Gingrich, Paul spar over ‘chicken hawk’ charge

Will Rahn Senior Editor

Asked during Saturday night’s Republican presidential debate about Ron Paul’s charge that he is a “chicken hawk,” a visibly angry Newt Gingrich fired back by saying the Texas congressman has a history of making inaccurate statements about opponents.

Gingrich pointed out that he comes from a military family, and that his father spent 27 years in the Army as an infantryman. He also noted the decades he has spent working with the military as a civilian.

“I would say, as an Army brat who watched his mother, his sisters, and his father for 27 years, I have a pretty good sense of what military families and veterans’ family need,” Gingrich said.

WMUR Anchor Josh McElveen asked Gingrich the original question. When his fellow moderator Diane Sawyer turned the conversation back to Paul, the congressman implied that Gingrich had sought military deferments to avoid serving in the Vietnam War.

“I think people who don’t serve when they could and they get three or four or even five deferments aren’t — they have no right to send our kids off to war, and not be even against the wars that we have,” Paul, a former Air Force flight surgeon, said. “I’m trying to stop the wars. But at least, you know, I went when they called me up.”

That comment seemed to strike a nerve with Gingrich, who denied trying to avoid the draft.

“Dr. Paul has a long history of saying things that are inaccurate and false,” Gingrich said. “The fact is, I never asked for deferment. I was married with a child. It was never a question. My father was, in fact, serving in Vietnam in the Mekong Delta at the time he’s referring to.”

“I think I have a pretty good idea of what it’s like as a family to worry about your father getting killed,” he continued, his voice beginning to wobble. “And I personally resent the kind of comments and aspersions he routinely makes without accurate information and then just slurs people with.”

Paul then asked for “one quick follow-up” to respond to Gingrich.

“When I was drafted,” Paul said, “I was married and had two kids, and I went.”

Follow Will on Twitter