December 7th, 2013
12:45 PM ET
5 years 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. bbb

    This coming from the guy that doesn't see any apartheid going on in Palestine and called the Palestinians an invented people.

    December 8, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  2. sqeptiq

    One cannot support our Founding Fathers and at the same time attack Mandela while maintaining anything resembling logical consistency.

    December 8, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  3. sfg

    Mandela was fighting against tyranny,
    the very system which
    the Democrats seek to impose.

    December 8, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  4. ObamaCares!

    Neo-Confederates are truly showing what is inside of them on this tribute to Nelson Mandela.
    They are hate-filled atheists.
    Recall- What you do for the least of Men you do for Me!
    And helping people afford healthcare is part of that commandment of service.
    Listen to Pope Francis!!!

    December 8, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  5. karl from az

    Newt should stick to American history!

    December 8, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  6. ObamaCares!

    Hey bbb,
    Good point!
    Perhaps he was running out of steam....
    The activities of the Israeli right-wing war machine are something in between what Mandela fought and what Nazi's stood for.

    December 8, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  7. Iggymop

    Tea Party, Far right Republicans and conservatives always on the wrong side of history. What a shame for this country.

    December 8, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  8. JohnRJohnson

    Poor Newt. Now he has to deal with all the little Frankensteins he's spent the last 20 years creating.

    December 8, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  9. Eric

    This is a great discussion, one we can learn from. Nelson Mandela was a great man, the father of his country and one that showed what could be accomplished through reconciliation rather than deserving retribution. He also was a one time communist and quite arguably a terrorist during a period in his life. He was faced with opposing an intractable regime which was employing evil tactics in a very imbalanced position of power. What would those of us who hate the use of terror do, if we were in the same circumstances? Does doing a great good erase earlier evil, or as in the case of Mugabe, does doing evil on both ends, erase a great good done along the way? Can we ever ignore the murder of innocents or is it fair not to consider context? We should recognize that Nelson Mandela was a complex figure, who was responsible for terrible things being done to innocent people and advocating a repressive form of government during an effort to push back a terrible repressive government, who on the eve of success showed true greatness. If for nothing else this incredible change toward peace deserves praise. There is much history here which is ripe for discussion and the facts to support different truths. If we are unable to wrestle with the contradictions honestly and see the reasonableness of the various truths we prove that we are no Mandela.

    December 8, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  10. Name

    This is what happens when you court idiots.

    December 8, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  11. Michael

    That portion of the Republican Party that is so negative in regards to Mr Mandela will be the cause for the ultimate and timely failure of their party! It can't happen soon enough. They are the ones that complain about everything, but have no alternative suggestions. They are haters deep down. There is no hope for them, only complaints and negativism.

    December 8, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  12. Ruth

    Sorry ,but comparing what Mandela did to our founding Fathers and the Revolutionary war,is rerdundant.Whar Mandela did was in the 60"s ,our ancestors in 1776 I think 200 years makes a difference.....To blow up a train station and kill innocent people was wrong,and what because he had time to reflect on this and come up with profound phrases we honor this man , to lower our flag for him and not just for Pearl Harbor was a slap in the face of our brave men who died are so wrong Newt why don't you just honor the underground weathermen who killed 3 people

    December 8, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  13. bob

    Well, if that is his position I cannot see how he does not similarly laud the Palestinians for their opposition to Israeli actions. In reality what he is doing is justifying anyone who feels/perceives themselves to be oppressed/imposed on by their own government or a foreign power to take up arms via car bombing and so on against that government and its people. He also glosses over the fact that Mandela was tried ( unlike many of those in Gautanemo, or in other black sites ) , along with others, for something like 221 acts of sabotage ( Rivonia trial ). Mandela, to his credit ( ie: his belief was consistent ), did not deny many of them. He was thus not imprisoned indefinitely without trial. He was not waterboarded etc, and he was not imprisoned for non violent opposition to apartheid. He had an exceptional legal defense team at his disposal. He was, during his imprisonment, given an offer of amnesty if he was to renounce violence – he rejected it. He was a staunch supporter of Yasser Arafat and Fidel Castro, and an associate of Ghaddafi. He also was, without question a critical part of the transitional nexus of de Klerk and Mandela, having without question 'grown' in prison. That said he clearly had personal courage. He was assuredly not the Dalai Lama, mother Theresa, Ghandi or MLK ( ridiculous comparisons being made by airheads on TV ) who all were and are definitively and explicitly non violent. I suspect Mandela himself would not appreciate the cartoon character of himself being presented.

