Republished by arrangement with Think Progress
ormer House Speaker Newt Gingrich was on the offense at last night’s NBC News Debate attacking Mitt Romney’s past at Bain Capital and President Obama’s economic and foreign policy record. But in an attack on Obama’s handling of rising tensions over the Strait of Hormuz, Gingrich dramatically misrepresented the White House’s handling of the postponement of a joint military exercise with Israel.
Gingrich — supposedly a historian in his own right — disregarded the well-reported facts of an event that occurred less than two weeks ago and brought swift condemnations from both the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) and the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker,” Glenn Kessler. Gingrich, responding to a question from debate moderator Brian Williams about a military escalation if Iran attempts to close the Strait, told the audience:
And I would say that the most dangerous thing, which by the way, Barack Obama just did, the — the Iranians are practicing closing the Strait of Hormuz, actively taunting us, so he cancels a military exercise with the Israelis so as not to be provocative?
Gingrich’s retelling of events from earlier this month is demonstrably inaccurate. Shortly after news broke of the postponed military exercise, Yahoo News’ Laura Rozen reported that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak requested the joint exercise be postponed.
The Jewish Telegraph Agency’s Ron Kampeas wrote that the exercise was being postponed because of “Israeli budget cuts.”
And Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post last Wednesday:
Such postponements are routine and do not reflect political or strategic concerns. The United States and Israel remain committed to holding the exercise – code-named Austere Challenge 12 – the largest and most robust in their historic alliance.
The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler called out Gingrich’s misrepresentation of the facts, writing, “Gingrich is repeating a rumor that was strongly denied by Israeli ambassador to the United States,” and the NJDC issued a statement:
Once again in tonight’s Florida GOP debate, former Speaker Newt Gingrich has simply fabricated recent events surrounding the U.S.-Israel relationship while discussing the postponement of a planned joint military exercise between our two countries—all in a deeply unfortunate ploy to smear President Barack Obama’s outstanding pro-Israel record.
Gingrich was seemingly trying to perpetuate the right wing’s false narrative that Obama has been a poor ally to Israel. But Gingrich’s complete disregard for the well established facts surrounding an event that happened less than two weeks ago illustrates the depths that his campaign will sink to smear Obama as hostile to the Jewish state.