Newt Gingrich previously defended treating terrorists like criminals


Newt Gingrich was publicly embarrassed this week when he claimed on Tuesday night's The Daily Show that shoe bomber Richard Reid was Mirandized after he was arrested because he was an American citizen. The next day, Gingrich corrected his mistake -- Jon Stewart had done it first as he was wrapping up Tuesday's TDS -- via Twitter and took the opportunity to attack the Obama administration again.

On Wednesday morning, Gingrich tweeted:

On daily show was wrong re: ShoeBomber citizenship, was thinking of Padilla. Treating terrorists like criminals wrong no matter who is Pres.

Given Gingrich's previous use of Twitter for spreading falsehoods and misinformation, it should come as no surprise that his tweeted apology was similarly suspect.

Huffington Post's Sam Stein pointed out that Gingrich's claim that "treating terrorists like criminals" is "wrong" diverged from previous comments he'd made on Fox News in 2005 defending the Bush administration's decision to try Jose Padilla in criminal court.

Here's what Gingrich said on the November 22, 2005 edition of The O'Reilly Factor (accessed from the Nexis database):

JOHN KASICH, GUEST HOST: Newt, let's start with Padilla. You know, we were holding him as an enemy combatant. And then for some reason, they decide to transfer him over to some sort of a criminal court. Is -- I don't understand that. Is that a loss for the government here?

NEWT GINGRICH, FOX NEWS ANALYST: Well, I think if they believe they have enough evidence to convict him, going through the process of convicting him and holding him, I suspect, may be for the rest of his life without parole would not be -- would hardly be seen as a loss.

I think this administration is still wrestling with what are the real ground rules for dealing with people who are clearly outside of normal warfare? They're not wearing a uniform. They're not part of an army. They are openly threatening to kill thousands or even millions of people.

And so, we don't have a good set of rules. You see this with the McCain amendment that passed the Senate by -- with 98 votes on establishing boundaries in terms of not permitting torture. You see it in a project underway at the Defense Department. We're looking at what are the right ground rules.

And I suspect that part of what happened was a decision that they were in a stronger position both around the world and in the United States in terms of public opinion if they brought Padilla forward, proved they had a real case, and convicted him in a criminal court. That's my guess, but I don't have any inside information.

To sum up: During the Bush administration, Gingrich didn't think it was a "loss" to try Padilla in a civilian court. During the Obama administration, Gingrich claimed that no matter who the president is, "treating terrorists like criminals" is "wrong." Despite his protestations to the contrary, it seems it does matter to Gingrich who is president.

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