In a largely even-tempered appearance on "Meet the Press" Sunday, former Secretary of State Colin Powell did save a few harsh words for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for propagating rumors about the president that he labeled "nonsense."
Asked to address Gingrich's latest controversial comments -- in which he insisted that President Obama suffered from a Kenyan anti-colonial worldview -- Powell insisted that the former speaker was simply pining for the spotlight. He also urged Republican voters not to fall for the gambit or mistake it for serious or winning politics.
"I would just tell my fellow Americans: think carefully about what was just said, think carefully about some of the stuff that is coming across the blogs and the airwaves. Let's make a couple points: One, the president was born in the United States of America. Let's get rid of that one, let's get rid of the birther thing. Let's attack him on policy and not nonsense. Next, he is a Christian. He is not a Muslim. Twenty percent of the people see he is a Muslim, 80 percent apparently do not believe he is a Muslim."
At this point, moderator David Gregory interrupted to note that even more Republicans (30 percent, roughly) bought the Obama-is-a-Muslim myth.
"Well surprise, surprise. But I bet you a dollar if the unemployment rate was not 9.5 percent but it was down to four percent then you would find only five percent think he is a Muslim. So they are attacking the president on this line. But he is not a Muslim. He is a Christian, and I think we have to be careful when we take things like Dinesh D'souza's book, which is the source for all this, and suggest that somehow the president of the United States is channeling his dead father through some Kenyan spirits. This doesn't make any sense. Mr. Gingrich does these things from time to time, with a big bold statement. He did it with [Sonia] Sotomayor, she's a reverse racist; he did it with Elena Kagan, she ought to be taken off the nomination for Supreme Court justice; and he does it occasionally to make news and also to stir up dust."
Powell, it should be noted, has made appeals to sober-minded Republicanism before, also on "Meet the Press." And his pleas were met with calls from some of the GOP's more senior members to, essentially, leave the party. So while his rebuke of Gingrich may be newsworthy, the reaction to it could produce some telling remarks as well.
This post originally misspelled Elena Kagan's first name. We regret the error.