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Newt Gingrich: Brian Williams 'Wrong' To Silence GOP Debate Crowd (VIDEO)

Newt Gingrich

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 01/24/2012 9:04 am Updated: 01/24/2012 1:06 pm

Newt Gingrich hit out at NBC's Brian Williams on Tuesday morning, criticizing the moderator of Monday night's debate for keeping the forum's audience quiet.

The crowd, which has been one of the stars of the never-ending series of GOP debates for months, was notably muted on Monday, under strict instructions from Williams not to interfere. Perhaps he was thinking of the last time he hosted a debate, when audience members cheered after he questioned Rick Perry about the number of executions his state had carried out.

While there were some moments of scattered applause on Monday, the candidates were mostly sending their zingers into dead air -- and Gingrich, who loves to play to the audience, was robbed of another standing ovation from the crowd.

Speaking on Tuesday's "Fox and Friends," Gingrich said that NBC and Williams had made a bad choice.

"I wish in retrospect I had protested when Brian Williams took them out of it because I think it's wrong," he said. "And I think he took them out of it because the media is terrified that they're going to side with the candidates against the media."

Gingrich added that, in upcoming debates, he was "simply not going to allow" the moderators to silence the audience.

"The media doesn't control free speech," he said.

UPDATE: CNN, which has held some of the most raucous debates of all the networks, told HuffPost's Michael Calderone that the reaction to NBC's debate rules has not changed its plans about the forum it is hosting on Thursday night.

"As we have done in the past, CNN will ask the audience to be respectful of the candidates," the network said in a statement. "We have always said that if audience reaction such as shouting or booing interferes with the debate or with the candidates’ answers, we will ask the audience to refrain."


Some of the most controversial moments from the GOP debates.
  • Juan Williams and Newt Gingrich

    In South Carolina, Juan Williams suggested that Gingrich's comments about blacks and food stamps were insulting to all Americans, especially black Americans. Gingrich fiercely denied those charges, and doubled down on his comments -- and got a standing ovation from the audience.

  • John King and Newt Gingrich

    John King began CNN's South Carolina debate by asking Gingrich about his ex-wife's explosive interview. Gingrich responded with a searing condemnation of the question, and the "elite media."

  • Wolf Blitzer and Ron Paul

    One of the most discussed moments of the GOP debates came when Wolf Blitzer questioned Ron Paul about his views on health care. Members of the audience cheered when Blitzer asked if society should let an uninsured man die.

  • George Stephanopoulos and Mitt Romney

    George Stephanopoulos asked Mitt Romney whether states could legally ban contraception. Romney was offended by the question, and said there was no point to it because no state was considering doing so.

  • John King and Mitt Romney

    John King asked Mitt Romney if he planned to follow in the footsteps of his father -- who once ran for president -- and release his tax returns. Romney said, "Maybe," prompting boos from the audience.

  • Byron York and Michele Bachmann

    Byron York asked Michele Bachmann if she would be submissive to her husband as president.

  • Megyn Kelly and Rick Santorum

    Members of the audience booed when Megyn Kelly replayed a clip of a gay soldier asking the candidates whether they would reinstate DADT.

  • Brian Williams and Rick Perry

    Brian Williams asked Rick Perry if he ever had trouble sleeping over the possibility that one of the 234 prisoners who were executed during his term could have been innocent. The audience cheered at the mention of 234 executions, and Williams also asked Perry what he made of that reaction.

  • Chris Wallace and Rick Perry

    Chris Wallace asked Rick Perry to defend his decision to allow undocumented college students to pay in-state tuition. Perry was booed when he said that people who do not believe in educating undocumented students do not have a heart.

  • Chris Wallace and Newt Gingrich

    Chris Wallace and Newt Gingrich got into a hostile exchange at a debate in Iowa after Wallace asked him to explain reports that his campaign staff had quit en masse. Gingrich accused the Fox News panelists of playing "Mickey Mouse games."