Gingrich On Defensive Over Freddie Mac Report

GOP presidential hopeful and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich remained on the defensive Wednesday after reports emerged detailing his consulting work for the mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Specifically, he did not confirm or deny that he earned some $1.6 million from Freddie over a 12-year period.

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Today, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich today backed away from his claim that he was paid, in his words, as a historian by the mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Gingrich also confirmed that his consulting company had lucrative contracts with Freddie Mac for several years.

As NPR's Peter Overby explains, Gingrich's message is evolving.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: Gingrich made the historian claim in a candidates' debate a week ago. Sources told NPR and other news organizations that Freddie Mac hired Gingrich, a former House speaker, as a strategic advisor. Today, Gingrich confirmed that was his job. He was campaigning in Iowa. This audio comes from Associated Press.

NEWT GINGRICH: I was approached to offer strategic advice. I was glad to offer strategic advice. And we did it for a number of companies, and Gingrich Group was very successful.

OVERBY: To decipher the Washington code, strategic advisor is the job title of choice for former members of Congress who tell lobbyists what to do, but want to avoid the public disclosure required for registered lobbyists themselves.

Gingrich also gave a phone interview to conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. He said he helped Freddie Mac shape its public image as a government-sponsored enterprise.

GINGRICH: There's a long American history of government-sponsored enterprises, and I was happy to give them advice on how to present government-sponsored enterprises as a model.

OVERBY: Freddie Mac and its sister company, Fannie Mae, collapsed in 2008 and are run by the government. Gingrich now says they should be broken up and politicians who defended them should be thrown in jail.

He said he couldn't confirm a Bloomberg News report that over at least seven years, Freddie had paid him at least $1.6 million for his consulting work. Gingrich said his campaign is going back to check the amounts.

Peter Overby, NPR News Washington.

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