Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich campaigns at Fred's… (Matt Rourke / Associated…)
Reporting from Plant City, Fla. — Newt Gingrich denied any knowledge Tuesday of a robocall hitting Florida households that accuses rival Mitt Romney of forcing Holocaust survivors to eat non-kosher food -- though his campaign later acknowledged it was behind the attack.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," he said three times, speaking to reporters as he left Fred's Southern Kitchen. "Can't comment on something I don't know about."
Then he added, "You might check and see whether the accusation is true."
On the campaign trail in recent days, Gingrich, who is courting Florida’s Jewish and elderly voters, has accused Romney of cutting funding for serving kosher food to seniors under Medicare, saying it amounted to $5 a day per senior.
On Tuesday, as voters headed to the polls in the critical Florida primary, a robocall surfaced that features a man’s voice saying Romney as Massachusetts governor cut the funding, affecting "Holocaust survivors, who for the first time were forced to eat non-kosher because Romney thought $5 was too much to pay for our grandparents to eat kosher. Where is Mitt Romney’s compassion for our seniors?"
The recording ends, "Paid for by Newt 2012."
Though Gingrich initially denied knowledge of the calls, campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond later confirmed they were paid for by the campaign. Neither Hammond nor Gingrich would comment further.
A spokeswoman for Romney said Gingrich is trying to shift the focus from his own record.
"It's sad to see Speaker Gingrich lashing out in a desperate attempt to try and save his floundering campaign,” spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
The attack is not factually correct, according to this article in Commentary magazine, which found that Romney in 2003 vetoed a bill that would have provided an additional $600,000 to some Massachusetts nursing homes so they could continue to operate separate kitchens to meet Jewish dietary law of keeping dairy and meat separate.
The veto was overridden by the Legislature. The article also says that if the nursing homes did stop making kosher food, they planned to bring in prepared kosher meals from off-site, so there was never a danger of Jewish seniors being forced to eat food that was against their beliefs.