Newt Meets the Press: House Speaker Gingrich Pontificates to Editors Group

By Hernandez, Debra Gersh | Editor & Publisher, June 1, 1996 | Go to article overview

Newt Meets the Press: House Speaker Gingrich Pontificates to Editors Group


Hernandez, Debra Gersh, Editor & Publisher


That speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) has no love for what he calls the liberal, elite media should come as no surprise to anyone.

Time and again Gingrich has criticized the press for outright bias and for misrepresenting conservative initiatives - a position he considers bolstered by a Freedom Forum survey showing that 89% of Washington reporters polled voted for Bill Clinton in the 1992 election.

During his remarks to the American Society of Newspaper Editors conference in Washington, Gingrich said that both legislators and the news media have done badly at their "mutual business," which he described as "trying to help a free people govern themselves."

Gingrich also had words of praise for newspapers: "Because you can look at them, you can clip them, you can Xerox them, you can refer back to them, because they carry a much denser layer of information than either radio or television, newspapers are inevitably part of the nervous system of a free society and they are vitally important.

"I think that it is extraordinary important that we work with each other, with guarded hostility on both sides, and we recognize that while we don't have the same narrow interests, we have exactly the same broader interests, which is to find a way for a free society to govern itself," the speaker commented.

Citing a news story featuring anonymous quotes, Gingrich explained that one thing that never works for any administration is secrecy, "particularly secrecy in defense of dumbness."

"What happens is, someone does something dumb," he told the ASNE. "They convince themselves, `This'll work as long as I keep it secret.' It never stays secret. That's one of the major rules of the information age."

Further, Gingrich noted, "You never ever stop leaks in the White House.

"People take White House jobs, not just for the money, but for the opportunity to become important," he said. "And they know they are important, because famous reporters talk to them. And famous reporters talk to them because they leak. And if they don't leak, famous reporters won't talk to them. And if famous reporters don't talk to them, they can't be important. And then why are they at the White House?

"These guys don't leave a big-time law firm and the big bucks to go in obscurity," Gingrich added. "They leave it for power. They only know they're powerful because they read their own anonymous quotes."

The speaker, noting other prominent Republicans who have come from behind to win elections, said he believed that Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.) will win the presidential election.

Gingrich explained this by noting that "in the age of television, the bias of information shapes the debate, for most of the time, against conservatives."

"The issues that are on Page One, the issues that are at the top, the general pattern is that, frankly, liberals look better, as long as people don't pay much attention," he said. …

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