Gingrich Criticizes DeLay

newt gingrich
AP
There was fresh criticism Tuesday of embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay from a prominent member of his own party.

In an exclusive interview with CBS News Correspondent Gloria Borger, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said it's time for DeLay to stop blaming a left-wing conspiracy for his ethics controversy and to lay out his case for the American people to judge.

"I don't want to prejudge him and my hope is that Tom will be able to prove his case," said Gingrich, who engineered the Republican takeover of the House in 1994. "But I think the burden is on him to prove it at this point."

Is he doing that? "I don't know yet. I think the jury's out," said Gingrich.

"DeLay's problem isn't with the Democrats; DeLay's problem is with the country," Gingrich continued. "And so DeLay has a challenge: to lay out a case that the country comes to believe, that the country decides is legitimate. If he does that he's fine."

Hoping to hold support among fellow Republicans, DeLay urged GOP senators Tuesday to blame Democrats if asked about his ethics controversy. He also accused the news media of twisting supportive comments so they sounded like criticism.

Officials said DeLay recommended that senators respond to questions by saying Democrats have no agenda other than partisanship, and are attacking him to prevent Republicans from accomplishing their legislative program. One Republican said the Texan referred to a "mammoth operation" funded by Democratic supporters and designed to destroy him as a symbol of the Republican majority.

DeLay also thanked Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., for his recent comments and said the news media had twisted them to make them sound critical, the officials added, all speaking on condition of anonymity.

In an appearance on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, Santorum said DeLay "has to come forward and lay out what he did and why he did it and let the people then judge for themselves. But from everything I've heard, again, from the comments and responding to those, is everything he's done was according to the law."

The officials who described DeLay's brief remarks noted that the session, a regularly scheduled weekly lunch, was held under rules of secrecy. Dan Allen, DeLay's spokesman, declined comment.