CBS's Early Show repeatedly hit GOP candidate Newt Gingrich on Friday over his comments on African-Americans and food stamps. The network played the quote for African-American Congressman Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and engaged Gingrich over the context, even accusing him of trying to start a class war.
"You've accused President Obama of trying to start a class war," co-host Nancy Cordes told Gingrich in an interview at the bottom of the 7 a.m. hour. "Aren't you doing the same thing?" she pressed him.
The accusation came after CBS correspondent Jan Crawford described his newly-negative campaign as "using a flamethrower and scorching this field. "
"But after he was hit with some negative ads he is not only answering back, guys he is just using a flamethrower and scorching this field," Crawford strongly asserted.
The network's sentiments echo the larger media narrative of highlighting "controversial" Republican quotes on social issues and implying an underlying racist agenda, rather than focusing on the candidates' economic plans and foreign policy agendas.
The clip CBS played recorded Gingrich stating the following:
"Now there's no neighborhood I know of in America where if you went around and asked people would you rather your children have foodstamps or paychecks, you wouldn't end up with a majority saying they'd rather have a paycheck. And so I'm prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I'll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks, and not be satisfied with food stamps."
Gingrich was arguing that the NAACP has a history of supporting food stamps for minorities, but Early Show co-host Nancy Cordes interpreted him as implying the African-American community is "satisfied" with food stamps. Congressman Scott lampooned that narrative as "preposterous."
And when Gingrich defended his comments, CBS immediately shifted the narrative to imply that he wanted class warfare. The "critique" of Gingrich, they noted – as in, their liberal critique – was that "you've seemed to single out African-Americans and poor Americans, saying that poor children don't have a work ethic, or that they should work as janitors."
Cordes followed by accusing him of class warfare. Gingrich denied it and went on the offensive. "I'm doing just the opposite," he retorted. "I'm saying we should reach out to every American, and you had to take that and take it totally out of context to distort it this much," he told CBS.
A transcript of the segments, which aired on January 6 beginning at 7:12 a.m. EST, is as follows:
NANCY CORDES: Well I want to ask you about Speaker Gingrich, Congressman, because he made some comments that raised some eyebrows yesterday. I'd like to get your take. Stirring up controversy with his comments about food stamps. Take a listen, and then I'll ask you to comment.
NEWT GINGRICH, Republican presidential candidate: Now there's no neighborhood I know of in America where if you went around and asked people would you rather your children have foodstamps or paychecks, you wouldn't end up with a majority saying they'd rather have a paycheck. And so I'm prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I'll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks, and not be satisfied with food stamps.
(End Video Clip)
CORDES: Do you think the African-American community is satisfied with food stamps?
Rep. TIM SCOTT (R-S.C.): Well I mean that's a preposterous comment as it relates to what the African-American community would like to have. There's no question that with one of the highest unemployment rates in our nation's history – particularly in the African-American community, the focus should really be on education.
JIM AXELROD: And one candidate fighting for votes is Newt Gingrich. After being hit with a series of negative ads that effectively derailed him in Iowa, Mr. Gingrich has launched a counter-offensive in South Carolina, as well as here in New Hampshire.
CORDES: And he joins us now from Concord, New Hampshire. Good morning, Mr. Speaker. How are you?
GINGRICH: Good morning, I'm doing great. How are you?
CORDES: I'm great, thanks. I want to ask you first about those comments that you made yesterday about food stamps, because a lot of people want to know exactly what you meant. You said the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps. What did you mean by that? 59 percent of Americans who receive food stamps are white.
GINGRICH: Of course. But I was saying that unlike most Republican candidates, I would welcome a request, an opportunity, to go speak to the NAACP convention, because I thought there ought to be a conversation. 43 percent black teenage unemployment is totally unacceptable as an American future. The ref – obviously I'm happy to go and talk to anybody in America. I went on to say I'd be happy to talk to any Latino group, or any other group that was interested in talking about having paychecks rather than food stamps. The fact is, President Obama has been the most effective food stamp president in American history. He's put more Americans of all backgrounds –
CORDES: But Mr. Speaker, let me just interrupt you for one second. I'm sorry. Mr. Speaker, we just spoke to Representative Tim Scott of South Carolina a few moments ago, who knows you well. He said your comments were preposterous. I think what particularly bothered people was when you said that African-Americans are satisfied with food stamps. Did you misspeak?
GINGRICH: I said they shouldn't be.
CORDES: Okay –
GINGRICH: I didn't say they were satisfied.
CORDES: But the critique has been –
GINGRICH: You just reversed what I said. That would be preposterous. I agree with Tim Scott. But you just reversed what I said.
CORDES: But the critique has been –
GINGRICH: Okay, what I said was every American –
CORDES: – that you seem to have singled out African-America – the critique has been that you've seemed to single out African-Americans and poor Americans, saying that poor children don't have a work ethic, or that they should work as janitors. You've accused President Obama of trying to start a class war. Aren't you doing the same thing?
GINGRICH: No. I'm doing – I'm doing just the opposite. I'm saying we should reach out to every American, and you had to take that and take it totally out of context to distort it this much. I agree with Tim Scott. If you had called me and asked me about the thing you just said, I would have agreed with you. What I said was, every American of every background has been endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness. Every American of every background should have an opportunity to get a job and not be dependent on food stamps. Every American of every background should be able to go to a school that actually works, where they get educated. I'm for actually conservatives going into the poor neighborhoods of every ethnic group in America and helping every American have a chance to pursue happiness. Now I think it takes a lot on the part of the elite media to distort that into some kind of an attack. I'm actually saying shouldn't poor children have a better chance for a better future? Shouldn't every community have a better chance to have jobs? When Reagan was president, we created 1,300,000 jobs in the month of August. I helped do that as a junior member. When I was Speaker, we created 11 million jobs in four years, unemployment came down to 4.2 percent.
AXELROD: Mr. Speaker –
GINGRICH: My – let me finish, Jim. You guys have distorted what I said and I want to finish this.
AXELROD: Okay. But I know you want to – I also know you want to talk about the race here in New Hampshire.
GINGRICH: But I just want to finish this, because it's important for the country. President Obama has left this country in an economic mess. You watch today's job report compared with Reagan's 1,300,000 new jobs in August of 1983, and you tell me who's doing a better job creating jobs for all Americans.