Gingrich: "Social engineering" remarks not about Ryan's plan

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gives the keynote address during the Georgia Republican Party Victory Dinner on May 13, 2011 in Macon, Georgia.
Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Former House speaker and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has faced withering criticism this week for his remarks on Sunday that Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare plan amounts to "right-wing social engineering."

Gingrich has spent the week explaining his remarks and apologizing for them. Yet yesterday on Rush Limbaugh's conservative talk radio show, Gingrich took a new tack: He said the comments in question weren't even about Ryan's Medicare plan.

"It was not a reference to Paul Ryan. There was no reference to Paul Ryan in that answer," Gingrich told Limbaugh with respect to his remarks on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Limbaugh asked Gingrich to explain why, then, he apologized to Ryan this week for criticizing his plan.

"It was interpreted in a way which was causing trouble, which he doesn't need or deserve, and was causing House Republicans trouble," Gingrich said. "My answer wasn't about the budget, and I promptly went back to say publicly and continue to say I would have voted for the Ryan budget."

Gingrich continued, "I think it's a very important first step in the right direction, and I have consistently said that."

It's true that some weeks ago, Gingrich endorsed Ryan's Medicare plan, which would transform the government-run health care program for seniors into a voucher program, calling it a good "first step."

However, Gingrich's remarks on Sunday were unequivocally about Ryan's plan. Initially, "Meet the Press" host David Gregory asked Gingrich if "Republicans ought to buck the public opposition and really move forward to completely change Medicare."

After Gingrich called such a plan "social engineering," Gregory continued to press Gingrich on the subject, asking him to address, "what Paul Ryan is suggesting, which is completely changing Medicare."

That's when Gingrich said, "I think that that is too big a jump... I'm against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change."

Limbaugh said Thursday he was reassured by the former speaker's assertion that he was not talking about Ryan's plan.

The radio host called Ryan's budget plan, which includes his Medicare proposal, "the single most unifying thing in the Republican party today."