Newt Gingrich says he won’t back down on Bain

Defying calls to back off from attacking Mitt Romney’s business record, Newt Gingrich said Saturday evening that he would visit a South Carolina town on Sunday to draw attention to steelworkers laid off in a corporate buyout deal that spun off millions of dollars in fees for his rival’s investment firm.

The former House speaker was confronted at a Fox News forum in Charleston, S.C., by an audience member asking how he defended his “vilification of companies that put capital at risk in order to save failing companies.”

“I’ve never done that,” said Gingrich, who has been hammering Romney for days over money made by Romney’s former investment firm, Bain Capital, in takeover deals that resulted in layoffs.

Gingrich and another Republican presidential hopeful, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, have been highlighting Bain deals that resulted in job losses in South Carolina, including some at a Georgetown steel plant on the Intracoastal Waterway.


“We’re going to go to Georgetown,” Gingrich said. “Georgetown has a steel mill which was closed. Capital wasn’t put at risk. Capital was drained out of that company. Gov. Romney ran saying he created 100,000 jobs in the private sector.”

Audience members groaned.

“Mr. Speaker,” moderator Mike Huckabee interrupted, “we’ve said we will not allow any comment on the other candidates.”

“I’m just trying to answer his question,” said Gingrich, one of five GOP presidential candidates who made separate appearances at the forum.

To raise questions about a company “is not the same as attacking capitalism,” Gingrich continued. If Republicans avoid challenging the former Massachusetts governor’s record at Bain, he said, President Obama’s reelection team will not be so kind in the fall. “Every single candidate has to be prepared to answer the questions before the nomination so that we know that whoever we nominate is capable of surviving the fall campaign.”

With South Carolina’s Jan. 21 primary a week away, Romney’s campaign has pushed back hard at Gingrich and Perry for casting his private equity career in a dark light. Since Friday, Romney has been running a TV ad in South Carolina saying, “We expected the Obama administration to put free markets on trial, but as the Wall Street Journal said, ‘Mr. Romney’s GOP opponents are embarrassing themselves by taking the Obama line.’ ”