CNN’s John King despicably started Thursday’s Republican presidential debate in South Carolina by bringing up allegations made by Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife earlier in the day.
When asked to respond to the controversy, the former Speaker of the House said, “I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate with a topic like that,” (video follows with transcribed highlights and commentary):
To the amazement of those in the audience as well as viewers at home, King addressed this issue right out of the gate.
“As you know," said the moderator to the former Speaker, "your ex-wife gave an interview to ABC News and another interview with the Washington Post and this story has now gone viral on the Internet. In it, she says you came to her in 1999 at a time when you were having an affair. She says you asked her, Sir, to enter into an open marriage. Would you like to take some time to respond to that?”
“No,” answered Gingrich, “but I will.”
After a pause, the former Speaker said, "I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office, and I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate with a topic like that.”
This elicited a standing ovation from the crowd on hand.
When they settled down, Gingrich continued, “Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before a primary a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.”
This evoked more applause from the audience.
“My two daughters,” continued the former Speaker, “wrote the head of ABC and made the point that it was wrong, that they should pull it, and I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate.”
Once again, the audience applauded Gingrich’s remarks, after which King said, “As you noted, Mr. Speaker, this story did not come from our network. As you also know, it is the subject of conversation on the campaign.”
The former Speaker was having none of this and scolded, “John, it was repeated by your network. You chose to start the debate with it. Don’t try to blame somebody else. You and your staff chose to start this debate with that.”
Obviously feeling he needed to now explain the matter, Gingrich said, “The story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period says the story is false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They weren’t interested because they would like to attack any Republican.”
Rolling to a crescendo, the former Speaker said, “I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans.”
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