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NBC's David Gregory Defends Medicare Question As Newt Gingrich Spokesman Blasts Media ‘Minions'

Newt Gingrich

First Posted: 05/18/11 03:06 PM ET Updated: 07/18/11 06:12 AM ET

NEW YORK -- When Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) sits down on “Meet the Press” this Sunday, he can expect to be asked about former House Speaker Newt Gingrich comparing his Medicare voucher plan to “right-wing social engineering.”

“No question about it,” host David Gregory told The Huffington Post. Gregory said Gingrich’s comment on last Sunday's "Meet the Press" reflects upon the larger issue of the “difficulty of taking on Medicare in a campaign season."

Gingrich, however, is trying to put the controversy behind him. Last night, he told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren that he’d already apologized to Ryan for his response to Gregory’s question about whether Republicans should “really move forward to completely change Medicare” and “turn it into a voucher program” –- a question he now wishes he didn’t answer at all.

“It's a hypothetical baloney question that had no hope of happening,” Gingrich said. “The Republicans don't control the Senate. They don't have the White House. They can't do what Obama did. And I should just dismiss it. So, that was a mistake.”

Earlier Tuesday, Gingrich -- who’d made 34 previous appearances on “Meet the Press” – said on a conference call that he “didn't go in [to the interview] quite hostile enough, because it didn't occur to me going in that you'd have a series of setups.”

"There was no set-up," said Gregory, adding that the veteran politician "knew what he was doing" and "knows what he’s doing now."

“I don’t take what he’s doing all that personally,” Gregory said. “I understand that he must feel that he made a mistake in answering the way he did. He’s got to do whatever he’s got to do.”

But the "Meet the Press" comment wasn't the only bump in Gingrich's rocky rollout. He's also had to respond to questions about a six-figure jewelry debt and got doused with glittery confetti by a gay-rights activist. After just one week, political reporters and pundits -- some who speculated for years about Gingrich getting in the 2012 race -- are already counting him out.

The Gingrich camp thinks the punditocracy's got it all wrong. When asked by The Huffington Post about media coverage this past week, Gingrich press secretary Rick Tyler fired off a response blasting the political and media elite.

“The literati sent out their minions to do their bidding,” Tyler wrote. “Washington cannot tolerate threats from outsiders who might disrupt their comfortable world. The firefight started when the cowardly sensed weakness. They fired timidly at first, then the sheep not wanting to be dropped from the establishment’s cocktail party invite list unloaded their entire clip, firing without taking aim their distortions and falsehoods. Now they are left exposed by their bylines and handles. But surely they had killed him off. This is the way it always worked. A lesser person could not have survived the first few minutes of the onslaught. But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich, once again ready to lead those who won’t be intimated by the political elite and are ready to take on the challenges America faces.”

It’s not uncommon for Republican presidential candidates to swing at the press. For instance, George H.W. Bush's campaign gave out bumper stickers reading “Annoy the Media, Vote for Bush.” And former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin routinely slammed the media during the 2008 campaign. But Tyler’s response, stylistically resembling a Medieval prologue of a valiant knight heading off to battle, may just take Republican media criticism to another level for 2012.

“It’s not surprising that people running for office like to turn against the media when it suits them,” Gregory said when asked about the campaign's criticism of the press this week.

Still, Gregory praised Gingrich for his willingness to engage so much with the media over the years. “I appreciate Newt Gingrich appearing on all kinds of different platforms,” Gregory said. “He’s always willing to sit down and answer questions and say what he thinks. Not every politician is willing to do that.”

So would Gregory have him back on the show? “Absolutely."

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