12/20/2011 04:43 pm ET Updated Dec 20, 2011

Newt Gingrich Rips Mitt Romney For Being 'Purely Dishonest'

OTTUMWA, Iowa -- Newt Gingrich on Tuesday tore into Mitt Romney for saying he has no control over a pro-Romney super PAC, which has blanketed the air waves in the Hawkeye State with TV ads criticizing Gingrich.

"His comments today are palpably misleading, clearly false, and are politics in its worst form," Gingrich said. "These are his people, running his ads, doing his dirty work, while he pretends to be above it."

"For him to say he couldn't find the people who gave that money, and he couldn't get them to put pressure on the PACs to be reasonable, is just purely dishonest," Gingrich added.

The former House speaker from Georgia began his press conference by reading from a press account of Romney's comments on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" earlier that day, in which Romney tried to distance himself from the super PAC system and said such organizations -- which can accept unlimited donations for overt political activity -- should be eliminated.

"We really ought to let campaigns raise the money they need and just get rid of these super PACs," Romney said.

When asked on the show if he would urge the pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, to stop attacking Gingrich, the former Massachusetts governor demurred.

"I'm not allowed to communicate with the super PAC in any way, shape or form," he said.

Gingrich scoffed at Romney's caution, saying that public statements carried in the press would not violate campaign finance law.

Gingrich, who has talked incessantly for the last two days about the ad war being waged against him by the super PAC supporting Romney, as well as by the campaigns of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, appeared to be incensed at Romney's Tuesday morning remarks and came very close to crossing his self-imposed line to avoid negative attacks on Republican presidential primary opponents.

He denied that his response was violating his own standard.

"You have to reserve some right to correct the record," Gingrich said. "I want to see how you turn the request to be positive into an attack. I can see it now: 'Gingrich viciously attacks today by asking his opponent to be honest.' OK, I plead guilty. Yes, I would like him to be honest."

Gingrich was also questioned about a statement he made during a speech attacking his primary rivals for their negative ads. "Shame on them for not caring enough about America to be positive," he had said.

"I didn't say they don't love America. I said they don't love it enough to not run negative ads," said Gingrich, getting lawyerly. "I'm sure they love America some."

He repeated his call for Romney to demand that the super PAC run only positive ads and stop attacking him.

"I have a simple challenge for Governor Romney. This PAC was created by his former staff and funded by his personal friends. He wants to stop it? He can say publicly -- I'm told they're going to spend $1,400,000 next week -- he can demand that every ad be positive," Gingrich told reporters after touring a manufacturing plant here.

"I don't object to being outspent. I object to lies. I object to negative smear campaigns. And I object to things that the candidate himself refuses to support," Gingrich said.