Newt Gingrich took a swipe at some of his rival GOP presidential candidates on Tuesday, characterizing decisions not to attend an upcoming debate set to be moderated by real estate mogul Donald Trump as motivated by fear and indicative of weakness.
"I think if you're afraid to debate with Donald Trump, people are going to say, 'so you want me to believe you can debate Barack Obama, but you're afraid to show up with Donald Trump?'" Gingrich told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren. "And I think -- it strikes me it's kind of a very weak position. I don't know why people would do that."
(Video above via Fox News. Comments begin just after the 2-minute mark.)
The comments are particularly poignant considering that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Gingrich's primary competitor, had announced just hours earlier that he had rejected Trump's invite.
While other contenders, such as Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul, have also declared their intentions to steer clear of Trump's Dec. 27th debate, citing concerns that it would only serve as a sideshow and distraction, Gingrich appeared to judge this possibility as a positive.
"He is such a character," Gingrich said of Trump. "I mean, this is this larger-than-life entrepreneur who has now found television, is having the time of his life, and is, you know, a celebrity in his own right. He just -- he adds a level of excitement and zest that's interesting."
Asked if he had stopped to consider how the debate, which will be cosponsored by conservative outlet NewsMax and broadcast on the ION television network, might be conducted, Gingrich replied that he expected it to play out like a reality TV show.
"I assume it's like 'The Apprentice' presidency," Gingrich said, referring to Trump's NBC program. "I mean, you know, I can't imagine what it would be like, which is part of why -- this is a very serious business and we're picking the President of the United States and we all have to be very serious. But every once in a while on the campaign trail, to have something that just sort of breaks out is good. And I think -- I believe that having Donald Trump in that kind of environment will absolutely be amazing."
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Gingrich are the only ones currently slated to partake in the event.
On Wednesday morning, Trump weighed in on the latest developments regarding the debate, saying that Romney's decision to turn down the invite was unexpected, primarily because he wanted Trump's backing.
"Frankly, I'm surprised because he really wants my endorsement," Trump said on MSNBC. "I mean, he wants it very badly."
(Video below via GOP12)
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