Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said he was sympathetic toward Texas Gov. Rick Perry Thursday evening, the same day he made a joke at a town hall about his rival's debate gaffe.
In an exchange that has been replayed many times on television and YouTube, Perry stumbled for 55 seconds trying to remember the third agency of government he would cut. "I would do away with the Education, the um, Commerce, and let's see. I can't think of the third one. I can't. Sorry. Oops," he finally said after looking to his rivals and the moderator for answers.
Thursday at a town hall in Detroit, Gingrich made a joke about the stumble. When answering a question about cabinet-level reform, he said, "I have several departments in mind. He added, "I've forgotten some of them." He continued, "I think the place to start is the Department of Energy," referring to the agency Perry forgot.
Gingrich sounded more conciliatory on the "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox News Thursday, with Laura Ingraham filling in for Bill O'Reilly. "I'm very sympathetic to Gov. Rick Perry. He's a very smart man. He's the longest serving governor in the history of Texas," he said. "And I always worry when I go into these debates because there's now an exaggerated expectation of how well I'll do. And I always have this fear that something will happen to me exactly as happened to Rick last night."
"I mean my heart goes out to him. I wasn't gloating at that point. I was thinking, wow, that could have happened to any one of us," he continued.
On CBS' "The Early Show," Friday, Gingrich made similar comments, saying, "It was very uncomfortable, because I like Rick Perry a lot."
On Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, Gingrich said he would not have called House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi "Princess Nancy," as the former Godfather's Pizza CEO did at the Wednesday debate.
"You get tempted to use phrases that may not be totally worthy of the president of the United States, so I'm trying to -- as I shift from Fox analyst to potential president -- I'm trying to sort of not use some of those phrases," he said on Fox News. After the debate, Cain said that he should not have used that word.
On the subject of the sexual harassment allegations against Cain, Gingrich said the former Godfather's Pizza CEO had handled them well. "Up to now he seems to have satisfied most people that the allegations aren't proven, and that having people who hold press conferences isn't the same as a conviction," he said on CBS.
"I have known Herman a long time. He's a very attractive, very articulate person. He's been very bold in his ideas, and I think people admire that kind of boldness."