Gingrich defends criticism of Obama's Trayvon Martin comments

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at a town hall meeting at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, La., Tuesday, March 20, 2012. AP Photo/Kita Wright

Newt Gingrich
Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at a town hall meeting at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, La., Tuesday, March 20, 2012.
AP Photo/Kita Wright

Newt Gingrich on Monday defended his comments criticizing President Obama's response to the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, saying the president should have empathy for all families -- not just black families -- who lose a child.

"Every single American of every background is endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We should be concerned about any young American of any background who ends up getting killed," Gingrich said during an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

He was asked to respond to the administration's criticism over his initial remarks on the subject, when he termed 'disgraceful' Obama's remarks that if he had a son, that son would look like Martin.

White House senior adviser David Plouffe said on CNN Sunday that Gingrich's comments were "irresponsible" and "reprehensible." But Gingrich stood by his remarks when he was asked to respond on Monday.

He recalled a visit by his wife, Callista, to a children's cancer ward in the Tulane Children's Hospital. "She was dealing with very young children. she came back and she described me 3-year-olds with leukemia. They were not children of a certain color, but they were children. we should be concerned about children of every background and all too often we're not," he said.

Gingrich also defended his decision to stay in the GOP race despite his poor showing - he has nearly 150 fewer delegates than Rick Santorum and more than 400 fewer than Mitt Romney. But Gingrich sees little difference between himself and Santorum.

"If Romney can't clinch it, I think it becomes pretty wide open," Gingrich said, claiming that Santorum "doesn't have a guaranteed lock" on the race any more than himself or Romney.

  • Rebecca Kaplan On Twitter»

    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.

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