Newt Gingrich resorted to that weapon in his determination to win the South Carolina primaries.
The story began last Monday night at the Myrtle Beach Republican presidential debate. The following exchange took place between the journalist Juan Williams, moderating the debate, and Newt Gingrich. I quote the whole of the exchange so that you can get the full flavor of it. I have bolded Williams' comments below to make it easier for you to see what he actually says:
WILLIAMS: Speaker Gingrich, you recently 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. Can’t you see that this is viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans?Got it? Here's what Newt Gingrich said in yesterday's speech:
GINGRICH: No. I don’t see that. (APPLAUSE) You know, my daughter, Jackie, who’s sitting back there, Jackie Cushman, reminded me that her first job was at First Baptist Church in Carrollton, Georgia, doing janitorial work at 13. And she liked earning the money. She liked learning that if you worked, you got paid. She liked being in charge of her own money, and she thought it was a good start. I had a young man in New Hampshire who walked up to me. I’ve written two newsletters now about this topic. I’ve had over 50 people write me about the jobs they got at 11, 12, 13 years of age. Ran into a young man who started a doughnut company at 11. He’s now 16. He has several restaurants that take his doughnuts. His father is thrilled that he’s 16 because he can now deliver his own doughnuts. (LAUGHTER) What I tried to say — and I think it’s fascinating, because Joe Klein reminded me that this started with an article he wrote 20 years ago. New York City pays their janitors an absurd amount of money because of the union. You could take one janitor and hire 30-some kids to work in the school for the price of one janitor, and those 30 kids would be a lot less likely to drop out. They would actually have money in their pocket. They’d learn to show up for work. They could do light janitorial duty. They could work in the cafeteria. They could work in the front office. They could work in the library. They’d be getting money, which is a good thing if you’re poor. Only the elites despise earning money. (APPLAUSE)
WILLIAMS: Well… (APPLAUSE)
WILLIAMS: The suggestion that he made was about a lack of work ethic. And I’ve got to tell you, my e-mail account, my Twitter account has been inundated with people of all races who are asking if your comments are not intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities. You saw some of this reaction during your visit… (BOOING) … to a black church in South Carolina. You saw some of this during your visit to a black church in South Carolina, where a woman asked you why you refer to President Obama as “the food stamp president.” It sounds as if you are seeking to belittle people. (BOOING)
GINGRICH: 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. (APPLAUSE) Now, I know among the politically correct, you’re not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable. (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) Second, you’re the one who earlier raised a key point. There’s — the area that ought to be I-73 was called by Barack Obama a corridor of shame because of unemployment. Has it improved in three years? No. They haven’t built the road. They haven’t helped the people. They haven’t done anything. (APPLAUSE) So… (APPLAUSE)
BAIER: Finish your thought, Mr. Speaker.
GINGRICH: One last thing.
BAIER: Yes, sir.
GINGRICH: So here’s my point. I believe every American of every background has been endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness. And if that makes liberals unhappy, I’m going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job and learn some day to own the job. (APPLAUSE)
GINGRICH: I had a very interesting dialogue Monday night in Myrtle Beach with Juan Williams about the idea of work, which seemed to Juan Williams to be a strange, distant concept.Astonishing stuff. Note that there was nothing in the exchange that would support the reading that work for Juan Williams is a "strange, distant concept." Note, also that Juan Williams is a well-known and hard-working journalist:
Williams is the author of Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965 (1988), a companion to the documentary series of the same name about the African-American Civil Rights Movement;Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary (2000), a biography of Thurgood Marshall, the first black American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States; and Enough (2006), which was inspired by Bill Cosby's speech at the NAACP gala, and deals with Williams' critique of black leaders in America, and as he puts it the "culture of failure." Williams has received an Emmy Award and critical praise for his television documentary work and he has won several awards for investigative journalism and his opinion columns.So why did Newt imply that work is a strange and distant concept for Juan Williams?
Most likely because Williams is black. I cannot think of any other explanation.