Apparently, Newt Gingrich wanting to employ students from poor neighborhoods and teach them job skills means that he believes they possess "no work ethic." CNN obliged to put words in the candidate's mouth during Friday's 1 p.m. news hour as its headlines slammed Gingrich's "controversial" statements.
Anchor T.J. Holmes admitted that the candidate "tends to say some pretty edgy things every now and again," and CNN headlines blared that Gingrich's "controversial" talk "could become a campaign liability," and that his statement "targets children in 'poor neighborhoods'."
From a video CNN provided, Gingrich's actual words concerning the students from poor neighborhoods are thus:
"It would be great if inner city schools and poor neighborhood schools actually hired the children to do things. What if they cleaned out the bathrooms and what if they mopped the floors? What if they, in that process, were actually learning to work, learning to earn money? They had money on their own. They didn't have to become a pimp or a prostitute or a drug dealer."
Apparently, this statement meant that he thinks that "poor kids have no work habits." And the network made sure to headline Democratic consultant Ed Espinoza's spin that the candidate is "out of touch" and "Scrooge-like."
[Video below. Click here  for audio.]
A transcript of the relevant part of the "Fair Game" segment, which aired on December 2 at 1:32 p.m. EST, is as follows:
T.J. HOLMES: We'll go to the campaign trail. And anything a candidate says is "Fair Game," of course. And Newt Gingrich has been saying a lot – tends to say some pretty edgy things every now and again, like this comment about poor kids and developing a work ethic.
[HEADLINE: "Newt's Controversial Words: Could Become a Campaign Liability"]
NEWT GINGRICH, former House Speaker, Republican presidential candidate: It would be great if inner city schools and poor neighborhood schools actually hired the children to do things. What if they cleaned out the bathrooms and what if they mopped the floors?
[HEADLINE: "Gingrich: Poor Kids Have No Work Habits: Targets children in 'poor neighborhoods'"]
GINGRICH: What if they, in that process, were actually learning to work, learning to earn money? They had money on their own. They didn't have to become a pimp or a prostitute or a drug dealer.
(End Video Clip)
HOLMES: Oof. Let me bring in Will Cain, a CNN contributor, he's in New York for us, and also Ed Espinoza, Democratic political consultant, joining from us Austin, Texas.
Ed, let me start with you. Did he have a point? Did he have another big idea and he just didn't phrase it the right way?
[HEADLINE: "Newt's Controversial Words: Could become a campaign liability"]
ED ESPINOZA, Democratic political consultant :Well, look, it's appropriate it's December because Newt Gingrich is having his Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim moment with this right here. He needs to pick on someone his own size. If he wants to talk about jobs, that's fine. But don't pick on poor kids. The way to do it is to advocate for President Obama's jobs plan. That's something that's tangible and on the table, and let's leave the kids out of it.
[HEADLINE: "Gingrich: Child Labor Laws 'Truly Stupid': Says Poor Kids Should Work as Janitors"]
HOLMES: OK, Will, will you please talk some sense into Ed over here? He just said Gingrich was going to advocate for President Obama's jobs plan.
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, he's not going to do that. Um, and I'm afraid my friend Ed is indulging a little more – indulging being enraged over this issue much more than being logical about this issue. Look, I have many, many harsh words for Newt Gingrich and his substantive policies.
[HEADLINE: "Gingrich Words Draw Critics: Espinoza: "out of touch, Scrooge-like"]
CAIN: But my friend Kevin Williams, at National Review, put this best. Newt Gingrich has a habit of putting his foot in his mouth while putting his finger on the issue.
[HEADLINE: "Gingrich: Put Kids to Work: Or they could become 'drug dealers'"]
CAIN: Look, the bottom line is this. Unemployment is higher in poorer neighborhoods, right? That means in poor neighborhoods there are fewer people trekking off to work every day and the kids in those neighborhoods are not seeing people developing work habits or emulating – they don't have work habits to emulate on such a high degree. So I don't know why that is so offensive. It's simply a string of logical conclusions. Would it be helpful to do something in those neighborhoods? Yeah, it might be.
By the way, if it offends you that he suggests we should do away with child labor laws in response to that, well then I just have to say to you, look, the higher barriers you place to work, the lower participation you're going to have in it.
HOLMES: Alright, it looked like you wanted to respond there for a second, Ed. Do that for me quickly so I can move on to the next question here. But go ahead.
ESPINOZA: Okay well see, the problem is it's not that he's talking about kids not having work eth – it's a problem to assume that poor kids have any worse of a work ethic than kids who come from well-off communities. But when you make comparisons saying they're automatically going into drugs or pimping or anything else like that, that's too far. He is a public leader. He shapes public opinion. He needs to be more careful with his words.
- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center