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.
Another fine mess the so-called champions of freedom & liberty have managed get themselves into. The hypocrisy of the nut jobs populating the republican party is simply hilarious; and undoubtedly exposes the true character and ideology of those lurking in its midst. The only way the republicans can save themselves at this point is to totally clean house, ridding it of the refuse that has found it's way into a once respectable & legitimate political party. I'm really beginning to think that the republican party has been compromised by the Democrats; because it's hard to believe anyone can willingly and consistently screw up each and every opportunity it has to improve its image.
GOP conservatives ARE the garbage of America, what else would you expect from this GOP MINORITY and who fights AGAINEST healthcare for all Americans !!!!
This is what happens when you foster and build your party out of trailer trash.
A deer's normal brain function freezes when confronted by oncoming headlights, A photo of an African seems to have a similar effect on a lot of Republicans.
Well, in DC they say – that the Gingrich's small heart grew three sizes that day.
Mandela and his blood thirsty Wife were paid Soviet thugs. South Africa was the most wealthy and European Nation in Africa, and now is becoming an open cesspool.
And Republicans wonder why their party is irrelevant. They celebrated Thanksgiving, but the pilgrims terrorized the Indians. Their ancestors bought cotton products, although slave owners terrorized slaves.
The republican party has been taken over by some of the most narrow minded, mean and hateful people this country
has produced since before the US civil war. The fact that most republican leaders are quick to claim a personal relationship with God renders many people confused. The only God they end up serving is the god of greed . And when
it comes to the matter of health care Republicans demonstrate their extreme selfishness in that they live by the credo
me and mine have what we need so to hell with anyone without.
Gingrich helped breathe life into the hate and ignorance of the GOP's right wing. He deserves every bit of madness they throw at him.
Almost never agree with Gingrich. Did not think I would take his side today.
The fact that Mandela did not advocate killing people sets him in the category of Gandhi or MLK.
The Nutjobs need fresh meat, and today it is Newt.
Saw the Duncan Hunter interview, immediately thought another repub nutjob or Wiener wannabe.
No wonder the country is having problems thinking. Johnny can't read but he is highly armed and can't deal with facts, waiting for the second coming any day now. They live for Armageddon like it is THEIR ticket to heaven.
Trish Baehr-Schaefer is a truly stupid person. Or else just racist beyond the pale. It is 'guerilla,' (Sp.guer = war), not 'gorilla' (peaceful herbivorous ape). Or, for racists, black man = ape-iish.
In any event, Nelson Mandela probably PREVENTED a blood bath in South Africa. By himself. By his strength. I know, I lived there. Trish Baehr-Schaefer never did live there, and doesn't know her behind form a hole in the ground. She is not 'INFORMED.' How the whatever does she get her banal stupidity published? What is wrong with the people who read her?
Newt is correct. Republicans who are stupidly taking an event that has no consequence for them, and making it into a big negative. And I am a Conservative.
Finally, Newt said something decent. Good for him and it even seems there is no political motivation. That the ultra-right fanatics choose this time to denigrate Mr Mandela is not just bad timing but disingenuous. While on the Newt subject, I have to say that he is a communist. During one of his ill-fated campaigns he had the audacity to state (likely just for the cheap political soundbite) that Americans should not be allowed to "occupy" Wall St or any other street. This sounds like the communist Chinese government with the student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. Sadly, the US political environment is so polarized that nothing will ever get accomplished.
The Universe is an unimaginably large place. There must be millions, if not billions, of planets where intelligent beings reside. If humanity ever makes contact with any of those other inteligent beings, Nelson Mandella would have been one of humanities most shining ambassodors.
He gave up his hate before it devoured him, and we can all learn from the example he gave us.
It's hard to think I'd ever agree with Newt but I suspect he understands history a lot better than those criticizing Mandela; yes Mandela was also a warrior – so what? It's kind of funny how those that are now criticizing him for it are the same that glorify the founding fathers. Two faced at best.
Why should we lower our Flag for this Man. Give me a break. That is a special honor for our people. Many of our young men and woman did more for our Country, did you lower the Flag for them?
The CIA once thought Iran Contra and the Bay of Pigs were A-OKAY winners. Your point being....
After reading the recent Biography of the Dulles brothers, the CIA mindset becomes obvious.
Perhaps Mandela's problem is that he was not on CIA payroll, and buds with Allen Dulles.
Really? Someone called Mandela a "gorilla warrior"?
Wow. Reasonable Newt. Who'd a thunk?
We seem to have many opinions but it has always been the same. One man,s terrorist is another man,s freedom fighter.
You can always anticipate what a liberal assed news agency is going to do also.
It is appalling to see the hypocrisy of the GOP. Ignorance can be very toxic but ignorance combined with stupidity can be deadly. Is there a difference between the modern day Republican party and the Taliban?
"In 1986, 145 Republicans and 45 Democrats voted down a non-binding House resolution urging the Government of South Africa to indicate its willingness to negotiate with the black majority by granting unconditional freedom to Nelson Mandela, recognizing the African National Congress; and establishing a framework for political talks. This included Dick Cheney, John McCain, NEWT GINGRICH, Dan Coats, Pat Roberts, Joe Barton." I'm not trying to be snide, but if Newt Gingrich was a long tome supporter as this article asserts, then I would like to read exactly what he did to support Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.
Finally we hear something reasonable from Newt and Cruz and the wing nuts turn on their own. Unfortunately, the lesson will be lost on both of them.