By now, most Americans know not to take former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at his word. The Fox News regular and failed GOP presidential candidate, after all, is on his third religion and his third wife. (Callista Bisek, currently Mrs. Gingrich No. 3 and U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, was previously known as Newt’s “frequent breakfast companion” during his marriage to wife No. 2.) So it is with Gingrich’s comparison Wednesday of FBI agents to Hitler’s Gestapo and Stalin’s secret police. As it turns out, back in 2005, Newt demanded the Senate censure Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin for saying much the same thing about American torturers at Guantanamo Bay.
Appearing on Fox and Friends on April 11, Gingrich was appalled that federal agents acting under lawfully-obtained search warrants had raided the homes and offices of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager and current personal lawyer. Despite Michael Cohen’s admission that the FBI team was “professional” and “courteous” in obtaining evidence of possible crimes, Gingrich invented a myth of lawless, goose-stepping storm troopers kicking down doors:
“The fact is, that Rod Rosenstein has not done his job. He has not supervised Mueller. This whole thing is an absurdity.
We’ve now had one Paul Manafort and his wife in their pajamas at 3:00 in the morning, having the FBI break down the door. We’ve had this real last week, Cohen, the lawyer have the door taken off the hinges at 6:00 in the morning.
We’re supposed to have the rule of law. It ain’t the rule of law when they kick in your door at 3:00 in the morning and you’re faced with armed men and you have had no reason to be told you’re going to have that kind of treatment. That’s a — that’s Stalin. That’s the — that’s the Gestapo in Germany. That shouldn’t be the American FBI.” [Emphasis added.]
But while Trump water-carrier Gingrich is content to slander the Federal Bureau of Investigation now, it was a different story when Dick Durbin was telling the truth about America’s shame in Gitmo.
On June 14, 2005, Senator Durbin took to the Senate floor to address his colleagues about the disturbing revelations of detainee abuse surfacing from Guantanamo Bay. Reading a statement from an FBI agent about the mistreatment of and cruelty towards prisoners he observed there, Durbin lamented:
“If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.”
The response from the right was fast and furious. Leading the charge in defense of America’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” (a term, by the way, introduced in the original German by the Gestapo), was Newt Gingrich. Four days later, Gingrich demanded the Senate censure Durbin for having “dishonored the United States and the entire Senate.” As the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen noted at the time:
Durbin is not being faulted for a lack of nuance. He has instead come under vitriolic attack by Republicans who would have you think that the Democrat from Illinois likened America to the Soviet Union or the American military to Nazi Germany or disparaged the military in its entirety. In the name of our armed forces, Virginia Sen. John W. Warner asked for an apology. Newt Gingrich, the former Republican speaker of the House, called for Durbin to be censured by the Senate. That would be a more severe penalty than that accorded Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) for praising the late Strom Thurmond’s racist 1948 presidential campaign.
Ultimately, Sen. Durbin delivered a tearful apology on the Senate floor, declaring “Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line. To them, I extend my heartfelt apologies.” Durbin acknowledged that “more than most people, a senator lives by his words” but that “occasionally words will fail us and occasionally we will fail words.”
Newt Gingrich, in contrast, never lives by his words. If he did, he would be forced to demand his own punishment—or even firing—by Fox News for slandering the 37,000 men and women of the FBI.