Remember last month, when Newt Gingrich took heat for saying child labor laws are "truly stupid"?
The GOP presidential candidate isn't backing away from his comments. Instead, he just keeps refining his point – or, depending on whom you talk to, digging himself deeper into a hole.
His latest idea, dreamed up during his summit with real estate mogul and reality TV host, Donald Trump: an "Apprentice"-style plan in which The Donald would select 10 "apprenti" (Mr. Trump's term) from New York City schools and put them to work.
"It was Newt's idea, and I thought it was a great idea," said Trump, appearing with Mr. Gingrich in a press conference, and adding, "I think it's going to be something that's going to really prove results."
It's less clear whether New York City's Department of Education will think it's a great idea, especially given the numbers involved. Nearly three-quarters of the city's 1.25 million school children qualify for free or reduced lunches, and 29 percent are below the poverty line.
Also, though Gingrich said he and Trump hope to "create a model" for a program that engages students in work, numerous schools around the country have already implemented larger-scale apprenticeship programs into their curriculum. (Janitorial work – Gingrich's recent proposal – is not generally a focus.)
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Gingrich has been looping back to the theme of poor children and jobs for several weeks now, but seems to be struggling to make his point without sounding tone deaf.
After the Harvard appearance Nov. 18 in which he criticized child labor laws, Gingrich later tried to elaborate, telling an Iowa audience that poor children have "no habits of working and have nobody around them who works," and aren't used to getting paid "unless it's illegal."
He has also suggested that children in the poorest schools should be allowed to serve as janitors in those schools to give them work experience, money, and a connection to the school.
The reaction from some quarters has been harsh. "He comes across as a callous Dickensian character in his attitude toward America’s most vulnerable – our poor children," opined New York Times columnist Charles Blow Dec. 2, saying that Gingrich had "reached a new low."
(Mr. Blow also pointed out some fallacies in Gingrich's "facts," including the statement that poor children don't have working adults in their lives.)
And when Gingrich tried to clarify his original comments by saying that "kids shouldn't work in coal mines, kids shouldn't work in heavy industry," Politico noted that that's the sort of statement that "probably falls into the 'if you have to say it ...' category."
Still, Gingrich and Trump emerged from their meeting gushing mutual admiration. Gingrich called Trump "a genuine American icon in his own right." That's in marked contrast to fellow GOP candidate Ron Paul, who is opting out of the Trump-hosted debate this Saturday and called Trump "cutesy."
Gingrich declared himself mystified at Paul's comments criticizing the debate saying, "I'm actually very surprised that one of my friends would have said that."
For his part, Trump was equally enamored of Gingrich. He said he's "a big fan" of the former House speaker, and added that "it's amazing how well he's doing and how it's really resonated with so many people."