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No, Romney Didn't Actually Call Gingrich 'Zany'

Everyone under the sun seems to be responding to the idea that Mitt Romney called Newt Gingrich "zany." Here's the NYT take on the story. "Zany" is in the headline and frames the story:

Mitt Romney is sharpening his warning to Republicans about the consequences of nominating Newt Gingrich, declaring in an interview on Wednesday: “Zany is not what we need in a president.”

“Zany is great in a campaign. It’s great on talk radio. It’s great in print, it makes for fun reading,” Mr. Romney told The New York Times. “But in terms of a president, we need a leader, and a leader needs to be someone who can bring Americans together.”

Here's Salon's Joan Walsh, aping the Times and mocking Romney for in her words "pushing the panic button:"

Gee willikers, former GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney denounced his latest rival, disgraced former House speaker Newt Gingrich, in his harshest language yet, calling him “zany” in an interview with the New York Times. Beltway folks think that shows Mitt’s fear and ferocity, I think it shows him, again, as an animatron politician devoid of passion who’s stuck in the 1950s. Zany? Gidget was zany. Gingrich is a dangerous huckster, who will apparently say anything to get elected.

Read the rest if you want, but look, it's Joan Walsh. There's very little in the way of facts or original thinking to see there.

Problem with all this? Romney didn't bring up the "zany" charge. His interviewer did, and Romney merely responded to that as most interview subjects will. Here's the video, the relevant exchange is about 3:25 in.

Zeleny: Do you think that the American voters are getting enough of a sense of what he (Gingrich) might do or is there some worry that as president should he win that there may be some zany things coming from the Oval Office?

Romney: Zany is not what we need in a president. Zany is great in a campaign. It's great on talk radio. It's great in the print, it makes for fun reading. But in terms of a president, we need a leader, and a leader needs to be someone who can bring Americans together.

Zelaney brought up the z-word, and Romney used it to express a general principle that's unobjectionable. But the NYT is leading the way in turning that unobjectionable statement into a headline.

The New York Times conducted and posted the interview and really has no excuse here, and neither does Joan Walsh, for mischaracterizing Romney's answer. There's no "panic" in evidence in this interview. Romney didn't launch a new attack. He comes off as well informed and articulate (far better on both counts than the sitting president), and makes a good case for himself while criticizing Newt Gingrich's record. Ordinary stuff.

h/t John