Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) on Thursday defended Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), saying Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) criticism of their decision to filibuster the president's pick for CIA director was "sad."
Speaking on Fox News, Gingrich doled out criticism of his own, questioning McCain's "maverick" moniker.
"What I find sad about Sen. McCain's recent comments both to Ted Cruz ... and with Rand Paul, is, you know, when I first knew John McCain in the House -- he was a maverick. In the Senate, for years, he was a maverick," said Gingrich.
Gingrich further lamented what he sees as a change in McCain, saying, "Of everybody I know in the Senate, I didn't know anybody who had a better record of bucking the leadership, doing what he thought mattered, marching to his own drummer."
McCain condemned Paul's Wednesday filibuster of John Brennan to head the CIA. Paul sought to press the Obama administration on its drones program. In an interview with The Huffington Post's Jon Ward, McCain -- a supporter of the administration on the issue -- described Paul and Cruz as "wacko birds."
Gingrich said he believes McCain's comments only hurt him. "But I think frankly it doesn’t hurt Ted Cruz and it doesn’t hurt Rand Paul -- it hurts John McCain," he said.
This is not the first time Gingrich and McCain have traded jabs. During the 2012 Republican presidential primary, McCain endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney over Gingrich, and took a shot at the former Georgia representative's infamous statements about colonizing the moon.
"We ought to send Newt Gingrich to the moon and Mitt Romney to the White House," McCain said at the time.