MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
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.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.