Gingrich meets Trump, defends child labor comments

NEW YORK Mon Dec 5, 2011 5:40pm EST

1 of 4. Donald Trump (L) speaks to members of the media after a meeting with Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich at Trump Towers on 5th Avenue in New York, December 5, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Andrew Burton

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Newt Gingrich paid a visit to Donald Trump on Monday, becoming the latest Republican presidential hopeful to seek the endorsement of the real estate mogul and reality television star.

After an hour-long meeting at Trump's Fifth Avenue office in Manhattan, Gingrich defended Trump's offer to moderate a Republican presidential debate later this month, saying the "great showman" would add a dose of humor to it.

"I want his endorsement," Gingrich told a news conference, though Trump said that he would not make any endorsement until after the December 27 debate.

The host of the TV show "The Apprentice" congratulated Gingrich, who was Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 1990s, for a surge that has put him atop many polls among Republicans hoping to challenge President Barack Obama for the White House next November.

"It's amazing how well he's doing and how it's really resonated with so many people," Trump said of Gingrich's gain in polls after his campaign looked near its end in the summer.

Gingrich also defended his controversial plan for helping poor children find part-time work, saying young people living in public housing projects needed to learn "the work habit."

And he enlisted Trump to this cause. The two men said Trump agreed to Gingrich's suggestion to create 10 paid apprenticeships for poor New Yorkers.

"I do not suggest that children ... do heavy, dangerous janitorial work," Gingrich said at a news conference later on Monday. "This is called America. It's how people rise in America - they learn to work."

Gingrich's stance on children working has drawn criticism.

On Monday, New York civil rights leader Al Sharpton offered to take Gingrich and Trump on a tour of the Manhattan neighborhood of Harlem to show the pair how hard many poor Americans work.

Trump, who briefly flirted with the idea of a presidential run earlier this year, has hosted other Republican hopefuls including former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Governor Rick Perry.

A Gallup poll released on Monday found 62 percent of Republican voters consider Gingrich an "acceptable presidential nominee," while 54 percent said the same of Romney.

(Reporting by Edith Honan, editing by Mark Egan and Philip Barbara)

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