On Thursday's Starting Point, CNN's Soledad O'Brien insinuated that candidate Newt Gingrich speaks with a "racial coding" on the campaign trail. She also gave credibility to former President Jimmy Carter saying Gingrich has a "subtlety of racism" about him, asking her panel if the quote was a "bombshell."
O'Brien could also have questioned Carter's remark as a smear coming from a Democrat. Instead she seemed to argue in favor of his side. 'Is there racial coding in what Newt Gingrich has said in not only in these debates, but also even in some of the campaign stops?' she asked her panel.
When conservative Will Cain of TheBlaze.com tried to argue that Gingrich had not directly brought race into his comments about food stamps and low-income students, O'Brien interrupted him and told him he was 'naïve.'
'I just think when you make statements that don't have any relation to race, there are a certain group of people that somehow hear,' Cain stated before he was interrupted. 'Maybe I'm naïve,' he shrugged, before O'Brien laughingly affirmed that sentiment.
She also defended Obama from Gingrich's charge of him being the 'food stamp president,' noting 'if you actually look at those numbers, it was George Bush.' USDA data  would disagree with that assumption.
The highest average number of people on food stamps for any year during the Bush administration was 28.2 million, in the fiscal year 2008. The number increased by almost 60 percent over the next three years to 44.7 million for the fiscal year 2011.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on January 19 at 7:09 a.m. EST, is as follows:
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Let's talk a little bit about Jimmy Carter's comments on Piers Morgan. I thought this was a really interesting interview, because we've been discussing this, Roland, over the last couple days. So this is what Jimmy Carter told Piers Morgan last night.
JIMMY CARTER, former President of the United States: I think he has got that subtlety of racism that I know quite well and that –
PIERS MORGAN, CNN host, Piers Morgan Tonight: Really?
CARTER: - Gingrich knows quite well that appeals to some people in Georgia, particularly the right wing.
MORGAN: And you think he's doing it deliberately?
CARTER: I think so. He knows as well the words that you use, like "welfare mommas" and so forth, that have been appealing in the past in those days when they cherished segregation of the races. So he's appealing for that in South Carolina. I don't think it will pay off in the long run.
(End Video Clip)
O'BRIEN: So, is this a bombshell at all? I mean, I think a lot – this is the debate we were having yesterday, which was that sort of racial coding. Is there racial coding in what Newt Gingrich has said in not only in these debates, but also even in some of the campaign stops.
CAIN: You know how I feel about this, Soledad. I think when you draw a series of logical conclusions where race is not involved – if you say that unemployment is higher in urban areas and you say children emulate the behavior of their parents, draw that string. And then you say children in urban areas aren't acquiring a work ethic –
O'BRIEN: But I'm talking about things when you say that this president is the president who is the food stamp president, and if you actually look at those numbers, it was George Bush.
CAIN: There are more people on food stamps who are white than black. I just think when you make statements that don't have any relation to race, there are a certain group of people that somehow hear –
CAIN: Maybe I'm naive.
CAIN: Yes. Yes, you are. You are naive. Yes, you are.
ROLAND MARTIN: Now that was (Unintelligible) at 7:05 in the morning.
O'BRIEN: I'd say you are naive. You are.
BROWNSTEIN: I think in many ways the heart of the Tea Party movement, there's evidence at the heart of the Tea Party movement is opposition to transfer payments. So what Newt Gingrich is doing with food stamps is something that has never been done with it before. In the 80s, as Jimmy Carter suggested, Republicans talked about welfare queens. Welfare was the symbol of government that took money from people who were working hard and ostensibly gave it to people who didn't deserve it. That went away in the 1990s when Bill Clinton and Gingrich and Bob Dole, Trent Lott agreed on welfare reform.
What you're seeing now, I think, when Gingrich is talking about food stamps is raising that as kind of a replacement for the welfare argument in a way that it has never been used before. But it is the same core argument, whether you have a racial development or not. The core Republican argument about government is it's taking money from hardworking people and giving it to those who don't deserve it.
MARTIN: Okay. Are y'all done?
MARTIN: Right. Let me help you with something. When Newt Gingrich says, I'm going to go to the NAACP and I'm going to say, stop demanding welfare checks and demand paychecks. He didn't say La Raza, he didn't say the National Organization of Women, he didn't say I'm going to a Tea Party rally. He specifically said the NAACP. What does that mean? I'm talking to black people.
O'BRIEN: And when he talks about poor children and trying to give opportunities to work as janitors, he's talking about, he says, kids who are –
MARTIN: And then he cleans it up. Then he comes back to clean it up. And the problem is, look, you knew exactly what you were saying the first time, and so then when you say, no what I really mean is – and then you see commentators say, well here's what I think he meant – no, no, no. We heard what he said, we know what he meant, and we know the game.
- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center