff," Schieffer said.
"Well, I'll let you go and check his record, Bob. Look, you're a professional reporter. Did he support Reagan in the '80s or not? The answer is no. Did he vote as a Democrat for Paul Tsongas in '92 or not? The answer is, yes, he did. Did he say that he didn't want to go back to the Reagan-Bush years in '94? Yes, he did. Did he run to the left of Teddy Kennedy? Yes he did. Now, why is it politically incorrect to tell the truth?
"You're saying in the traditional Washington pattern it's better to be sweet and honest and have this face of saying, 'Oh, gee, we want to be nice to each other no matter what happens to the American people.' I think the American people deserve the truth. I think the next couple of debates are going to be very interesting. I am prepared to defend every single thing I've said to you this morning. And candidly, I wish Mitt would just, you know, level with the American people, be who he really is, and let's have a debate about a Massachusetts moderate versus a real conservative."
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