House Speaker John Boehner declined to discuss his opinion of the GOP's front-runner for the Republican nomination, but called Newt Gingrich a "longtime friend" as he skirted repeated inquiries into judgment of the former speaker's leadership on Capitol Hill.
Boehner, R-Ohio, chuckled as he was asked whether being speaker of the House is helpful or hurtful preparation for being president of the United States, telling reporters that, "My job is focused on what the American people want us to deal with and that's jobs, and that's our message every single day."
Pressed about whether Gingrich's time as speaker of the House is helpful to his candidacy, Boehner again refused to engage with reporters on the presidential campaign.
"Listen, Newt's been a longtime friend, but I've spent a lot of time this year avoiding getting involved in picking winners and losers in a presidential contest," he said. "As I say, our focus here is on the American people's priority, and that's jobs."
But that answer didn't stop the blitz of questions related to Gingrich. Boehner was next asked about reports that he was part of the group of Republican lawmakers that attempted to replace then-Speaker Gingrich in 1997. He said that assertion was not true.
"That was someone's rumor," Boehner said. "That was an inaccurate rumor, all right?"
Finally, Boehner was asked about the strengths and weaknesses of Gingrich's leadership but, again, would not take the bait.
"Newt has been a longtime friend, but my focus is on what the American people sent us here to do," he said, "and that's to focus on jobs."