Gingrich disavows knowledge of robocalls his campaign made

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, accompanied by his wife Callista, visit a polling place at Celebration Heritage Hall in Celebration, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, accompanied by his wife Callista, visit a polling place at Celebration Heritage Hall in Celebration, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke
Newt Gingrich on Tuesday disavowed any knowledge of a robo-call by his campaign attacking rival Mitt Romney for depriving Holocaust survivors of the kosher food they ate in Massachusetts nursing homes when he served as governor--an allegation intended to rally Florida's sizable Jewish voting bloc against Romney.

"As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney vetoed a bill paying for kosher food for our seniors in nursing homes," says the call, which was first reported by The New York Post. "Holocaust survivors, who for the first time, were forced to eat nonkosher because Romney thought $5 was too much to pay for our grandparents to eat kosher. Where is Mitt Romney's compassion for our seniors?"

Asked by reporters about the call while campaigning in Florida, Gingrich said, "I have no idea what you're talking about." But he added, "You might check to see if it is true." Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond confirmed that the campaign was making the robo-calls.

In a Florida campaign appearance Monday, Gingrich himself made the same accusation that's in the robo-call. He said that Romney "eliminated serving kosher food to elderly Jewish residents under Medicare."

The claim is untrue, the Jewish Advocate concluded in 2003. The publication said that nursing-home owner Genesis ElderCare decided to discontinue operating the kosher kitchen because of rising costs and lower state and federal reimbursements.

But even though the kitchen would close, the residence would continue to provide kosher meals either by serving prepackaged food, contracting with a caterer to prepare and deliver meals, or bringing food over.

The Romney campaign reacted angrily to news of the call. "It's sad to see Speaker Gingrich lashing out in a desperate attempt to try and save his floundering campaign," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. "Speaker Gingrich will say anything to distract voters from the fact that he suffered an unprecedented ethics reprimand, was forced to pay a $300,000 penalty, and resigned in disgrace at the hands of his own party."

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    Sarah Huisenga is covering the Mitt Romney campaign for CBS News and National Journal.

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