At a rally in Paris last Sunday, former Republican presidential candidate and House Speaker Newt Gingrich expressed his support for the MEK, an Iranian opposition group considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.
“…This is a massive, world-wide movement for liberty in Iran,” Gingrich said, in a short speech posted on YouTube. “And not anything like the State Department’s descriptions. And I think what you did yesterday was historic and extraordinary, and needs to be driven home, so that everybody who makes foreign policy decisions in the United States understands just how big this movement is getting, how wide-spread it is, and how bipartisan the American support for it is.”
Gingrich delivered his remarks while Maryam Rajavi, the MEK’s France-based leader, stood beside him. Among other things, Gingrich’s speech included a reference to George Washington crossing the Delaware when the American revolution was “hanging on a thread.” (As The Atlantic’s Max Fisher points out, Gingrich also mentioned Mark Bowden’s book “Guests of the Ayatollah,” a study of the Iran hostage crisis, an event the State Department says the MEK participated in. The group denies it played a role in the embassy takeover.)
Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that it will order the MEK off the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations if the Department doesn’t makes a decision to keep or remove the terrorist designation within the next four months. MEK supporters in the U.S. have for years called for the group to be delisted, and have been very successful recruiting high-level former government officials from both parties to their cause. Earlier this year, the Treasury Department sent subpoenas to speaking firms that represent several of the MEK’s big backers. Many of these former officials have received tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for their appearances at pro-MEK events, and an Obama administration official told NBC in March that the probe “is about finding out where the money is coming from.”
The MEK’s opponents say the group has little support inside Iran itself, where people remember that the group sided with Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
Gingrich and his wife Callista were apparently in Italy late last week. A Newsmax article published Thursday on the Supreme Court’s health care law ruling quoted Gingrich “speaking from Italy,” and Callista Gingrich has been using Instagram in recent days to document her views of the countryside.
Watch Gingrich’s speech in France:
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com