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Ex-Clinton Operative Stephanopoulos Questions Gingrich's 'Character and Temperament'

Former Clinton operative George Stephanopoulos on Monday questioned Newt Gingrich's "character and temperament." The Good Morning America co-anchor interviewed the Republican presidential candidate and unselfconsciously scolded, "I know you've faced these kinds of questions before. Is there any way for you to put this issue of temperament to rest?" [MP3 audio here.]

Stephanopoulos began his attack by highlighting, "Let me get to the question of character and temperament. Rick Santorum on This Week, yesterday, called you a friend but also erratic and a high-risk candidate." Back in the early '90s, Stephanopoulos was in charge of handling Bill Clinton's "bimbo eruptions."



On page 267 of his autobiography All Too Human, Stephanopoulos recounted how he tried to keep networks from discussing Paula Jones: "It wasn't a hard sell, and ABC was even less inclined to sensationalize a supposed sex scandal because of their twenty-two minute Whitewater extravaganza the night before."

This isn't the first time Stephanopoulos hypocritically ignored his own background as he attacked a Republican. Back on November 30, 2011, Stephanopoulos derided Herman Cain: "There are just too many questions about [Cain's] honesty, his judgment, his experience, his organization."

On Monday, the GMA co-host pushed Gingrich to release financial documents related to his work for Freddie Mac: "And I have a specific question, will you release the consulting contract your company had with Freddie Mac before the Florida primary?"

Despite Gingrich's stated position that he'd be fine with releasing the documents, Stephanopoulos again grilled, "You said you're happy to have those records released. You first said that a few weeks ago, but they haven't been released by the company. Do you want them to do it before the Florida primary?"

A transcript of the January 23 segment, which aired at 7:11am EST, follows:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's get right to Newt Gingrich right now, the former Speaker of the House. Good morning, Mr. speaker. Congratulations on that big victory.

NEWT GINGRICH: Thank you, George. If I might just for just a moment, I just want to comment that Joe Paterno was a good friend. I had used him while I was Speaker as an adviser on personnel issues. He was remarkably wise. I was very sad to hear about his passing away. He's truly a legend not just in football but the steady work he did for so many years. I just had to comment on that after your report earlier.

STEPHANOPOULOS: No question. I'm glad that you did. Thank you, Mr. speaker. In your victory, you're getting a spoils of victory, which means a whole new volley of attacks from Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. You heard- you heard Romney there. He's going to make a big deal about that the money you made from that housing giant Freddie Mac, tie it to the housing crisis in Florida. And I have a specific question, will you release the consulting contract your company had with Freddie Mac before the Florida primary?

GINGRICH: Well, we've asked the Center for Health Transformation to work out releasing it. They have a number of confidentiality agreements. I'm very comfortable with it being released. But, you know, the whole thing is very ironic, George. Here's somebody who has released none of his business records, who has decided to make a stand on transparency without being transparent. We released an ad last week, in which we show Huckabee and McCain in 2007, 2008 both describing Romney as fundamentally not honest. Not somebody you can- And you can see it in just his whole style of his campaign. Let me give you an example. I did no lobbying, period. He keeps using lobbying because I'm sure his consultants tell him it scores well.

It's not true. He knows it's not true. He's deliberately saying things he knows are false. I just think that's what the next week will be like. I'm going to talk about big issues. I'm going to talk about Romneycare. I'm going to draw a contrast between Romneycare and Obamacare, which are virtually identical and what I would do in developing patient power and allowing people and their doctors to be in charge. So, we'll see. I think the people of Florida will prefer big solutions to small, negative attacks. And I think in the end, just as happened in South Carolina, Governor Romney's liberal record in Massachusetts, plus the style of his campaign, will end up, I think, having him lose.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Just one follow-up. You said you're happy to have those records released. You first said that a few weeks ago, but they haven't been released by the company. Do you want them to do it before the Florida primary?

GINGRICH: I think it would be very helpful and our attorneys are talking with the company. As you know, I left the company so it's their decision. And Nancy Desmond, the president of the company, has to make the decision. But I'd be very comfortable releasing them. And by the way, J.C. Watts, Congressman J.C. Watts is head of the Freddie Mac Watch Committee for seven years. He is openly, publicly for me. He has said publicly I never once approached him in seven years. Rick Lazio was chairman of the Housing subcommittee for four years. He said I never once asked him for anything about Freddie Mad or Fannie Mae. And the New York Times reported in 2008 that I spoke to Republicans in the House and said do not vote for any money for Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. So I actually, publicly against giving them any money. This strikes me as the opposite of Romney's fiction.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me get to the question of character and temperament. Rick Santorum on This Week, yesterday, called you a friend but also erratic and a high-risk candidate. Mitt Romney is questioning your sobriety and steadiness. And his surrogates have gone even further. Chris Christie has called you an embarrassment. I know you've faced these kinds of questions before. Is there any way for you to put this issue of temperament to rest?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I think you're going to see the establishment go wild in the next week or two. The idea of a Gingrich presidency actually changing Washington, of my ignoring all the powers that be. I have no ties to Goldman Sachs, for example, the biggest single backer of Romney. I have no ties to the power structure. I think that they're very frightened of the idea of genuine outsider. And I've managed to remain a genuine outsider because I'm a Reagan populist conservative and I have for my whole career. If you talk to Tony Dolan, who was for eight years the Reagan's senior speech writer, You talk to Bud McFarlane, who for five years was Reagan's National Security Adviser, you talk to many people I've worked with over the years.

I've spent 16 years working to create the House Republican majority. I don't know of anybody else who did that. I worked for that many years to get welfare reform- actually for 18 years to get welfare reform passed. Pretty steady. Pretty stable. As Speaker, we balanced the budget for four years. Those are tough things to do. You rock a lot of boats. You shake up a lot of people. If people want somebody who is going to shake up Washington, I can do it. If they want somebody that's timid and manage the decay, they ought to vote for Romney.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks very much for coming on this morning. I'm afraid that's all we have time for. Hope you'll come back soon.

— Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.