Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) is making no apologies for the organizers of this year's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
This year's conference has drawn significant attention for excluding prominent conservative gay rights groups and certain high-profile politicians, including Govs. Bob McDonnell (R-Va.) and Chris Christie (R-N.J.), while inviting media personalities like Donald Trump.
Although Gingrich is slated to speak at the conference, he told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham on Wednesday that he didn't "know what the purpose of CPAC is anymore."
"CPAC at one time was sort of the militant wing of the conservative movement. ... But I don't know how they define who gets to come in and who doesn't get to come in," he said. "And, my sense is the board is not very open and not very clear about, you know, whether these are just personality decisions or what they're thinking."
Christie was the keynote speaker at last year's CPAC. But organizers of this year's event pointed to some of his more moderate stances -- support for gun control and cooperation with President Barack Obama on Hurricane Sandy relief -- as reasons why he is being shut out now.
Gingrich said CPAC's decision to shun Christie overlooked "his record on controlling spending and reforming New Jersey government." The former presidential candidate went on to call Christie "pretty courageous" for his reforms as "a Northeastern governor in a heavily unionized state."
CPAC organizers have not given a reason for not including McDonnell, who was once a favorite on the right and a potential vice presidential nominee. But like Christie, he has recently upset conservatives by bucking party orthodoxy. He backed a transportation deal that raises taxes and agreed with Democrats to support Medicaid expansion.
Conservative commentators have vocalized their dissent of CPAC's exclusions, noting that they may send a message that buttresses a commonly held belief that the Republican Party is in need of an overhaul. Leading voices in the conservative media, including the editorial board of the National Review and Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post, specifically questioned the decisions to not invite Christie and conservative gay rights group, GOProud. "Maybe it is time to rethink the strategy of systematically shrinking the tent," Rubin wrote on Sunday.
On Wednesday, Gingrich told Ingraham she was "exactly right" when she said the CPAC's organizers "shouldn't be surprised when people criticize them."
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"It's Not My Time" (3 Doors Down)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/04/chris-christie-2012-decision-_n_993910.html" target="_hplink">(Oct. 4, 2011) --</a></strong> Christie announced that he will not run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, vowing that "now is not my time." He quipped to New Jersey residents "whether you like it or not, you're stuck with me."
"Need You Now" (Lady Antebellum)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/11/chris-christie-mitt-romney_n_1005601.html" target="_hplink"><strong>LEBANON, N.H. (Oct. 11, 2011) --</strong></a> After dismissing calls to run for president himself, Christie endorsed Romney, telling the GOP that he is the candidate we need now.
"How Do I Live" (LeAnn Rimes)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/07/chris-christie-town-hall_n_1133756.html" target="_hplink">WEST NEW YORK, N.J. (Dec. 7, 2011) --</a></strong> At a local town hall, Christie did not take kindly to a <a href="http://videos.nj.com/star-ledger/2011/12/video_chris_christie_asked_if.html" target="_hplink">constituent's question</a> about how his administration conducts these types of meetings. He showed the individual little mercy, going "if I plant questions, why the hell did I call on you?"
"Can You Feel The Love Tonight" (Elton John)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/08/chris-christie-mic-checked-occupy-wall-street_n_1136762.html" target="_hplink">(Dec. 8, 2011) --</a></strong> Occupy Wall Street protesters interrupted Christie during an appearance in Iowa, making him a target of the movement's "mic check" trend.
"Shut Up" (The Black Eyed Peas)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/22/chris-christie-warren-buffett_n_1294579.html" target="_hplink">(Feb. 21, 2012) --</a></strong> In an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan, Christie had some choice words for Warren Buffett, surrounding the billionaire investor's desire to be taxed at a higher rate. "Just write a check and shut up," he remarked.
"American Idiot" (Green Day)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/09/christie-argues-with-veteran_n_1334963.html" target="_hplink">(March 9, 2012) --</a></strong> Christie argued with a former Navy SEAL over the New Jersey's plans to reconfigure public universities. The result? Some fire from the governor's tongue, as he called the veteran an "idiot."
"Call Me Maybe" (Carly Rae Jepsen)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/13/chris-christie-talks-vp-p_n_1423271.html" target="_hplink">(April 13, 2012) --</a></strong> Throughout Mitt Romney's run for the White House, Christie made it known that he was open to a vice presidential nod (should Romney ask him).
"Rocky Ground" (Bruce Springsteen)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/19/chris-christie-sleeping-bruce-springsteen-_n_1438337.html" target="_hplink">(April 19, 2012) --</a></strong> Christie vehemently denied reports that he was sleeping at a Bruce Springsteen concert in New York City. <em><strong>
"I Don't Really Care" (Waka Flocka Flame)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/30/chris-christie-jimmy-kimmel_n_1465608.html" target="_hplink">(April 30, 2012) --</a> Christie responded to jokes comedian Jimmy Kimmel made about his weight at the 2012 White House Correspondents Dinner, throwing Sofia Vergara into the mix. "I figured I was in the zone of danger," he said.
"Ready Or Not" (The Fugees)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/14/chris-christie-gop-keynote-convention_n_1774525.html" target="_hplink">(Aug. 14, 2012) --</a></strong> After entertaining the idea of running for president and making Mitt Romney's short list of VP candidates, Christie was named the keynote speaker at the 2012 Republican National Convention. "I'll try to tell some very direct and hard truths to people in the country about the trouble that we're in and the fact that fixing those problems is not going to be easy for any of them," he told <em>USA Today</em>.