Gingrich to Reagan in 1980: Stop Offending Minority Voters

Private memo reveals Gingrich warned Reagan not to disregard the NAACP.

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Newt Gingrich, defender of America's minorities? It might seem an odd notion, given his current struggles on the campaign trail to resonate with black and Latino voters. But in a private memo from 1980 to then-GOP primary candidate Ronald Reagan, Gingrich was the one who warned the future president against offending minority voters.

In the memo, written to Reagan campaign manager Bill Casey on July 1, 1980, then-Representative Gingrich pleads with the candidate's team to think twice about blowing off an offer to speak at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Convention.

In the memo, Gingrich says, "Many middle class Black Americans who would vote for Reagan will be insulted by his non-attendance. I urge you to schedule the speech." [See a collection of political cartoons on Newt Gingrich.]

Gingrich goes on to say that "Failure to attend the NAACP convention will be a tragedy for Gov. Reagan and the country" and calls symbolic events with minorities "vital" to a campaign's success. "This is a great opportunity to prove that a conservative Republican can speak to the hearts and pocketbooks of Black Americans," Gingrich writes. [See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP hopefuls.]

Today, Gingrich has tried similarly to reach out to minority communities on the campaign trail, even saying he'd be happy to attend the NAACP convention. But he's taken heat in recent weeks for referring to Spanish as "the language of the ghetto" and criticizing Democrats for giving blacks "handouts."

"I'm prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I'll go to their convention to talk about why the African-American community should demand pay checks and not be satisfied with food stamps," Gingrich has promised.

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