Gingrich threatens to sit out next debate if audience can’t participate

Newt Gingrich is threatening to sit out the next debate

Want more proof that Gingrich’s entire shtick is completely dependent on riling up the audience? Look no further:

Mr. Gingrich, a former House speaker, on Tuesday morning threatened not participate in any future debates with audiences that have been instructed to be silent. That was the case on Monday, when Brian Williams of NBC News asked the audience of about 500 people who assembled for a debate in Tampa to hold their applause until the commercial breaks.

In an interview with the morning show “Fox and Friends,” Mr. Gingrich said NBC’s rules amounted to stifling free speech. In what has become a standard line of attack for his anti-establishment campaign, Mr. Gingrich blamed the media for trying to silence a dissenting point of view.

“I wish in retrospect I’d protested when Brian Williams took them out of it because I think it’s wrong,” Mr. Gingrich said. “And I think he took them out of it because the media is terrified that the audience is going to side with the candidates against the media, which is what they’ve done in every debate.”

I don’t blame him for being upset. His extraordinary victory in South Carolina was built on the back of his demagoguery there in the debates. Newt managed to whip up the crowd’s anger and frustration into a frothy mix of, er, well fervor. Fast-forward to the last Florida debate and Newt was off his game. No whooping or cheering from the audience. No opening to stick it to Brian Williams. And the former speaker fell on his face, taking blow after blow from Romney.

Could Newt actually sit out the next debate? I don’t buy it. It’s a lot of sound and fury from a man who expects such a threat will move mountains. And perhaps it will. The networks want to put on a good show. This is reality television at its very best. Why not let the crowd run wild?

This isn’t 1980, after all. We’re not watching Reagan debate Carter. We’re just watching a bunch of guys who want to be Reagan debate each other so that they can beat the “worst president since Carter” or some such nonsense.

Doug Mataconis has more.

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