Only Penguin Wants a Piece of Gingrich

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Newt Gingrich has lost the support of most humans -- conservatives, southerners, reporters -- and now he's lost his base: exotic animals.

A Magellanic penguin bit the presidential candidate on the finger at the St. Louis Zoo Monday, the Associated Press reports, requiring emergency medical care in the form of a bandaid. (At the St. Louis zoo, visitors can get close enough to the penguins to touch them, but Gingrich was treated to a special backstage visit.) We have long held that Gingrich's most endearing quality is his love of animals, so it must cut him to his core—or gnaw at him, in this case—that they don't love him back.

To understand the depth of this betrayal, you must understand how long Gingrich has slaved on behalf of animals. His very first mention in the newspaper, The Awl's Elon Green notes, is a 1954 local news brief headlined "Ambitious Zoo Keeper." Little 11-year-old Newt was fighting the city hall to get a zoo started in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. As House Speaker, he frequently brought live animals into his congressional office. Newt's campaign has a whole websites for photos of the pets of his supporters. He's frequently detoured from the campaign trail to check out zoos large and small. It must have come as quite a shock to have the penguin bite the finger of the hand of the presidential candidate who most adores him.

Why did this penguin go rogue? Some ideas:

  • The penguin heard Gingrich wanted to make the zoo more fiscally responsible by having the penguins clean their own cages.
  • The penguin mistook Newt for a rival of his own species. If Gingrich were any super villain, it would be the Penguin.
  • The penguin is a coastal elite.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.