FILE - In this Feb. 20, 2010, file photo, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich waves to his supporters after addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington. Gingrich may be running for the Republican presidential nomination. Or maybe he is just running all the way to the bank. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File) (AP)

Please stop asking Newt Gingrich if he'll run for president

David Gregory becomes the latest journalist to ask the ex-speaker a question he has answered 19 times before

Justin Elliott
November 15, 2010 11:28PM (UTC)

News consumers woke up this morning to yet another round of headlines touting the possibility that Newt Gingrich will run for president in 2012, and that he and his wife, Callista, will make a decision in February or March of next year. This time thanks goes to "Meet the Press" host David Gregory, who asked Gingrich about his plans on Sunday. 

Gingrich has now been repeating the exact same formulation about his plans for about a year and a half. And every time he does it, the media reports it as if it's new. That's despite the fact that, by our non-comprehensive count, Gingrich has repeated in 20 separate interviews that he will make his decision in February or March of 2011.


Context is especially crucial in Gingrich's case because, as Salon has documented, he has a history going back to 1996 of making empty presidential campaign threats. They are a great way to get free publicity, especially when you're in the political fundraising business, as Gingrich is. And journalists play their part too, repeatedly asking Gingrich the same question, despite his crystal-clear, oft-repeated position.

Gregory, for example, said on Sunday: "Speaker Gingrich, somebody made a smart point the other day, said, 'You know what, Newt Gingrich will be the first to announce for president. He'll do it in January in Iowa.' Where are you? You going to run?"

To get a better sense of this phenomenon, here's a timeline of coverage of Gingrich's statements; many of the instances resulted in stories touting Gingrich as a possible presidential contender, almost always lacking the context that what he was saying was not new:

  • March 1, 2009: In interview with New York Times: "During a conversation in the back of a Cadillac Escalade in the first week of February, on his way to a speech, Gingrich told me he would have to make a decision about the next election by the early weeks of 2011."
  • March 6, 2009: In interview with Virginia reporters: "Callista and I will look seriously and we'll probably get our family totally engaged, including our two grandchildren, probably in January, 2011. ... We'll look seriously at whether or not we think it's necessary to do it. And if we think it's necessary we'll probably do it. And if it isn't necessary we probably won't do it."
  • Oct. 26, 2009: On C-Span: "Callista and I are going to think about this in February 2011. ... And we'll decide, if there's a requirement as citizens that we run, I suspect we probably will."
  • Nov. 13, 2009: In interview with Politico: "The standard answer ... is in February 2011, Callista and I will talk about it."
  • Feb. 25, 2010: In interview with National Journal: "Gingrich said he and his wife Callista were 'trying to organize our activities to be in a position to make a decision [about running for president] in February or March [of '11].'"
  • May 17, 2010: In interview with Politico: "Yeah, Callista will look probably in February -- certainly between February and March, but in that cycle."
  • June 20, 2010: On NPR: "Callista and I will sit down in February and March of next year and make a decision. It's certainly an option."
  • July 13, 2010: In interview with the AP: "I've never been this serious. ... It's fair to say that by February the groundwork will have been laid to consider seriously whether or not to run."
  • July 25, 2010: On Fox: "I think that's a decision we'll make in February or March, and I'm actually not very much concerned about it."
  • Aug. 2, 2010: On "Good Morning America": "We'll find out next February or March. Callista and I will meet with our family and make a decision. But I do think this is a very different environment."
  • Sept. 3, 2010: On Fox: "Well, Callista and I will make a decision next February."
  • Sept. 14, 2010: In interview with the Des Moines Register: "He said he and his wife, Callista, are working hard to get their four businesses 'in a position where if we do make a positive decision in February or March, we could execute it.'"
  • Sept. 28, 2010: On Fox: "[F]or right now, I'm running for every possible Republican vote this November to elect every possible candidate everywhere in the country. And then I suspect Callista and I'll come back on that couch you talked about and sometime early next year we'll chat with you about other opportunities."
  • Oct 21, 2010: On Fox: "Well, Callista and I will probably make that decision in February or March of next year. We certainly are making provisions that if we did decide to run we'd be able to."
  • Oct. 26, 2010: "In an interview outside Pennsylvania's Republican state headquarters, Gingrich, the architect of the Republicans' 1994 'Contract with America,' said he and his wife, Callista, were 'doing everything we can' to get the couple's business interests in order so 'if we do decide to run, we can do so.'"
  • Oct. 31, 2010: In interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Callista and I will decide that probably in February or March of next year. We are certainly looking at it. We are certainly taking it very serioulsy and we'll make a decision late in the first quarter of 2011."
  • Nov. 8, 2010: On Fox:  HANNITY: All right. And you're running? / GINGRICH: I don't know yet. Callista and I -- /  HANNITY: I thought you're going to tell me. / GINGRICH: Callista and I will report to you -- / HANNITY: You're going to announce here. / GINGRICH: At the end of February, early March, we will be here talking about it.
  • Nov. 9, 2010: On "Good Morning America": "Well, I think Callista and I look forward to be coming back in, maybe, in late February and chatting with you about that."
  • Nov. 11, 2010: "Former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich joined [Texas Gov. Rick] Perry at a book signing Thursday ... Gingrich said he's very interested in a run at the White House. 'I think Callista and I will make that decision in February or early March,' he said. 'We run four small businesses, and we're organizing them right now so that we'd be able to run. I must say that the clear, vivid choice between where Obama would take us and what most Americans want to go makes it very appealing.'"
  • Nov. 14, 2010: On "Meet the Press": "I think Callista and I'll make a decision probably in February; and probably, if we do run, we'll announce, I suspect, in late March. But we're still months away from that."

 Here's the video from "Meet the Press," with partial transcript below:


Justin Elliott

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

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