Newt Gingrich takes on a host of animals

Newt Gingrich and animals

March 30, 1996
Web posted at: 5 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Speaker Newt Gingrich looked just as comfortable with a 20-foot Burmese python draped around his shoulders as he does on Capitol Hill. (1.3MB QuickTime movie)

The speaker guest hosted CNN's "Larry King Live" Friday night and showcased a variety of rare animals brought in by Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus, Ohio, zoo.

Gingrich used the program to promote April as National Zoo and Aquarium month, encouraging viewers to go visit their local animal friends.

Everything from a prehistoric-looking two-headed lizard to a beautiful clouded leopard graced King's desk -- which Gingrich looked at ease behind. Gingrich did not even flinch when a pair of hissing Madagascar cockroaches crawled on his neck-tie.

Poisonous toads hopped on the desk as did a mountain lion that was poised to jump onto the camera.

Gingrich feeding a raccoon

There were some animals which the speaker kept his distance from, including an oversized albino snake with 220 fishhook-like teeth. And after being bitten by a cougar cub last November, Gingrich let Hanna handle the cat's return visit.

In addition to showing off the animals, Hanna and Gingrich spoke about the state of various species. Hanna stressed the importance of habitat protection in reviving endangered species.

Gingrich and a very large snake

Gingrich got in a few political plugs along the way, promoting recently passed legislation to help protect the Florida Everglades. He also noted a California vote last week that protects mountain lions from hunters.

The mountain lion, Hanna said, is making a comeback in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and California with animal protection laws.

For the finale, Hanna trotted out a miniature donkey, evoking the Democratic Party's symbol.

"Miniature donkeys is the right size for me: tiny, small, not threatening," Gingrich said.


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