Gingrich sheds doubt on Romney’s business past

January 9, 2012

Newt Gingrich raised questions about Mitt Romney’s private sector past at two back-to-back debates over the weekend in New Hampshire, returning to an allegation he made last month that Mitt Romney made a fortune at Bain by “bankrupting companies and laying off employees.”

A new report by the New York Times, Gingrich said, showed that Bain, the private equity firm co-founded by Romney, had “looted” one particular company (although it turns out he was actually referring to a Reuters story, written by Andy Sullivan and Greg Roumeliotis, about Bain’s investment in a Kansas City steel mill).

At Saturday night’s debate, moderator George Stephanopoulos asked Gingrich to address a new, “very scathing attack” by a pro-Gingrich Super PAC against Romney’s work at Bain Capital, the private equity firm he co-founded. The video, Stephanopoulos said, calls Romney’s “tenure ‘a story of greed’…saying that Bain made spectacular profits by ‘stripping American businesses of assets, selling everything to the highest bidder and often killing jobs for big financial rewards.'”

Gingrich said that while he is “very much for free enterprise,” he’s less “enamored of a Wall Street model where you can flip companies, you can go in and have leveraged buyouts, you can basically take out all the money, leaving behind the workers.”

“Is that the Bain model?” asked Stephanopoulos.

“You have to look at the New York Times coverage of one particular company,” he said.

“They took one specific company. They walked through in detail. They showed what they bought it for, how much they took out of it and the 1,700 people they left unemployed. Now that’s — check the New York Times story, but that’s their story.”

Romney scoffed at Gingrich’s New York Times citation. “I’m not surprised to have the New York Times try and put free enterprise on trial,” he quipped.

Sarah Wheaton, a New York Times mobile editor, was among the first to take notice on Twitter of Gingrich’s attribution error. “Not sure, but I think the NYT story Gingrich was talking about was actually this Reuters story:,” she tweeted soon after his remarks on Saturday evening. In its roundup of Saturday’s debate, the New York Times noted that “Mr. Gingrich appears to have misspoken; he was apparently referring to a Jan. 6 Reuters article.”

But Gingrich again wrongly attributed the article to the New York Times on Sunday morning at a second debate in Concord, New Hampshire.

“If you look at the New York Times article, and I think it was on Thursday, you would certainly have to say that Bain, at times, engaged in behavior where they looted a company, leaving behind 1,700 unemployed people,” he told moderator David Gregory. “That’s the New York Times, that’s not me.”

In their story, Sullivan and Roumeliotis describe Bain’s investment in a Kansas City steel mill — one of the firm’s many investments — that earned Bain $12 million but cost 750 employees their jobs and ultimately necessitated a $44 million bailout from the federal government to fund the company’s pension plan.

After Gingrich repeated the error on Sunday, Reuters’ Sam Youngman tweeted, “Newt: ‘That’s the New York Times. It’s not me.’ Actually, it was Reuters.”

“PSA: Reuters published the Bain story everyone is talking about. Here is is:,” New York Times reporter Nick Confessore noted. HuffPost’s Michael Calderone and Jim Romenesko put out similar tweets after Joe Pompeo wrote a story about the mix-up in Capital New York.

Gingrich defended his attacks against Romney in an appearance on the Today Show on Monday morning. “At some point Romney is going to have to hold a press conference and walk through, with considerable detail, some of the companies that Bain took over where they apparently looted the companies, left people totally unemployed and walked off with millions of dollars,” he said.

“Governor Romney will have to defend what he did at Bain. That’s his record… He owes us a report of his stewardship of his private record.”

Here’s the trailer for “When Mitt Romney Came To Town,” the new video produced by pro-Gingrich Super PAC Winning Our Future, attacking Romney’s record at Bain:

Credit: WinningOurFuture/YouTube

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This is Romney’s idea of free markets. Profits before people.

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