The Washington Times - December 22, 2011, 02:13PM

Promising to “fight back cheerfully” against a barrage of attack ads that have slowed his presidential campaign, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in an interview Thursday nevertheless had some harsh words for the spots being run in Iowa by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, his chief rival.

“I’m going to remain cheerful. It would be nice if Mr. Romney decided to be honest,” Mr. Gingrich, Georgia Republican, told The Washington Times-affiliated “America’s Morning News” radio program.


Mr. Gingrich’s pledge to run a positive campaign for the GOP nomination has been sorely tested by what he said was a slew of inaccurate ads from other Republican candidates, including some $1.4 million in ads from Mr. Romney in recent days that Mr. Gingrich called “factually false.”

“If you were in Iowa right now and were seeing six or eight or nine attack ads every hour, you’d understand if I explained what was false and inaccurate” in those ads, he said.

Mr. Gingrich in the interview also predicted he would succeed in securing the signatures needed to earn a place on the Virginia Republican primary ballot. Mr. Gingrich’s campaign has struggled with funding and personnel issues since he entered the race this summer, and meeting Thursday’s deadline in Virginia has been seen as a key test of his reviving campaign’s organizational strength.

The former speaker defended the stand of House Republicans in the stalemate with President Obama and the Senate over the extension of the payroll-tax cut set to expire at the end of the year. He said the House GOP bill, extending the cut for a full 12 months, was far more workable for businesses and the economy than the two-month extension the Senate passed. He said the Senate’s insistence on its version was an “act of arrogance people should be condemning,” while Mr. Obama was “out campaigning and doesn’t have any idea what’s going on.”

No one in Washington, he added, is enhancing his or her image as the fight drags on.

“This makes up look, frankly, like Italy on its worst days,” he said, adding that the “average American is totally disgusted.”

Mr. Gingrich also defended the $1.6 million fees he collected advising federal mortgage giant Freddie Mac — fees that have become a target of frequent criticism by his GOP rivals. Given the company’s huge size, Mr. Gingrich said, the “amount paid to me was very tiny,” and he noted that the two incidents for which he was most criticized involved telling his client it needed to pay more taxes and agree to more stringent regulation.

On a personal note, Mr. Gingrich confirmed he would be attending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services at Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where his wife, Callista, sings in the choir.

I’ll be the quiet one,” Mr. Gingrich joked.