Full transcript. Excerpt below:
BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich, you had an ad, but you pulled it this week, in which you described Governor Romney as the most anti- immigrant candidate. Why did you do that?
GINGRICH: Why did we describe him that way?
Because, in the original conversations about deportation, the position I took, which he attacked pretty ferociously, was that grandmothers and grandfathers aren't going to be successfully deported. We're not -- we as a nation are not going to walk into some family -- and by the way, they're going to end up in a church, which will declare them a sanctuary. We're not going to walk in there and grab a grandmother out and then kick them out.
We're not going -- and I think you have to be realistic in your indignation. I want to control the border. I want English to be the official language of government. I want us to have a lot of changes.
I am prepared to be very tough and very bold, but I'm also prepared to be realistic, because I've actually had to pass legislation in Washington and I don't believe an unrealistic promise is going to get through, but I do believe, if there's some level of humanity for people who have been here a long time, we can pass legislation that will decisively reduce illegality, decisively control the border and will once again mean the people who are in America are here legally.
BLITZER: I just want to make sure I understand. Is he still the most anti-immigrant candidate?
GINGRICH: I think, of the four of us, yes.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Governor.
ROMNEY: That's simply unexcusable. That's inexcusable. And, actually, Senator Marco Rubio came to my defense and said that ad was inexcusable and inflammatory and inappropriate.
Mr. Speaker, I'm not anti-immigrant. My father was born in Mexico. My wife's father was born in Wales. They came to this country. The idea that I'm anti-immigrant is repulsive.
Don't use a term like that. You can say we disagree on certain policies, but to say that enforcing the U.S. law to protect our borders, to welcome people here legally, to expand legal immigration, as I have proved, that that's somehow anti anti-immigrant is simply the kind of over-the-top rhetoric that has characterized American politics too long.
And I'm glad that Marco Rubio called you out on it. I'm glad you withdrew it. I think you should apologize for it, and I think you should recognize that having differences of opinions on issues does not justify labeling people with highly charged epithets.
GINGRICH: I'll tell you what...
I'll give you an opportunity to self-describe. You tell me what language you would use to describe somebody who thinks that deporting a grandmother or a grandfather from their family -- just tell me the language. I'm perfectly happy for you to explain what language you'd use.
ROMNEY: Mr. Speaker, I think I described following the law as it exists in this country, which is to say, I'm not going around and rounding people up and deporting them.
What I said was, people who come here legally get a work permit. People who do not come here legally do not get a work permit. Those who don't get work will tend, over time, to self-deport.
I'm not going to go find grandmothers and take them out of their homes and deport them. Those are your words, not my words. And to use that rhetoric suggests to people that somehow, if you're not willing to keep people here who violated the law, that you're anti- immigrant. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I am pro-immigrant. I want people to come to America with skill and vitality and vibrance. I want them to come legally. There are grandmothers that live on the other side of the border that are waiting to come here legally. I want them to come here, too, not just those that are already here.
GINGRICH: Well, so we have gone -- we've gone from your Washington attack when I first proposed this and you said it was outrageous; it would be a magnet to you're accepting the fact that, you know, a family is going to take care of their grandmother or their grandfather.
The idea that you are going to push them out in some form by simply saying they can't go get a job -- I think the grandmother is still going to be here. All I want to do is to allow the grandmother to be here legally with some rights to have residency but not citizenship, so that he or she can finish their life with dignity within the law.
ROMNEY: You know, our problem is not 11 million grandmothers. Our problem is -- all right.