Locals protest Gingrich on poverty, gay rights


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Iowa Republican caucus candidate Newt Gingrich holds a "callous and arrogant attitude toward poverty and poor people," demonstrators yelled during the former U.S. House speaker's talk on campus Wednesday.

Gingrich came to the University of Iowa's Medical Education & Research Facility to speak to a crowd of more than 250 about investing in brain research.

But a protest organized by Occupy Iowa City members interrupted his introduction.

"We are insulted by your disregard for the poor and the conditions [that] lead to poverty in this country," the group of roughly 10 protesters shouted over Gingrich supporters who tried to quiet them. "We cannot forget your 1990s proposition that welfare benefits to children of unwed mothers be denied."

UI senior Christina Carberry also condemned Gingrich for what she called a record of opposing gay and women's rights.

"We support socially progressive candidates, and sometimes you have to be out there with the tactics that you take in pushing things forward," said Carberry, who participated in the roughly10-minute shouting match.

After the demonstrators were cleared, Gingrich spoke about his long-term plans to reduce the national debt by combining federal and private funding sources for brain research.

Investing in such research will lead to breakthroughs in health quality, lowered health-care costs, and job growth, he said.

"This is a very big idea in an area that I don't think any other political leader is going to tackle that will lead to a dramatic explosion in science," Gingrich said. "But it requires having a conversation in areas that people aren't used to talking in."

Matthew Rizzo, a UI professor of neurology, engineering and public policy, said Gingrich's interest in neural science is very beneficial.

"I think that any thoughtful person should consider these ideas … if someone is interested with a big voice, we're excited," he said. "Even if he doesn't become president, he is an influential person and speaker."

After the speech, Gingrich spoke with a panel of UI experts, including Rizzo, to discuss his plan and their views.

"We have certain ideas from our expertise about how science and health care will be better," Rizzo said. "So if he can help get the word out, that's better."

UI researchers receive significant federal research funds through the National Institutes of Health. In fiscal 2011, the UI received nearly $163 million from the NIH, nearly $154 million of which was solely in the form of research grants.

After the speech, Gingrich's supporters lauded his ideas.

Natalie Ginty, the head of the Iowa Federation of College Republicans, said Gingrich's ideas are equivalent to landing on the moon for this generation.

"This is something that will affect many people studying on the west and east side of the [Iowa] River," she said. "It is very inspirational."

The biochemistry major said she thoroughly enjoyed the speech.

"It's something that no other presidential candidates are talking about," said Ginty, who is also a member of UI Students for Newt, the group that sponsored the event. "It's not the normal establishment topic. This is Newt Gingrich trying to find ways to better the public."

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