Al Sharpton on Why Newt's Failing in Florida
He talks to The Root about Gingrich's "dishonest" strategy and why they are not meeting on race.
TR: At a campaign stop last week, Gingrich told a voter that he would meet with you. Is that actually going to happen, and what would you hope to achieve from such a meeting?
AS: No. I never thought it would happen. Somebody in South Carolina asked him, and he said that he would meet with me. After that I challenged him on my show, and we called him from the National Action Network. He hasn't even responded.
I think he just said that to get by the voter that asked the question. And I have no interest. I don't see what we would gain.
TR: Despite Gingrich's rhetoric on the trail, in the past he's partnered with African-American public figures, including the NAACP's Ben Jealous on criminal justice reform, and you on education. What is your relationship like with Gingrich these days?
AS: We didn't have a relationship. We both agreed that we needed to deal with education reform. He was for vouchers and private control of charter schools; I believed that public charter schools would be good in an experimental way, but I'm not for vouchers. President Obama invited us in together and asked us to do a five-city education tour, because I think the president wanted to show that he could get people who disagree to come together. Before that, we didn't even know each other.
That's why I considered his remarks [in South Carolina] so hypocritical, because he spoke at the National Action Network convention, met with the president and me and did a tour with me as the president requested. He never said any of that to our audience. He never said any of that in the five cities. He's dishonest and inconsistent.
TR: Who do you predict will win the Florida primary?
AS: At this point, Mitt Romney would be my guess. And let me say this: Even though Mitt Romney has not said the things that Gingrich has, Romney stood on the stage next to Gingrich and never took issue with it, never said he disagreed with it. And Romney himself has taken positions like, "Let Detroit go bankrupt," and says that poor and working-class people who are talking about economic equality are just envious of him. So he has his own baggage to deal with.
If Gingrich bashed Romney with the kinds of attacks that he was before, then he might have a chance to get back ahead, but I don't know if he can get an audience. His shot was Thursday night at that debate, and when he didn't come prepared, I think he hurt himself.
Cynthia Gordy is The Root's Washington reporter.