Gingrich faces down protests at brain science event
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich defended himself against attacks from his rivals on Wednesday when he ran into a sustained protest at what was supposed to be a low-key event about the human brain.
Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is trying to hang on to a lead in Iowa to score a victory in the state’s Jan. 3 caucuses, the first U.S. nominating contest in the Republican race to choose a 2012 presidential candidate.
But to do it he will have to overcome sustained negative ads and daily attacks from his rivals, such as a comment Mitt Romney made to The New York Times on Wednesday calling him “zany.”
Gingrich vowed to remain positive in a session with reporters and kept referring back to his proposal for a public-private partnership to accelerate ways to reverse Alzheimer’s.
Other campaigns can do what they want, “and I’m going to run the campaign the way I want to,” he said.
“I’m frankly taking the gamble that the American people actually care about solving our problems, not just beating each other up.”
Faced with competing bus tours by rivals Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, Gingrich said he would also launch one of his own later in the month. He said it will be difficult to win in Iowa, given the barrage of negative attacks he is facing.
“I think Iowa is going to be a challenge,” he said.
Gingrich came to the University of Iowa’s College of Medicine to talk up the need to improve the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other maladies of the brain.
Before he had a chance to talk, however, a young woman seated in the crowd interrupted loudly by reading a statement, denouncing Gingrich for his “callous and arrogant attitude toward poor people.”
Other protesters sprinkled throughout the crowded auditorium repeated the woman’s remarks loudly, creating a cacophony of protest. Locals said the protesters appeared to have been from the Occupy Iowa City movement.
Gingrich stood quietly at the podium to let the protest run out of steam, but it went on and on.
This quickly angered the people who came to hear Gingrich speak.
“Hey, why don’t you shut up!” shouted one man. “You had your freedom of speech,” said another. “Why do you have to be so rude,” asked yet another.
Security escorted the protesters out one by one, and Gingrich went on with his remarks.
But at the end, when he took questions, Gingrich was slammed again by a man who told Gingrich he had taken short cuts to making money by selling books and had earned a “PhD in cheating on your wives.”
Gingrich replied: “Other than personal hostility, how would you know anything about how I published books?”
Photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Young – Newt Gingrich listens to his introduction before speaking at a campaign stop at the University of Iowa College of Public Health Medical Education Research Facility in Iowa City, Iowa, December 14, 2011.