Gingrich Warns Of "Atheist" America "Dominated By Radical Islamists"

March 29, 2011 10:26 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

Newt Gingrich

This weekend, Newt Gingrich told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace that he hopes to be running for president within a month. However, after spending much of the past two years comparing his political opponents to socialists and Nazis, Gingrich appears more interested in saying outrageous things to get headlines than waging a serious campaign that reflects his reputation as a "serious" conservative.

Indeed, hours after Gingrich sat down with Wallace, he was telling an evangelical crowd in Texas that their values are under attack and America could become a "secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists":

"I have two grandchildren — Maggie is 11, Robert is 9," Gingrich said at Cornerstone Church here. "I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they're my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American."

Gingrich's warning is ridiculous on its face, but he appears to think conservative voters are too dumb to realize that "atheist" and "Islamist" are mutually exclusive ideas. Of course, the problem with violent religious fundamentalists is they want to impose their religious beliefs on others, as Gingrich himself explained last year:

Sharia in its natural form has principles and punishments totally abhorrent to the Western world, and the underlying basic belief which is that law comes directly from God and is therefore imposed upon humans and no human can change the law without it being an act of apostasy is a fundamental violation of a tradition in the Western system which goes back to Rome, Athens and Jerusalem and which has evolved in giving us freedom across the planet on a scale we can hardly imagine and which is now directly threatened by those who would impose it.

Amusingly, Gingrich opened his speech on Sunday by touting his intellectual credentials. "I'm really here as a historian," he said.

UPDATE: Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler is walking back the statement, telling Salon's Justin Elliot that Gingrich misspoke. "'Or' should have come before the word 'potentially,'" he said.