01/27/2012 04:21 pm ET

Newt Gingrich: Mitt Romney Was 'Blatantly Dishonest' At CNN Debate In Florida

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is blaming rival Mitt Romney's loose commitment to the truth for what many have called a weak performance at a CNN-hosted debate in Jacksonville, Fla., on Thursday.

In an interview with the Washington Post Friday, Gingrich explained his apparent reluctance to go on the offensive during key moments of the debate:

"I think it's the most blatantly dishonest performance by a presidential candidate I've ever seen," Gingrich said in a telephone interview. At several moments during the debate, Gingrich simply leaned away from his lectern and looked down at his feet because he was so stunned by some of Romney's statements, he said. He didn't engage Romney at the time, he said, because "I wanted to fact check. I wanted to make sure he was as totally dishonest as I thought he was."

Gingrich went on to highlight three specific claims on which he believed Romney bent the truth. The first incident cropped up during a debate about immigration policy, which proved Romney's willingness to shift his line of attack whenever it was politically expedient, Gingrich said.

During this exchange, however, Romney came away with the money quote, saying that Gingrich's attempts to paint him as "anti-immigrant" were "repulsive."

Romney's second lie, Gingrich said, came when he attempted to plead ignorance about an ad his campaign was running in Florida, directly attacking Gingrich for calling Spanish "the language of the ghetto."

"Let me ask the speaker a question. Did you say what the ad says or not? I don't know," Romney said, after claiming he was unaware of the spot.

CNN later dug up the ad, allowing moderator Wolf Blitzer put Romney on the spot. He proceeded to read the script to the candidates and noted that the ad ended with Romney saying he approved the message.

The third lie came when Romney alleged that he'd "never voted for a Democrat when there was a Republican on the ballot," Gingrich said.

And Gingrich might have a point. The Boston Globe reports:

When first asked as a 1994 US Senate candidate about records showing him voting in the 1992 Democratic primary, Romney said he couldn't recall for whom he voted.

Then Romney told the Globe he voted for Tsongas because he preferred his ideas to his then-opponent for the nomination, Bill Clinton. Later, he added that it was proof he was not a partisan politician.

Yet in 2007, while making his first run for president, Romney offered a new explanation: He said he voted for Tsongas as a tactical maneuver, aiming to present the "weakest opponent" possible for Bush.

While Gingrich didn't bring it up in his interview with the Washington Post, The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim points out that Romney also told a fib during a heated discussion about his financial investments.

"What my trustee did is he loaned money to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And they got paid interest," Romney said. "But what the speaker did was get paid to promote Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."

But, as the Boston Globe reported, the Fannie and Freddie investments were not in the blind trust: "Unlike most of Romney's financial holdings, which are held in a blind trust that is overseen by a trustee and not known to Romney, this particular investment was among those that would have been known to Romney."