MIAMI — Newt Gingrich said Thursday he is "surprised" by criticism from fellow conservatives who fault him for attacking Mitt Romney's time at Bain Capital, a venture-capital firm that had profited on occasion from acquiring companies and laying people off.
To Fox's Sean Hannity, South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint and even comedian Jon Stewart, Gingrich sounded more like a Democrat than a Republican in leveling the charge.
"This is an absurdity," Gingrich responded during an interview at the Biltmore Hotel, where he had a fundraiser. "The over-reaction of people to questioning a presidential candidate's record, as though I was now engaged in an assault on free enterprise, is one of the most absurd things I have ever seen."
Gingrich said he was just vetting Romney.
He said Romney, a "Massachusetts moderate," hides his record as governor because he was "pro-abortion, pro-tax increase, pro-gun control."
But, he said, when he started questioning Romney's claims about job creation at Bain, he was unexpectedly criticized.
"It's a private company that doesn't have any public information. So you get caught in this nice trap. He gets to assert it. Nobody gets to ask about it. And we're supposed to trust him," Gingrich said.
"If there's nothing there, release it. If you're not releasing it, is it because there's something there? If you're going to claim you created 100,000 jobs, why is it unfair to say a presidential candidate should have to meet their claim?"