Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign always had a freewheeling, cable-TV sensibility. It was unscripted, conversational, and exciting, and it generated a lot of buzz despite mostly low audience numbers at the polls. And now there just might be a Newt Gingrich show. This morning at Newt University, the daily policy symposium Gingrich is running in Tampa this week, I asked the former Speaker if he had plans to return to television as a commentator. “No,” he told me, standing in the hallway of the Wyndham Tampa West Shore shortly after taping an interview with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. “Callista and I are exploring whether or not we could do a daily show.” Gingrich described his idea as a show “that would be conversation rather than controversy, that would be interesting and positive rather than narrowly partisan.”
That sounded a lot like Morning Joe. And in fact, in his conversation with the hosts, Gingrich praised their show as a “dynamic audience that loves politics.”
Could Gingrich try to rebrand himself like Scarborough? Despite the Morning Joe host’s relentless criticism of Gingrich during the campaign (he called him a “danger to America“), there are some notable parallels between the two. Both were Republican congressmen who were swept into power in the class of 1994. Both were partisan warriors. Scarborough was the one-time host of the combative Scarborough Country in prime-time, and now hosts the political elite’s preferred morning chat show.
Gingrich’s idea is clearly in the early stages, and something his handlers would prefer he not talk about. When I asked him about television, his flack R.C Hammond cut in and said the “questions are too interesting for my weak heart.” A few moments later, I ran into Callista in the hotel lobby and asked her about their show. “We’re considering our options,” she said. Her handler came over and nervously asked, “are you recording this?” before ushering her away.
If Gingrich does return to television as a host, it most likely won’t be at Fox News, the network that gave him a longtime contributor deal. Newt’s critique of partisanship to me, and praise of MSNBC in his interview with Scarborough, sounded like a subtle jab at his former employer. In April, Gingrich and Fox News got into a row over his comments to a Delaware tea party group. Back then, Gingrich said,“In our experience, Callista and I both believe CNN is less biased than Fox this year. We are more likely to get neutral coverage out of CNN than we are of Fox, and we’re more likely to get distortion out of Fox. That’s just a fact.” Fox shot back, issuing a statement that said: “This is nothing more than Newt auditioning for a windfall of a gig at CNN. That’s the kind of man he is. Not to mention, he’s still bitter over the termination of his contributor contract.”
I asked Gingrich about his feelings about Fox today and he turned tense. “I’m not going to get into that.”