Monday, October 20th, 2014

A primary primer: A look inside the Gingrich file

In this Associated Press photo, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich campaigns in Maryland. The Wisconsin primary is Tuesday.
In this Associated Press photo, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich campaigns in Maryland. The Wisconsin primary is Tuesday.

Newt Gingrich is in Wisconsin campaigning in the April 3 Republican presidential primary, with stops planned in Green Bay and Waukesha on March 30 and 31 after a Milwaukee rally Thursday night.

That makes it a good time to check out the former House Speaker’s record on the Truth-O-Meter, as we have with the rest of the field, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney.

PolitiFact has tested Gingrich 61 times, and here are the findings: six True and six Mostly True; 13 Half True; 13 Mostly False and 13 False. Another 10 got our lowest rating, a Pants on Fire. That’s his record as of March 26, 2012.

Here’s a look at the last 10 Gingrich statements checked by our colleagues at PolitiFact National and PolitiFact affiliates in Georgia, Tennessee and Texas.

Energy

-- Gingrich’s claim that we may have "three times as much oil in the United States as there is in Saudi Arabia" got a Mostly False. The author of the study cited by Gingrich said the conclusion couldn’t be drawn from the research.

-- Campaigning in Georgia, his former home political turf, Gingrich said in February 2012 that "You can’t put a gun rack in a (Chevrolet) Volt." PolitiFact Georgia test-drove that claim and found it False.

-- He was much closer to the mark in claiming that President Obama’s Energy secretary, Steven Chu, "has said publicly he wants us to pay European levels, and that would be $9 or $10 a gallon." That’s Mostly True; Chu said "somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." But Gingrich was a bit high on the price.

-- Gingrich got a False for his comment that President Obama "has an Environmental Protection Agency proposal that would raise the price of gasoline by 25 cents a gallon." The study he drew from was funded by industry and based its cost estimates on changes the EPA is not considering. The cost impact of the EPA’s proposed Tier 3 standards would be far lower -- even less than a penny per gallon, the item noted.

On his rivals

-- Gingrich’s facts were Half True when he claimed that one of his presidential rivals, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, "voted for the unions over FedEx" in a big legislative showdown in Congress in 1996. Santorum did cast one vote against the wishes of the company, but labor officials didn’t think he did it to side with them.

-- Gingrich, campaigning in Florida in January 2012, earned a Mostly False after he said: "Gov. Romney cut off kosher meals for Jewish senior citizens who were on Medicaid to save $5 a day. For $5 a day, he said, no, you cannot follow your religious prescription." There was no evidence that Massachusetts’ budget cuts denied anybody kosher meals.

-- Facing attacks during the Florida GOP primary in January 2012, Gingrich said he "was exonerated in every single case" during a 1990s ethics investigation into his conduct. PolitFact Georgia dished out a Pants on Fire, noting that an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the House voted to pass an ethics report, Gingrich agreed to pay $300,000 and admit he had "engaged in conduct that did not reflect creditably on the House of Representatives."

Our colleagues summed up the allegations this way: The case primarily involved a course at Kennesaw State College (now Kennesaw State University) that Gingrich taught while in Congress. Its organizers solicited financial support from "individuals, corporations and foundations," promising that the project qualified for tax-exempt status.
   
But the ethics committee concluded that the course aimed to "help in achieving a partisan, political goal" -- something that would run afoul of its tax-exempt status.


Jobs

-- Gingrich scored a True for a statement that 16 million jobs were created under Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Gingrich’s numbers were accurate. Reagan’s policies, many of which required the support of Congress, deserve some credit for the increase, PolitiFact Georgia concluded.

-- But he was tagged with a False in February 2012 for saying "the biggest contribution" behind a decrease in U.S. unemployment was 1.2 million people leaving the workforce. Federal numbers at the time suggested the number of those not in the workforce was actually shrinking.

Religious freedom

-- Campaigning after winning the South Carolina primary in January 2012, Gingrich criticized a district court judge in San Antonio, Texas. Gingrich spoke of Fred Biery, who issued an order in a lawsuit in which a family challenged Medina Valley High School’s tradition of having students deliver an invocation and benediction as part of the graduation. The family said the practice amounted to unconstitutional school-sponsored prayer.

Gingrich said the ruling was that "not only could the students not pray at their graduation, if they used the word ‘benediction,’ the word ‘invocation,’ the word ‘God,’ asked the audience to stand or asked for a moment of silence, he would put the superintendent in jail."

His claim was close on the restrictions ordered by the judge, but overstated the potential punishments facing the superintendent in the event of a violation, PolitiFact Texas found. The statement got a Half True.