A funny thing happened in the GOP debate in South Carolina last night. FOX NEWS’ Juan Williams implied racism in Speaker Newt Gingrich’s defense of capitalism, and Gingrich did not back down:
Williams: Speaker Gingrich, you recently said, “Black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps.” You also said, “Poor kids lack a strong work ethic,” and proposed having them work as janitors in their schools. Can’t you see that this is viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans?
After Williams asked this question, about three people applauded somewhat timidly, but there was mostly silence in anticipation of how Gingrich might dig himself out of this one. He had been put on the spot in front of the world by a media spokesperson who not only opposed Gingrich’s position, but who himself was black, and who views almost everything through the lenses of race.
But Gingrich did not fold. Instead he looked at Williams and responded: “No, I don’t see that.” In other words, Gingrich was saying “No, I don’t see how capitalism is racist nor do I see how a defense of capitalism is racist.” The venue exploded with applause and cheers.
Gingrich then continued by telling the audience his daughter’s first job had been as a janitor in a Baptist church in Georgia when she was thirteen. Said Gingrich: “She liked earning the money, she liked learning that if you worked you got paid, she liked being in charge of her own money, and she thought it was a good start.”
Amid applause, Gingrich continued
What I tried to say [is that] New York City pays their janitors an absurd amount of money because of the unions. You could…hire 30-some kids to work in the school for the price of one janitor and those 30 kids would be a lot less likely to drop out, they would actually have money in their pocket, they would learn to show up for work, they could do light janitorial duty, they could work in the cafeteria, they could work in the front office, and they could work in the library. They’d be getting money, which is a good thing if you’re poor. Only the elites despise earning money.
At this point, the audience rose to their feet and Gingrich received a standing ovation as Williams did everything he could to try to salvage some aspect of the exchange for the left. And the only way he could do this was to try once more to find racism in Gingrich’s words.
The suggestion you made was about a lack of work ethic. And I’ve got to tell you, my email account and twitter account have been inundated by people of all races who are asking if your comments are not intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities…[People have asked] why you refer to President Obama as the “food stamp President.” It sounds like you’re trying to belittle people.
As the audience booed Williams, Gingrich responded:
Juan, the fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any President in American history. I know among the politically correct you are not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable. Second, you are the one who earlier raised the key point. The area that ought to be I-73 was called by Barack Obama “a corridor of shame” because of unemployment. Has it improved in three years? No. They haven’t built a road, they haven’t helped the people, they haven’t done anything.
As the applause grew to unprecedented levels, Williams retreated. He literally just sat silently, staring straight ahead, while Gingrich rose above the applause to say:
One last thing…I believe every American of every background has been endowed by their Creator with the right to pursue happiness, and if that makes liberals unhappy, I’m going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn to get a better job and learn some day to own the job.
Bottom line: Capitalism is not racist, nor is the defense of capitalism racist. Conservatives needn’t be ashamed of offering the world a job instead of a government handout.