Trying to track down an old Gingrich outburst

Newt Gingrich

I had hoped to stir up a little controversy this week over something Newt Gingrich said a long time ago. But unless someone out there in Media Nation has better documentation than I do, I’m afraid I’m going to fall short.

Here’s what I’m talking about. On Friday and Saturday, May 13 and 14, 1994, I was among three reporters from the Boston Phoenix who covered the Republican State Convention in Springfield. (Also on hand were Al Giordano and Bob Keough.) On Saturday, Gingrich, then well on his way to becoming speaker, delivered the keynote address.

I recall sitting in slack-jawed amazement as Gingrich offered some hate-filled words about disease-ridden Haitians invading our shores while Bill Clinton did nothing about it. (The AIDS epidemic seemed to be centered in Haiti in its early days.) Unfortunately, no one wrote it up according to the online archives I searched.

As best as I can tell, neither the Boston Globe nor the Boston Herald bothered to cover Gingrich’s speech. Neither did the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, though it did quote then-congressman Peter Blute, who introduced Gingrich, as saying, “He energized the base of the party to get out there and work hard for the candidates.”

The Springfield Sunday Republican offered up a few soundbites from Gingrich — but nothing on Haiti and AIDS, as the story focused mainly on Gingrich’s praise for then-governor Bill Weld. “What makes Gov. Weld so different is he understands the obligation not to repair it, not to raise taxes to pay for it, not to prop it up, but to replace the welfare state,” the Republican quoted Gingrich as saying.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton got a little more incendiary, with this:

Gingrich also attacked congressional Democrats for what he called, “a provision in the crime bill that establishes a racial quota for murderers,” referring to a section seeking to determine if members of one racial group are being convicted for murder more than others.

But alas, still nothing on Haitians.

I thought I must have written something. So last week I visited the Boston Public Library, where I looked up the issue of the Phoenix that was published the Thursday after the convention. And there was not a word about it. Apparently we had made the decision to cover the event for background purposes on the grounds that no one wanted to read what we had to say five days after the fact. Of course, this being 1994, we weren’t blogging the convention. So if it didn’t appear in the paper, well, it didn’t appear.

In an ironic twist — as Gingrich and Mitt Romney battle it out for the Republican presidential nomination — is that one of the stars of the convention was Romney, who was just beginning his campaign against Sen. Ted Kennedy.

It’s possible that I’ve got a notebook in the attic. But finding it would be a huge challenge, and then I’d have to decipher my handwriting from more than 17 years ago. It’s also possible that I did something with it later in the campaign. But I doubt it, and eliminating that possibility would require several hours with microfilm.

So there you have it — a tantalizing tidbit about Gingrich, just out of reach, less than a week before the Iowa caucuses. If anyone remembers this or has a newspaper clipping, I would love to hear from you.

Photo (cc) by Gage Skidmore and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.