Newt Gingrich and Fox News political analyst Juan Williams got into a heated exchange about the former House speaker’s campaign comments, such as labeling President Barack Obama “the food stamp president” and suggesting that students could be given janitorial tasks in their schools to earn money and learn job skills.
The duel came during Fox’s Republican presidential debate Monday night, when Williams badgered Gingrich about such statements.
Williams chronicled some of Gingrich’s comments about inner-city children and their lack of role models, as well as the janitorial jobs idea.
“Can’t you see this is viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but as particularly to black Americans?” Williams said.
“No, I don’t see that,” Gingrich answered, prompting cheers and applause from the audience. He also recalled the fact that his own daughter Jackie did janitorial work for her first job.
“Only the elites despise earning money,” he said.
Williams refused to let up. “My Twitter account has been inundated with people of all races asking if your comments are not intended to belittle the poor,” he said, drawing boos from the crowd. He also observed that a member of a black church in South Carolina had asked Gingrich why he called Obama a “food stamp president,” adding, “It sounds as if you are seeking to belittle people,” again evoking boos.
Gingrich replied, to audience cheers and applause: “First of all, Juan, the fact is that more people have been put on food stamps under Barack Obama than any other president in history.”
The former speaker also said he believes Americans have a right to “pursue happiness” and insisted: “I will continue to find ways to help poor people find a job, get a job, and learn someday to own the job.”
The audience gave Gingrich a standing ovation after the sparring match with Williams.
Video of the duel within the debate:
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