    December 8, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  14. rl

    How many years did it take? But finally Newt said something correct. He is learning in his old age I guess.

    December 8, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  15. Doug

    Maybe he's finally starting to realize that his base is insane.

    December 8, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  16. SerTrollsALot

    What Mandela did has NO PARALLEL OR SIMILIARITY to what GW did when fighting the redcoats. This is bs!

    December 8, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  17. Momodou

    Mr Gingrich should take heart that some of the commentators would have been happy if the Nazis had won the war.
    Do they forget the great "terrorist's Washington, Knox, Greene, Gates etc" maybe there hero's would be Benedict Arnold and Lord North

    December 8, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  18. Common Sense

    I am not normally a defender of the former speaker but in this case he is 100% correct. Further, those who revere our founding fathers are only hypocrites or worse not to admire Mandela. This underscores how out of touch with history and reality the neo-cons and Tea Parrt zombies are looking at things.

    December 8, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  19. m2

    You have to laugh at the irony of that woman's post about being "informed," then using "gorilla" instead of "guerilla." (Or maybe it wasn't a mistake?)

    December 8, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  20. spocksbrain

    I rarely agree with Gingrich but he's right on this account. Though Mandela may have been blind to what goes on in Israel he was a symbol of something important and that changed the world. As far as that silly post from "bbb" about "Palestine" let me remind him that the occupation took place when land was won from Jordan and Egypt, who do not want that land back. There was and has never been a "Palestine." The Arabs living in those territories largely came from other places. That said, they have been offered an independent state multiple times and refuse because of the hotheads that pull the puppet strings there. Specifically Hamas and it's masters are not interested in any kind of peace. Apartheid? Not quite - more like a repressive theocracy imposed by radical Islam and supported by Iran. There is simply no comparison with how the Arabs in the west bank and Gaza are treated by the Israelis - and how the South African Apartheid government treated the majority in South Africa. When the Hamas charter states that the Jews must be killed to achieve its goals - it only insures a permanent state of war and mistrust.

    December 8, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  21. Michael SC

    wondering if these right-wingers see Bush as the drug&alcohol addict that he once was and Cheney, Rove, Nugent, LaPierre as the certified cowards that they were and still are.
    Reagan was nothing more than a B-movie actor

    December 8, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  22. mmm

    This coming from a guy who made how much while in congress.... Guess the means justifies the end right newt?????

    December 8, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  23. Gene

    Not really a big fan of Newt, but he made some good points. First of all, by the very description of what Mandela did is comparable to what George Washington did in the United States. By the very definition of a terrorist used by Mandela's detractors, the Minute Men were also terrorist. After all, they ambushed and killed British soldiers. It seems that many on the right are susceptible to knee-jerk reactions. This is why they elect buffoons like Louie Gohmert and Michelle Bachman and then wonder why the party is ridiculed..

    December 8, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  24. Larry L

    A blend of sexism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia and greed makes the glue holding the modern Republican Party together.

    December 8, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  25. Ash

    I for one, one coming from Georgia, is pleasantly surprised by Mr. Gingrich's honesty and candidness in reply he has posted. Bravo!!

    We hope he uses his stature to expose and educate "racist: among us – now that he knows they are here. And here is FYI for Mr. Gingrich – this Sunday edition of Atlanta Journal has picture of county courthouse displaying Confederate Flag – as of date. Lot of work for you Mr Gingrich – rt here in home-state.

    December 8, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
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