As NewsBusters previously reported, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich severely admonished CNN's John King for beginning last Thursday's debate in South Carolina with questions about the former Speaker's ex-wife.
King asked Gingrich about this highly-publicized incident on his program Tuesday, and the former Speaker told his host, "You didn't have to take the bait. You didn't have to pick it up. You could have ignored ABC" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
JOHN KING, CNN: We had a bit of a moment the other night in South Carolina. I asked a question at the beginning of the debate. You took offense. Here's part of your answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH: Let me be quite clear. The story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period says the story was 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. They're attacking the governor; they're attacking me. I'm sure they'll probably get around to Senator Santorum and Congressman Paul. I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I want to come back to your point there, sir. You were attacking me, and you were calling me part of the elite media. And we can debate whether it was an appropriate question for the beginning of debate. My business is debating that. But I could not have asked you the question if your ex-wife had not come forward. She's a Republican, sir. She says she supports much of your principles. How was that an example of the elite media trying to protect Barack Obama?
GINGRICH: Well, you have to ask yourself the question. Why would ABC go back many years, why would they dredge up something which had already been reported several years ago? Why would they do it two nights before a primary? Why would they refuse to have other witnesses rebut her?
We offered them a number of people who were there at the time, who said what she was saying just wasn't true.
Now I would just suggest to you that, when the only person you get is an ex-wife who wants to testify on the air just before a primary with nobody allowed to rebut her, there's something a little goofy about that design.
And my point to you, John, was simple, and I repeat it. You didn't have to take the bait. You didn't have to pick it up. You could have ignored ABC. We could have gone straight to energy policy, the economy, balancing the budget. There were lots of big questions we could have talked about instead of taking the time on something like that.
KING: We did talk about other issues, but a lot of people in the state were talking about that issue that day, as you well know, sir. A lot of people think that exchange worked to your benefit. That's not for me and my calculation.
But again, have you spoken to your ex-wife at all? Why did she come forward at that time? ABC can speak for itself. It says -- I can't speak for ABC, but it says if you had offered people, it would have interviewed them.
GINGRICH: Oh, that is just plain baloney. I mean, I'll check with R.C. Hammond in a minute. But if they're saying that, they're not being honest, because they said explicitly the opposite. So I will check with R.C., because he was briefing me on this the whole way through. We had several people prepared to be very clear and very aggressive in their dispute about that. And they weren't interested.
KING: Mr. Speaker, thanks for your time today. We'll see you on the trail in Florida soon.
GINGRICH: Good to be with you, John.
KING: Take care, sir.
As King said, there has been a lot of speculation that this moment helped Gingrich win the South Carolina primary. Do you believe that, and if so, how much of a factor was it?
On the other hand, some pundits of late have claimed the former Speaker's anti-media message can only go so far and could begin wearing thin with the electorate.
Do you agree with that, or is the public's outrage over the double standard between how President Obama and the Republican candidates are being covered so strong that this media bias issue is going to be a winner for Gingrich throughout this campaign?
(H/T James Crugnale)
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