December 7th, 2013
12:45 PM ET
10 months ago

Gingrich pushes back against Mandela critics

Updated 10:36 a.m. ET, 12/9/2013

Washington (CNN) - Newt Gingrich is fighting back against conservative critics who attacked the former Speaker of the House and co-host of CNN's "Crossfire" for his praise of Nelson Mandela.

After Mandela passed away Thursday, Gingrich posted a statement, praising him as "one of the greatest leaders of our lifetime."

The right-wing response was overwhelmingly reproachful.

"Such an amazing re-write of history since 1962 and 1990. Newt, I thought you of all people, a historian, would be true to who this guy really was," Mike Winkelman posted on Gingrich's Facebook page.

"This clenched-fist, murdering, gorilla warrior does not deserve respect from informed Americans," posted Trish Baehr-Schaefer.

There were several others posts, many generating dozens of "likes," and some with language unfit for publication.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, congressional Democrats to commemorate Mandela in South Africa

Gingrich said Monday that people were confusing Mandela's role with the African National Congress and that most of the violence by the ANC happened while Mandela was in prison.

On the other side of the political spectrum, he said on CNN's "New Day" that some liberals were going "overboard in trying to excuse this as an attempt to attack (Ronald) Reagan." Gingrich noted that Reagan was the one who appointed the first black ambassador to South Africa.

"There's a lot of anger on the right about this opportunity being used inappropriately," he said

He added that Mandela was "deeply committed to a nonviolent approach, until you had a South African dictatorship...which made it impossible to have anything that was purely nonviolent."

In a statement Saturday, he compared Mandela to the Founding Fathers and the farmers who took up arms at Lexington and Concord in the Revolutionary War. He praised the former South African president for his calls for reconciliation, his Christian faith and his turn from Communism to opening South Africa up to free enterprise.

"I was very surprised by it," Gingrich said Sunday CNN's "State of the Union" about the backlash.

"Callista posted my statement on her Facebook page and was amazed at some of the intensity, some of whom came back three, four and five times, repeating how angry they were."

Gingrich has a long history as a Mandela supporter. During the Reagan administration, he was among the many Republicans in Congress who pressured the president to impose sanctions on the apartheid regime.

Fellow conservative Ted Cruz faced a similar backlash this week when he posted a respectful tribute to Mandela that generated angry criticisms. No comment yet from the Texas senator on the reaction of some of his supporters.

The freshman Senator from Texas, however, will be one of two Republicans who join a Congressional delegation to attend a memorial for Mandela in South Africa this week. President Barack Obama and other former presidents are also slated to attend.

"Frankly, without being partisan, I hope the President brings some of the spirit back with him," Gingrich said on "New Day." "Maybe he and the Congress can sit down more in the spirit of Mandela and actually listen to each other for a while."

– CNN's Conor Finnegan and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.


Filed under: Nelson Mandela • Newt Gingrich
soundoff (361 Responses)
  1. julu

    OK, everyone is thinking this but no one is saying it. The base of the republican party is racist. I think its pretty obvious now. The point is, there is no black man that will be good enough for them unless he talks like Allen West.

    These are people mostly on medicaid struggling day by day and yet they all think black people are the ones taking their benefits. They are racists, I oppose Mandela for different reasons, that he was not radical enough. Mandela said in 1961 that we canot continue to preach non-violence and not fight back when all the gavernment does is respond with violence. You push a guy against a wall and when he fights back, that makes him the terrorist. Useless and pathetic racist.

    Now that Mandela is gone, its time to talk about the systematic apartheid in Palestine

    December 8, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  2. Jane

    I love the backlash to the backlash. Conservatives really showing their true colors while CNN has Gingrichs' back saying "he was a longtime supporter " of Mandela. Where was the sainted Reagan when the rest of the world was condemning apartheid? Cheney, who says he's "comfortable" with labeling Mandela a terrorist still. I love the one poster who said it best-Newt created this monster, and now he's "surprised" by the response? Best laugh of the day.

    December 8, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  3. landon

    He preached non violence until the police turned their guns on innocent school children. What would you have done?

    December 8, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  4. Andrew

    "Gorilla warrior"? *just... facepalms*

    December 8, 2013 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  5. Mike

    In this case, I have to agree with Gingrich. The unfortunately reality is, at the time, the West opposed the ANC because of its ties to the East. Those ties, though, were in part because the West supported the staunchly anti-Communist govt. of S. Africa The reality of geopolitics can make for situations that are less than ideal. If you are Mandela, though, faced with a repressive government and leading a coalition of resistance, reality dictated you had to take support from whomever would give it. His actual presidency showed, though, the kind of man he was. We should hope his successors and others learn from his example of how to be when you are in power.

    December 8, 2013 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  6. Stephan

    Let's be honest here.........................If Newt the "Cute" expressed his real feelings, his feelings from his heart, he would be let go by CNN. Come on now.........let's be honest with ourselves! He is a great soldier.................reports and says what he is told to report and say!

    December 8, 2013 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  7. CitizenOf theWorld

    Once again Racism rearing its ugly head from the Conservative quarters-–the folks who claim to be the religious, compassionate, benevolent and peace-loving types.

    To this Racist Conservatives, How do you feel about George Washington and the Minutemen's rebellion against their British Oppressors?

    What makes you think someone would stick to non-violent tactics when the Oppressors were using brute force to kill and maim peaceful protesters.

    For the uninformed, please Google " Soweto Uprising" to learn more about the brutalities committed by the South African Apartheid Regimes.

    Conservatives and Hypocrites should no doubt fall under the same category.

    December 8, 2013 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  8. ThinkAgain

    @Bribarian: "Mandel[a] Terrorist, Communist, and racist. No wonder libs love him. Just like obama"

    Hmmm, you obviously know nothing about Nelson Mandela. Here is a quote of his you should consider:

    "I hate racial discrimination most intensely and all its manifestations. I have fought all my life; I fight now, and will do so until the end of my days. Even although I now happen to be tried by one, whose opinion I hold in high esteem, I detest most violently the set-up that surrounds me here. It makes me feel that I am a Black man in a White man's court. This should not be I should feel perfectly at ease and at home with the assurance that I am being tried by a fellow South African, who does not regard me as an inferior, entitled to a special type of justice."

    December 8, 2013 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  9. ThinkAgain

    @Hector Slagg: "Has anyone written a history of South Africa? Not sure but I believe European's went to south Africa at the same time they came to America. And just like America the settler's in South Africa began the long process of improving the lives of all the natives. So a lot of people un named, un known, forgotten that helped Mandela become a world figure will never get any recognition to speak of. Here Martin Luther King get's all kind of kudos but President Lincoln hardly any."

    The long process of improving the lives of all the natives?!? Through genocide and institutionalized discrimination?

    And regarding Lincoln not getting much recognition in the U.S. ... wow, that's simply beyond the pale. You one uninformed dude.

    December 8, 2013 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  10. Paul Christie

    Come on...the Tea Party isn't racist.
    And, they'll tell you that themselves.
    Just because they disrespect Mandela like they disrespect Obama shows you how 'fair minded' they are.

    December 8, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  11. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    The product of Guns Over People tea potty wingnuts living in their extremist hate echo chamber.

    December 9, 2013 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
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