master debaters

Brian Williams Is an Enemy of Free Speech

Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speaks during a campaign event at Tick Tock Restaurant on January 24, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Gingrich is campaigning ahead of Florida's January 31, primary.
Newt Gingrich has performance issues. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Newt Gingrich’s best debate skill is his ability to elicit audience applause with condescending quips about the media, President Obama, or Mitt Romney. But at last night’s NBC debate in Florida, moderator Brian Williams directed the audience to please remain silent, “so as to ensure this is about the four candidates here tonight and what they have to say.” In addition to making the debate less entertaining to watch, the dynamic clearly threw off Gingrich’s performance. But never again, he declared today. “We’re going to serve notice on future debates,” Gingrich told Fox News. “The media doesn’t control free speech. People ought to be allowed to applaud if they want to.” Just one problem: As an unnamed “Romney adviser” pointed out to Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin this morning, the general election debates in which Gingrich claims he would destroy President Obama don’t allow applause either.