The news that former Rep. Guy Molinari (R.-N.Y.) yesterday denounced Newt Gingrich as “evil” may have less to do with anything in Gingrich’s character and more to do with the fact they were rivals during their U.S. House days in the 1980s and had at least one major showdown.
“The thought that this man could be president of the United States is appalling,” the 83-year-old Molinari told local reporters, “This guy is evil. He’s an evil person.” Molinari, a former Staten Island (N.Y.) borough president, who officially endorsed Mitt Romney on October 6, added that he “might do something” when Gingrich addresses a town hall meeting this weekend hosted by the Staten Island Tea Party.
Old hands at covering Capitol Hill recall that the conservative Gingrich (lifetime American Conservative Union rating 90%) and Molinari (lifetime ACU rating 63%) were never close during their years in the House together. Both served on the House Public Works Committee and had their differences. Gingrich was a strong supporter of Ronald Reagan’s decision to fire striking air traffic controllers in 1981. Molinari, who specialized in air safety issues on the Public Works Committee, called for rehiring some of those fired air traffic controllers.
But what brought their differences to a major clash was when Gingrich, in 1985, bumped Molinari from his slot as ranking Republican Member of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of the Public Works Committee. In calling his former colleague “evil,” Molinari cited this action by Gingrich more than twenty years ago. Molinari claimed that he and Gingrich agreed not to make a move, but that the alleged betrayal “ended my career” in Congress. Molinari was later elected to the Office of Borough President in Staten Island.
Molinari has hinted that he might not confront Gingrich at the Tea Party event this weekend because such a clash “might reflect negatively on Romney.” But he also said he “might do something.” It will be fascinating to watch what the “something” will be with regard to a former colleague he considers “an evil person.”