JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Alluding to the scandal embroiling his ascendant campaign, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told a crowd in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday that he would “cheerfully answer every single question” reporters had.
Following the event, however, he refused to answer any questions about the work he did for mortgage giant Freddie Mac.
In recent days, it has been revealed that Gingrich earned $1.6 million for work he did for Freddie Mac, the agency many blame for the housing bubble that preceded the financial crisis.
“In the next three weeks I predict to you, we’ll have all sorts of questions about me,” he said. “And it’s fine. You cannot ask the people of the United States to [give] you the most powerful governmental job in the world, particularly on a campaign that is promising very dramatic change, and not have them vet you carefully and thoroughly.
“I will cheerfully answer every single question they ask,” he added, “and at the end of it, you will be relatively convinced, I believe, that I did no lobbying of any kind, I did no influence peddling of any kind.”
Gingrich never mentioned Freddie Mac by name, but said he was proud of the work he did in the private sector after leaving Congress in 1999.
“If you just take what people say about me in the debates and say to yourself, ‘Gee, is that a person somebody might have hired for advice?’ I think it’s hard to argue that they should have hired somebody that is truly dumb,” Gingrich said. “I’ve been a very hard-working business person. I think I represent the wing of America that believes that hard work and success is good, not bad, and I’m happy to answer for it.”
Gingrich took more than a dozen questions from a friendly crowd, peppering his answers with historical references, but refused to take reporters’ questions after the event.
Asked about Freddie Mac by ABC News, Gingrich said, “No, no, bye bye,” and when asked if he would answer questions, he said he had already answered the crowd’s questions.
Gingrich was particularly critical of the bipartisan congressional supercommittee charged with fixing the national budget this month.
“We are watching the current Congress repeat every mistake the Democrats made ramming through an unread stimulus bill and Obamacare,” Gingrich said. “Secret negotiations among a handful of members will lead to a gigantic bill no one understands. That bill will then move to an up or down vote with no hearings, no understanding and no amendments.”
“We have moved from ‘we the people’ to ‘we the insiders’ and it is profoundly wrong,” added Gingrich.