Gingrich phones in apology to Ryan; Says he hopes they can “work together”

May 18, 2011 12:08am

ABC News’ Arlette Saenz reports:

In an attempt to conduct damage control in the opening days of his campaign, Newt Gingrich called Rep. Paul Ryan to apologize for comments he made criticizing the Medicare plan widely supported by GOP members of the House.

“I made a mistake and I called Paul Ryan today.  He’s a very close personal friend, and I said to him, the fact is that I have supported what Ryan’s trying to do on the budget.” Gingrich said on Fox News’ On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. “The budget vote is one that I am happy to say I would have voted for, I will defend, and I’d be glad to answer any Democrat who attempts to distort what I said.”

Gingrich said the two men “had a very good private conversation,” and believes they will be able to “work together both to make sure Democrats can’t misuse information and can’t lie about where we are and also to make sure we work together.”

Gingrich attempted to clarify what he intended when he called Ryan’s Medicare plan “right wing social engineering” and “radical change” on Sunday’s Meet the Press.

“I was trying to say something that is really important.  We are at the beginning of a process of solving the entitlement problems of the United States.  These are enormous challenges.  I believe deeply that the American people have to be an integral part of it.  I think that what Paul Ryan has done is he has started that process.  He has begun the opportunity, something which President Obama failed to do, to have an honest conversation, to go to the American people, to share with them his current ideas.”

Gingrich said he wishes Ryan’s plan would provide seniors with the opportunity to choose a plan sooner and have the right to private contracting, saying it should be a “choice not a requirement.”

“I don’t see why you’d want to keep senior citizens trapped in a government program and tell them they have no right to choose.  We don’t tell them they have no right to buy a car, they have no right to buy a house, they have no right to go on vacation.  Why shouldn’t they have some freedom to be able to have more choices?”

Gingrich admitted he made a mistake and will continue to admit if he says or does something wrong during the campaign.

“When I make a mistake, and I’m going to on occasion, I want to stand up and share with the American people, that was a mistake so that way we can have an honest conversation.”

MORE ON THE CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING GINGRICH’S COMMENTS ON THE RYAN PLAN

When asked about reports detailing his wife’s disclosure of holding between $250,000 and $500,00 in debt with Tiffany and Co., Newt refused to offer comments, saying it distracts from the message of the campaign.

“I’m not commenting on stuff like that.  I am perfectly happy to talk about what we need to do for America and what we need to do to help Americans but I frankly don’t want to play the gotcha games in Washington and I’m just not gonna participate.”

“If it doesn’t relate to a better future for America, if it doesn’t relate to helping the American people, if it doesn’t relate to solving our problems, from here on out my answer’s going to be I’m not commenting on it and then people can decide.  If you want to play trivial pursuit, that’s fine but I’m not going to play trivial pursuit.  I’m going to try to help this country get back on track.”

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