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Fact-checking Newt Gingrich on gas prices


Updated 2:41 p.m. Eastern Time

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich appeared on CBS This Morning today, where host Charlie Rose asked if he truly believes President Obama wants to see the price of gas increase, as Gingrich has repeatedly indicated.

"Of course, he does. Come on, Charlie," the former House speaker responded. "You know that. He has said it himself."

Asked to explain this quote, Gingrich spokesman RC Hammond emailed over a June 2008 interview with then-candidate Obama in which he was asked if he wants to see higher gas prices in order to push people to move to alternative energy sources. Asked if the high prices at the time were helpful, Mr. Obama responded, "I think that I would have preferred a gradual adjustment." Hammond said that amounts to an implicit -- if gradual -- call for higher gas prices.

In the CBS This Morning interview, the former House speaker went on to say this: Steven "Chu, his secretary of Energy, said he wanted in 2008 said he wanted gasoline prices in America to get to the European level which is $9 or $10 a gallon."

This is accurate: Chu told the Wall Street Journal in September 2008, before joining the Obama administration, that, "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." His argument was that Americans need to be coaxed into buying more energy-efficient cars and living closer to work.

What Gingrich doesn't mention is that Chu has long since reversed that position, and that the White House has long said it does not favor increasing gas prices. In the Wall Street Journal story that includes the Chu quote, Mr. Obama is quoted as saying an increase in gas taxes would be a "mistake."

Gingrich also said that the Obama administration policy "has been outrageously anti-American energy," echoing Republican criticisms of Mr. Obama for what they say is a failure to tap American oil sources. In reality, American oil production has increased across the board under Mr. Obama.  He also said "the high price of gasoline is a direct result of Obama"; experts say the recent spike in gas prices has largely been the result of Iran threatening to stop exporting oil to Europe and other nations

Asked about Gingrich's claims during Tuesday's White House briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney pointed to "all of the actions the president has taken since being sworn into office to increase domestic oil production, to increase domestic gas production," including new lease sales. He said the rise in gas prices is attributable to "a variety of factors," among them "unrest in certain regions of the world."

Carney then took a shot at Gingrich, saying that periodic rises in gas prices prompt "magic solutions being put forward by politicians who may or may not know what they're talking about."

Elsewhere in the interview, Gingrich was asked about his claim that Mr. Obama must be defeated in November to protect national security. Presented with the administration's claims it's been effective in fighting terrorism, Gingrich responded, "My answer to that is it's been so effective they barely got a guy on Saturday who's trying to blow up the U.S. Capitol."

That's a stretch, to put it mildly. Federal authorities had been investigating the alleged would-be bomber, Amine El Khalifi, for a year; indeed, the tools he planned to use to carry out the attack were provided by the government. "The explosives were inert, the gun inoperable and the supposed al Qaeda member was an undercover officer, according to court documents," as the Associated Press noted. The FBI had been investigating El Khalifi since last January.

Gingrich made other claims in the interview that can't be directly fact checked, but certainly seem to raise questions, among them "this is an administration that no country really trusts." Asked if he is questioning the patriotism of the president, Gingrich responded by saying, "The president of the United States is patriotic in a world view that involves the writing of Saul Alinsky, it involves a radical reinterpretation."

Gingrich: Obama has lost trust of other nations

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