Newt Gingrich and the Truth-O-Meter

Gingrich's PolitiFact report card now leans to the False end of the scale.
Gingrich's PolitiFact report card now leans to the False end of the scale.

By PolitiFact standards, it hasn’t been a good month for Newt Gingrich. As the former House speaker moved from also-ran to frontrunner in the Republican presidential race, his record for accuracy plummeted.

In December, Gingrich earned no True or Mostly True ratings. His best ratings were two Half Trues. He earned three Mostly Falses, four Falses and Four Pants on Fires.

Since we began rating him, he’s earned three Trues, three Mostly Trues, nine Half Trues, seven Mostly Falses, nine Falses and eight Pants on Fires.

Gingrich has a reputation as a leader who pushes big ideas -- but also shoots from the hip.

He said that "no federal official at any level is currently allowed to say ‘Merry Christmas.’" He appears to have been wildly extrapolating from a rule about whether congressional greeting cards can be mailed at taxpayer expense. We ruled that Pants on Fire.

He said that in New York City, "an entry level janitor gets paid twice as much as an entry level teacher." Turns out that he was referring to a much more highly trained "custodial engineer" -- and even they don’t get paid twice what starting teachers do. We ruled that False.

He said that the congressional ethics investigation against him was conducted by "a very partisan political committee" in a way that "related more to the politics of the Democratic Party than to ethics." Actually, the process was rigorously bipartisan and was ratified by a lopsided vote in the House. We rated it Pants on Fire.

He also said that people can use food stamps "for anything," including "to go to Hawaii," and that even millionaires can qualify. We found that the food stamp program has strict rules about what the funds can be used for. We rated this Pants on Fire.

Meanwhile, on a more offbeat topic, we rated a claim by New York Times columnist David Brooks that Gingrich "has suggested" that building "a mirror system in space" could improve the Earth’s habitability. We looked in a book Gingrich co-wrote a quarter-century ago and found that he did cite the idea approvingly. We rated this claim True.