Mr. Gingrich, a former House speaker, on Tuesday morning threatened not participate in any future debates with audiences that have been instructed to be silent. That was the case on Monday, when Brian Williams of NBC News asked the audience of about 500 people who assembled for a debate in Tampa to hold their applause until the commercial breaks.
In an interview with the morning show “Fox and Friends,” Mr. Gingrich said NBC’s rules amounted to stifling free speech. In what has become a standard line of attack for his anti-establishment campaign, Mr. Gingrich blamed the media for trying to silence a dissenting point of view.
“I wish in retrospect I’d protested when Brian Williams took them out of it because I think it’s wrong,” Mr. Gingrich said. “And I think he took them out of it because the media is terrified that the audience is going to side with the candidates against the media, which is what they’ve done in every debate.”
I actually agree that asking the audience to remain silent is silly. If you don't want audience participation ... then don't invite an audience. At the same time, I think Newt Gingrich is a fool to be complaining about it, because complaining about it projects weakness. He claims he's only interested in protecting free speech ...
“We’re going to serve notice on future debates,” he told Fox. “The media doesn’t control free speech. People ought to be allowed to applaud if they want to.”
... but everybody knows that the real reason he's upset is that without an audience cheering him on, he transforms from the Incredible Hulk into the Pillsbury Doughboy. And going on television the day after a debate to complain about the lack of an audience reminds Republicans of exactly that fact.
The good news for Newt, however, is that there will be an audience during Thursday's debate. And who knows: if he says "Food Stamp President" enough times, maybe the teapartiers will hoist him on their shoulders and carry him off the stage like a championship football coach.