Newt Gingrich said he was going to talk about the “two D’s — deplorable and dishonesty” on Monday at a town hall event for Donald Trump at Kennesaw State University, but he started his remarks with a call to prayer.
“Take a little time to include in your prayers Secretary Clinton,” said Gingrich, the former Georgia congressman and U.S. House speaker. “She’s not our enemy. I was a little concerned yesterday. We want to defeat her fairly and honestly.”
Gingrich’s concern was a result of Clinton’s early exit from a 9/11 ceremony in New York, where video posted to Twitter showed her stumbling before being helped into a waiting van. Hours later the Democrat’s campaign revealed Clinton had been diagnosed with pneumonia two days earlier.
Also Monday, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was asked about Clinton’s health and the distraction it’s caused on the campaign trail.
“She had pneumonia, she got sick,” said Reed, one of Clinton’s top surrogates in Georgia. “Certainly everyone who is in politics and the press corps knows that campaigns are incredibly daunting, physical stamina tests. And in the course of a campaign you are going to (get sick).
“The way that this is being couched and the energy that’s being given to it says something very bad about our politics,” the mayor said.
In an interview before Monday’s town hall event, Gingrich told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Clinton badly handled the situation and owes American voters some explanation.
“It’s troublesome,” he said. “Obviously, if she gets through the three debates — and 90 minutes at a time is very grueling — I think that will solve a lot of the problem. She’s had enough little things that they’re going to have to do something to convince people she’s OK.”
With that out of the way, Gingrich worked the crowd of several hundred through a 40-minute lecture on why Clinton is wrong for America and why Trump is the only answer.
It was what Mark McFarland had hoped to hear.
“I’ve never seen Newt in person and figured it was a good time to come,” said McFarland, 61, of Marietta. “There’s a lot going on from this weekend: the deplorables and the pneumonia.”
Gingrich took Clinton’s “deplorables” comments and deconstructed them at length. Last week at a New York fundraiser, Clinton told donors that “you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it.”
The remarks prompted enough backlash that Clinton later clarified her remarks as “grossly generalistic” and said she regretted saying “half” the country fit into that basket. She did not, however, back down from her promise to call out “bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign.”
Some Trump supporters literally wrapped themselves in Clinton’s “deplorable” comment.
Kathy Potts, Becky Love and Darcy Butkus came to Gingrich’s event Monday dressed in black T-shirts with the word “deplorable” across the front. Potts said she made them this weekend and even brought a straw basket to complete the look.
“We’re all mothers, we’re all college-educated and we’re all working on the Trump campaign,” Potts said.
Gingrich said Clinton said what she said for a reason.
“Let me explain why you’re seeing this kind of campaigning,” he said. “The left has done such a terrible job at a practical level that they can’t have a discussion about the real world.
“The modern left cannot defend the disasters their policies create,” he said.
In an interview, however, Gingrich acknowledged that some Trump supporters have used hateful rhetoric in support of his campaign.
“Well, they’re people he has repudiated,” Gingrich said. “He repudiated David Duke, publicly on television. But somehow … he’s been much clearer about that than she has about Black Lives Matter.”
Trump, himself, addressed Clinton’s remarks, but not her health, during a speech Monday in Baltimore.
“You cannot run for president if you have such contempt in your heart for the American voter,” Trump said. “You can’t lead this nation if you have such a low opinion of its citizens.”
But, as The Associated Press wrote Monday, Trump has his own history of criticizing Americans.
“How stupid are the people of Iowa?” he asked in December as he trailed in the polls before that state’s caucus this past winter. “How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?”
He also criticized voters in Iowa by retweeting a supporter’s jab that the Midwestern state’s No. 1 commodity export — Monsanto’s genetically engineered corn — “creates issues in the brain.” Trump has also suggested that those who vote for Clinton would try to “rig” the election away from his supporters and, in a 2015 interview with Sean Hannity, also seemed to criticize half the country.
“The problem we have right now, we have a society that sits back and says, ‘We don’t have to do anything,’ ” Trump said then. “And eventually, the 50 percent cannot carry, and it’s unfair to ‘em, but cannot carry the other 50 percent.”
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Staff writer Scott Trubey and The Associated Press contributed to this article.