Gingrich: Accusations of Republican race-baiting are ‘absurd’

Updated

Just hours after he accused the Republican National Committee’s chairman of playing the “ethnic card” in the 2012 election, msnbc’s Chris Matthews confronted Newt Gingrich with the same charges.

“You’ve engaged in what I consider very problematic rhetoric on the campaign trail,” Matthews told Gingrich at the start of a wide-ranging interview on Monday’s Hardball. After listing some examples of that rhetoric, he asked, “Do you have a problem, thinking back on it, of having used ethnic politics?”

Gingrich denied the premise of the question, calling the idea that either he or the Republican Party writ large use race-baiting tactics “absurd.” Dismissing Romney’s now-infamous birth certificate joke as a “throwaway line,” he added, “Romney was making—by any reasonable standard—he was making what’s called a joke.”

Matthews was unpersuaded and suggested that the Republican Party’s current messaging fit into a pattern of race-baiting going back to Reagan’s remarks in the ’80s regarding “welfare queens” and “strapping young bucks” who were allegedly exploiting the American welfare system.

“Why do you assume food stamps refers to black?” Gingrich said, again defending his description of Barack Obama as a “food stamp president.” “What racist assumptions do you have?”

“Everybody out there who’s black or white knows exactly what game is being played here,” Matthews said.

Gingrich’s contentious exchange with Matthews took place in Tampa, Florida, the site of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Gingrich will present two-hour “Newt University” seminars daily throughout the convention. Though he did not originally have a speaking slot, he and his wife Callista are now scheduled to present a tribute to Ronald Reagan on Thursday night.

Newt Gingrich

Gingrich: Accusations of Republican race-baiting are 'absurd'

Updated