WASHINGTON (AP) - Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said Thursday he is willing to go before the NAACP and urge blacks to demand paychecks, not food stamps.
Gingrich told a town hall meeting at a senior center in Plymouth, N.H., that if the NAACP invites him to its annual convention this year, he'd go there and talk about "why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps."
He also said he'd pitch a new Social Security program aimed at helping young people, particularly African-American males, who he said get the smallest return on Social Security.
Gingrich routinely lambasts President Barack Obama as the "best food stamp president in American history." He also has spoken previously about welcoming an invitation from the NAACP to speak and has been critical of GOP candidates who have not accepted such an invitation.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had no immediate comment on Gingrich's remarks. His campaign spokesman, R.C. Hammond, said the former Georgia congressman has often said the GOP needs to be inclusive of all Americans.
"He has said since he became a presidential candidate that any Republican should always accept an invitation to speak to the NAACP on any topic," Hammond said.
Gingrich's comments follow those by rival candidate Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania who said Sunday that he did not want to "make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money."
Santorum's comments were criticized by National Urban League President Marc H. Morial as pandering to racist elements within the GOP. Morial also said that 70 percent of people on food stamps are white.
The Agriculture Department does not break down food stamp participation rates by race.
NAACP President Ben Jealous also criticized Santorum's remarks. Food stamp participation and costs have risen under Obama, following the steep economic downturn that began in 2008.
Gingrich said if he has a chance to go before the NAACP, he would explain a "brand-new Social Security opportunity" for young people, "which would be particularly good for African-American males, because they are the group that gets the smallest return on Social Security."