Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich made it clear at an event in Columbia, South Carolina Friday that they were for the Confederate flag but against allowing HIV-positive people to enlist in the military.
At a town hall lunch event, a young black man stood up to ask the candidate what he would do to include minorities as president.
“I’m not for outreach,” Gingrich explained. “I’m for inclusion. And I’ll explain the difference. Outreach is when five white guys hold a meeting and then call you. Inclusion is when you are in the meeting. … I will tell you, unlike some candidates, if the NAACP invites me to come to their annual convention, I’m going to come there, and I’m going to invite them to join us in getting America back on the right track.”
A few minutes later, a woman who described herself as an independent voter asked the Georgia Republican for his opinion on the Confederate flag that continues to fly on the South Carolina State House grounds, a symbol that has caused the NAACP to boycott the state since 1999.
“I have a very strong opinion,” Gingrich declared. “It’s up to the people of South Carolina.”
That remark prompted cheers, yells, whistles and even a standing ovation from many members of the audience.
Another questioner noted that military service had been “one of the best ways” for many Americans to work their way out out of poverty.
“Are you aware that Defense Department regulations regulation prohibit anyone with HIV from enlisting in any branch of the armed forces?” she asked.
“Well, I won’t insist that the military accept people that have a communicable disease that, in combat, might well lead to the transmission to other people,” Gingrich replied, again drawing applause from the crowd.
Before moving on the to next question, Gingrich asked one audience member to show a sign they had been holding. While the camera didn’t pan around to reveal the sign, one man noted, “Obama bin Laden, how about that?”
One final questioner recommended that the former House Speaker not refer to President Barack Obama as a “target.”
“That gets all of us in trouble,” she said. “It was reported that an Obama strategist indicated that he is not at all concerned about the white working class. He is not going to approach any of us for our votes in the election in 2012. Those are two points that, if true, could be used to our advantage by you.”
“This may make me different than a lot of Republicans,” Gingrich answered. “I don’t think about the white working class. I think about every American who would like to have a job. And I reject the racism of both the right and the left. I’m going to campaign in black communities and I’m going to campaign in Latino communities and I’m going to campaign in Asian communities, I’m going to campaign among Native Americans, I’m going to campaign across this country.”
“This kind of idea of dividing Americans with class warfare and invidious rhetoric and his attorney general using racism as an excuse for thought, I think is totally unacceptable to the American people and of every background,” he concluded.
Watch this video from CNN, broadcast Dec. 21, 2011.