Newt Gingrich was in the Univisión hot seat Wednesday morning, sitting for a feisty-yet-friendly interview that centered on immigration but also ran the gamut of buzz issues for Miami's influential Hispanic electorate.
Gingrich spoke for a half hour with Univisión reporter Jorge Ramos at the network's Doral headquarters as part of a "Meet the Candidates" session hosted along with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Miami Dade College. Mitt Romney will sit down with Ramos Wednesday afternoon in downtown Miami. The two GOP presidential primary front runners are in South Florida Wednesday fighting for the coveted Hispanic Republican vote.
Ramos tried to paint Gingrich into a corner by asking him why the candidate opposes immigration reform. Gingrich says he favors reform -- and criticized Ramos' definition of "reform," to legalize about 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
"I'm not going to let you define what immigration reform is," Gingrich said, firm though his tone was still amiable. "That's your definition...Jorge, you're never going to get that done."
The interview started with Cuba, with Gingrich reiterating his position that the U.S. should not only worry about revolutions in the Middle East but also about bringing change to the Castro regime on the island. He called the American approach thus far "baloney." "The people of Cuba deserve freedom," he said. Later he referred to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez as "the young Fidel."
Ramos focused largely on immigration, asking Gingrich what he thought about the "self-deportation" idea Romney put forth in Monday's debate in Tampa. Gingrich laughed and replied, "Oh, come on," and asked Ramos a question.
"How close were you breaking out laughing out loud at this fantasy?" he said. Ramos smiled and posed his initial question again.
"You have to live in a world of Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Island bank accounts...to have some fantasy this far from reality," Gingrich said. "For Romney to believe that somebody's grandmother is going to be so so cut off that she's going to self-deport, I mean, this is an Obama-level fantasy."
As for why one of his Spanish-language radio ads calls Romney "anti-immigrant," Gingrich said, "He certainly shows no concern for the humanity of the people that are here," saying Romney's proposal to "deport grandfathers and grandmothers" is "never gonna happen."
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican on the vice-presidential nominee short list, scolded Gingrich in an interview with The Miami Herald over his "anti-immigrant" characterization of Romney.
Ramos took a detour from immigration only to ask Gingrich why he so ardently pushed for President Bill Clinton's impeachment while Gingrich, too, was carrying on an extra-marital affair. Gingrich pushed Ramos back, saying as speaker he criticized the president for lying under oath -- not for having an affair.
"I've been through two divorces," Gingrich said. "I've been deposed both times under oath. Both times I told the truth...He knew he was lying under oath. He knew it was perjury."
Ramos also asked Gingrich about past comments where he referred to Spanish as the language of the "ghetto." "I said -- about all languages -- I am for English as the common, unifying language," he said. "If I were going to live in Mexico, I would say that Spanish is really important for me to learn."
Gingrich started and ended the interview in Spanish, saying good morning and welcoming Chamber members and college students in the audience. They later asked him questions that also centered on immigration and U.S. policy toward Latin America.
One student asked Gingrich if students born in the U.S. to undocumented parents should be allowed to pay in-state college tuition at public schools. Yes, Gingrich said. Undocumented students, however, should have to pay out-of-state tuition -- but still be able to attend school, he added.
Gingrich seemed most amused when Ramos asked him if he would consider naming Romney his running mate. Gingrich laughed, looked away, covered his eyes with his right hand and said, "I hope you ask him that.
"I think the idea to Mitt of being the vice president on my ticket would be the sort of thing that would drive him back to a recluse from public life," Gingrich said.