After taking a lot of heat for refusing to back fellow Democrats in a recent interview with Buddy Cianci, Anthony Gemma has reversed his position and now says he will support Senator Whitehouse and Congressman Langevin in the general election, although he still won’t support Cicilline if he happens to win the primary.
In the interview, Gemma refused to support Sheldon Whitehouse because, in Gemma’s words, Whitehouse “has not done what’s right for me.” Essentially, because Whitehouse is supporting Cicilline, Gemma refused to support him. Edited highlights of the interview can be seen here:
This rejection of his party prompted a flurry of condemnations from fellow Democrats. The former occupant of the seat, Representative Patrick Kennedy called Gemma’s statements “deeply disappointing.” Buckling under the pressure, Gemma backed down. Campaign spokesman Alex Morash announced that Gemma would vote for Whitehouse and support Langevin. However, Gemma has yet to retract his refusal to vote for David Cicilline if he winds up winning the primary.
This episode may be part of a broader problem for Gemma. Even with friendly audiences, he does not interview well. Buddy Cianci is hardly a fan of Cicilline or Whitehouse. In fact, he made fun of their names during the interview. Cianci started the interview very friendly to Gemma, but Gemma was so evasive in handling questioning that by the end Cianci was complaining that getting answers out of him was “like pulling teeth.” The full interview can be viewed here.
I had a similar experience when I interviewed Gemma in June. After refusing to answer a number of relatively simple questions—like whether he supports single-payer healthcare—Gemma wound up saying this about intervening before Pearl Harbor to stop the holocaust:
To put it mildly, this is probably not the best thing to say when you are being interviewed by a Jew, especially one whose great-grandfather narrowly escaped being sent off to the concentration camps well before Pearl Harbor. To be fair to Gemma, who has not apologized to Rhode Island’s Jewish community for his comments, I am willing to believe that he is not actually anti-semitic. Instead, he may just be a weak interviewer who winds up saying things he later regrets.