Setting it straight about Gingrich
Former Speaker of the House hits campaign trail with a few half-thruths
Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich has appeared in our fact-checking stories before. We’ll be taking a close look at the claims he makes on the campaign trail, now that the former House speaker has decided he will run. So we’ll be listening to see if he repeats statements along these lines:
• At a GOP event in Iowa in March, Gingrich said that he "helped balance the federal budget for four straight years." Not exactly. He was in Congress for only two of those years. The budget was balanced from 1998 to 2001 — fiscal years—and Gingrich was in office until January 1999.
• In February at the Conservative Political Action Conference, he made exaggerated statements on energy, incorrectly stating that Brazil was "totally energy independent" and that the U.S. had an 1,100-year supply of shale gas, or natural gas. Brazil still imports oil from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Venezuela, contrary to Gingrich’s claim that Brazil doesn’t "pay a penny to" any of them. And the Energy Information Administration estimates that the total potential U.S. natural gas resources would last 110 years, 10 times smaller than Gingrich’s claim.
• During the health care debate in the summer of 2009, he tweeted that the legislation would result in "[t]ax increases on virtually everyone." Not true. The House bill to which he referred called for a surtax on individuals with adjusted gross incomes above $280,000 a year or $350,000 for couples. That’s about 1.4 percent of American households.
• In June 2007, he made false statements about the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill in a TV ad for the group Citizens United. Gingrich wrongly said that the Senate legislation would "put … potential terrorists and gang members on a path to U.S. citizenship" and that it "does not even allow convicted criminals to be deported." But the bill specifically said that an illegal immigrant who "at any time has participated in a criminal gang" could be deported, and anyone suspected of being "a danger to the security of the United States" could be denied a temporary visa. As for convicted criminals, the bill said "aggravated felonies" — crimes ranging from rape and murder to passport alteration and fraud — would be grounds for deportation. And the same goes for illegal immigrants with three misdemeanors on their records.
• Gingrich wrongly said in May 2010 that the Obama administration was responsible for a court decision ruling the "National Day of Prayer" violated the First Amendment. Gingrich claimed this was an example of a "relentless anti-religious bias." But the truth is that the Obama administration appealed that federal district court judge’s decision, which was the result of a lawsuit brought by a group of atheists. In fact, administration lawyers recently won a reversal by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the law and the president’s right to declare a National Day of Prayer. Just last month, the president issued a proclamation declaring May 5, 2011, to be this year’s day of prayer.
• We also noted a good catch by comedian Jon Stewart who corrected a mistake by Gingrich, a guest on Stewart’s "The Daily Show" in February 2010. Gingrich said Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber," was an American citizen. He’s British.
So that’s a range of claims on the federal budget, energy, health care, immigration and terrorism. Something tells us those topics will come up during the campaign.