Newt Gingrich Defends “Friend” Herman Cain

Chris Usher/AP

Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain seem to have an outspoken ally-friendship in the media lately. Both Gingrich and Cain have been quoted saying positive comments about each other on the trail, which is a rarity in political campaigning.

“We’re friends; let’s just lay it on the line. I like Herman. I’m proud of Herman’s career. I’m proud of the positive attitude he brings to life,” Gingrich told a local radio station WBS in Atlanta today.

But how exactly did the friendship between Gingrich and Cain develop? It goes back about 16 years.

On Monday, Cain called into a local Iowa radio station WHO and talked about his past with Gingrich.

“Newt and I go back to the early 1990's when he was Speaker of the House and he appointed me to the Kemp Commission on economic growth and tax reform,” Cain said. “We have such a high mutual respect for one another and the differences in our ideals are not that far apart.”

WHO radio host Simon Conway asked Cain, with regard to a vice presidential candidate, “How’s Newt looking?”

“Newt is looking well because since he left, he was able to step outside of Washington D.C. and take a fresh look at it, which is good and the thing that I would look for the most is someone who is not afraid to challenge the system,” Cain said.

Gingrich and Cain also did welfare reform work together when Cain was president of the National Restaurant Association and Gingrich was Speaker.

In 1995, when Gingrich was pushing the “Contract With America,” they stood together on the welfare reform issue and even made a joint speaking engagement. In a 1995 Washington Post article that reported on the NRA’s press conference with Gingrich on Capitol Hill, Cain pledged that the food-service industry would play a key role in providing employment and training to help people get off welfare.

One indirect connection down the road, Cain ran and lost for the Republican seat in the 2004 Georgia senate elections. He was running against Gingrich’s replacement, Rep. Johnny Isakson, who took Gingrich’s seat in Congress in 1999 after Gingrich resigned.

Gingrich Defends Cain

On WBS this morning, Gingrich defended Cain on recent sexual harassment allegations, saying the media is on a witch hunt for Cain.

“Here’s a situation where we’ve got a guy who’s the front runner for the Republican nomination, has a serious proposal on tax policy: 999, whether you like or dislike it, it is a serious big idea,” Gingrich said. “He’s out there trying to help a country that’s in desperate trouble, and he has gotten more coverage over the last few days over gossip.”

On Saturday, the two will attend a media-less, unmoderated two-hour Hunter-Douglass style debate, sponsored by the Texas Tea Party Patriots PAC. Gingrich called it a mutual conversation on WBS this morning.

“It’s closer to a dialogue. It’s not one of those nit-picking games to see who can score points,” Gingrich said.

Saturday’s debate will be televised on C-SPAN.