Appearing on Monday's NBC Today, Newt Gingrich took co-host Ann Curry to task for grilling him on allegations against Herman Cain: "...when the news media goes and finds an anonymous report about an anonymous incident...and you decide that matters more than every other issue in the campaign, that may put your judgment in doubt, as you, being the institutional news media." [Audio available here]
Curry began the segment by wondering: "...to have a Republican nominee for president, with unanswered questions about sexual harassment, what would it do to your party's chances of defeating Barack Obama?" Gingrich shot back: "What does it mean to the elite news media that nobody in the country ever walks up to us and raises questions you all raise?" [View video after the jump]
Gingrich continued: "Herman Cain, I suspect, is getting far fewer questions from citizens about these kind of things than he is about jobs, about other things. And I just think there's a huge gap between the gossip that fascinates political reporters and the average person's concern about the price of housing, the availability of jobs, solving the budget deficit without crushing the middle class."
Curry devoted the first four questions of the five-question interview on Herman Cain. Similarly, on Friday, fellow co-host Matt Lauer devoted the first four questions of an interview with Michele Bachmann to the controversy surrounding Cain.
To Gingrich's point of the level of media attention paid to the accusations against Cain, as of Friday, the networks featured 63 stories on the controversy.
Here is a full transcript of Curry's November 7 interview with Gingrich:
7:00AM ET TEASE:
ANN CURRY: Meanwhile, new polls show support is growing for another GOP presidential hopeful, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. This morning he will speak out in a live interview.
7:14AM ET SEGMENT:
CURRY: Well, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is running, as we all know, for the Republican nomination for president, he's also the author of the new book called "The Battle of the Crater." Speaker Gingrich, good morning.
NEWT GINGRICH: It's good to be with you.
CURRY: Good to be with you as well, sir. Can Herman Cain not answer these lingering questions about sexual harassment allegations and still win the Republican nomination, in your view?
GINGRICH: Well, that will be up to the American people. If they conclude that anonymous allegations from people who don't want to be identified, involving purely civil activities, that the American people could well decide that they want a solution-oriented leader more than they want a scandal. I think it has probably surprised most professionals that Herman has done as well as he has over the last week, but we'll see if this has legs or not. I think he's got to handle it his own way.
I do want to say, by the way, that Matt Lauer's report brought back memories. Calista and I were in Namibia a year ago and it is a truly remarkable country, as you'll see during the show today as Matt takes people around to it.
CURRY: Well, that's really true and I'm glad that it – you're enjoying the reporting on that. Back to the topic at hand, if you are right, that it is possible that the American public could actually decide to overlook these allegations, what would it mean for the party to have a Republican nominee for president, with unanswered questions about sexual harassment, what would it do to your party's chances of defeating Barack Obama?
GINGRICH: What does it mean to the elite news media that nobody in the country ever walks up to us and raises questions you all raise? I went through two months in June and July where folks in New York and Washington said my campaign was dead, I was gone, it was all hopeless. Nobody in the country said that.
Herman Cain, I suspect, is getting far fewer questions from citizens about these kind of things than he is about jobs, about other things. And I just think there's a huge gap between the gossip that fascinates political reporters and the average person's concern about the price of housing, the availability of jobs, solving the budget deficit without crushing the middle class. A lot of things that, frankly, at a substance level are dramatically more important to most Americans.
CURRY: Your point is well-taken. However, it's not just the media that's asking these questions. Haley Barbour, the Mississippi Governor, as well as Jon Huntsman, a candidate, are also saying – they said this past Sunday, that Herman Cain must step up and be more up front in answering these questions.
GINGRICH: I'll let them argue with Herman Cain. I'll let you argue with Herman Cain. I'm trying to focus, at Newt.org, on a 21st century contract with America. I'm trying to develop a brand new set of proposals that really matter. I think the country's-
CURRY: But are you saying that questions about the character of a presidential candidate don't matter?
GINGRICH: No. Questions matter a lot. I'm saying that when the news media goes and finds an anonymous report about an anonymous incident, about which you have remarkably limited information, and you decide that matters more than every other issue in the campaign, that may put your judgment in doubt, as you, being the institutional news media.
CURRY: You – I want to get to your book about – which clearly shows a real interest in the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. In this book, Abraham Lincoln is facing a very difficult time, it's during the Civil War and Ulysses – General Ulysses S. Grant brings the battle plan to Lincoln in this one particular battle. And your book, the President tells him, quote, "Please, General, no mistakes this time, no politics, jealousies, rivalries or decisions based on blind prejudice." Is that sentiment possible in this current presidential campaign?
GINGRICH: It's probably as possible as it was for Lincoln. Look, it's always hard to lead a free people. As we indicate in "The Crater," you ended up with General Meade overruling General Burnside, probably out of pure personal dislike, and the result was thousands of casualties that were unnecessary.
"The Crater" is actually a fascinating novel because it's about the largest use of African-American troops in the Virginia campaign, it's an extraordinarily daring campaign that was developed by Pennsylvania coal miners and it is totally messed up by the personality fight of two generals.
I have to say, by the way, we're a pretty literary family. My wife, Calista has a New York Times best-selling children's book about American history called "Sweet Land of Liberty." So we now have sort of dueling family books out there.
CURRY: Well, we'll see which one wins. Well, congratulations to your family and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, thank you so much for joining us at this early hour this morning.
GINGRICH: Thank you.
CURRY: And I hope you continue to enjoy the reporting from Matt in Namibia.