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.
Newt... I like your hit back on republicans... Finally a conservative liked Mandela....
The man was listed as a terrorist by the US until 2008. His group was considered a terrorist group because, while they didn't target civilians, often their bombings killed civilians. He was critical of Israel, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the US.
Newt is only showing how totally irrelevant he has become in turning his back on his remaining supporters, primarily neocons that believe that killing civilians is inconsequential.
Does, "This clenched-fist, murdering, gorilla warrior..." supposed to serve as a racist slur or does it just reflect Trish Baehr-Schaefer ignorance, not only of history but of how to even spell guerrilla. We were murdering, guerrillas taking on a much less-oppressive regime during the Revolution. I guess those warriors do "not deserve respect from informed Americans" either. Nice try!
"...gorilla warrior... " – Trish Baehr-Schaefer
Seriously? Gee Trish, are you really that stupid?
Good for you, Mr. Gingrich. You and I are far apart on the political spectrum, but I am grateful that you are responding to those who are unable (perhaps unwilling) to consider the history of apartheid and Mr. Mandela's remarkable achievements in that context. I believe his commitment to reconciliation, which is based in a Christian value of forgiveness, and his ability to bring a nation to peaceful acceptance of such a painful past are unparalleled in human history. He will always be an inspiration for this white Southern woman!
I'm a 64 year old white American. Had I been a black South African during apartheid I have no doubt I would have been right along side Mandela and been a "terrorist' myself
Spread a rumor that "Mandela must'a had some white blood in 'im" and the fringe-right will grudgingly accept that Mandela was at least part human. The fringe needs to focus on the 'major threats' to their bigotted world view... I mean jeezie weezies, quaaaars, welfare queens and scientific facts are surely gonna give the creator of Patriotic Chrisianity the justification he has been gleefully awaiting so he can trigger the Apocalypse...
@exceptional Americans: Can you provide clear citings that Mr. Mandela is guilty of your accusation: "pour gasoline in tires and set them ablaze while hanging around men, women, and children's necks." Yeah, did't think so. And what do think the Dutch oppressors did the Mandella's people? Do you even know anything about Apartheid?? I doubt it.
More proof the GOP is full of racists.
Name me a current statesman from the left wing? Answer 0. These liberal socopaths still embrace the gonof "george Soros".
Nothing makes conservatives madder than a black guy with some power.
There are very, very few things I agree with Newt on, but I do on this one. Mandela is not a candidate for sainthood. Remember that his group was not receiving substantial outside help as the Syrians are today.
Ted Cruz is just not crazy enough. If we want to take our country back, we need someone really, really crazy.
Wow...the 1gnorance. A man decides to fight back against an evil regime, and he's the one that's seen as evil. I appreciate the intelligent comments on here; but these "right-wingers" do not deserve such respectful rebuttals. They are simply m0r0ns. Most of these people's mindsets are influenced by what they see on FOX. And I know for a fact they don't know a thing about most of the stuff they argue against. There are some really stupid people in this world. It's a joke.
seems like this country is at that point. where it needs to break away from a corrupt government. but nobody wants to wrestle anyone to the ground or kill people over it. i suppose we will decline to oblivion until someone gets a clue...which will be notoriously too late for this country.
well...not a corrupt government so much as corrupt people that infiltrated our government.
The Republican party should just change their name to STUPID party.
Do you guys even spell check anymore? The Farmers? Really?
Ayyyy, Newt boy... You started the current partisan gridlock with your "contract" gimmick. Your crazed little baby newts grew up to be useless neocons and now brainless rednecks who embarrass you with their ignorance. That's life, newt.
It's politics, fellas. Politicians do not inspire me. I take them all with a grain of salt and a dose of skepticism.
If you have ever been in a position to be involved with a story that ends up in the newspaper or on the internet you know how inaccurate and how much spin journalists use to make a story a 'story.' You should take all you read on the internet, especially CNN and MSNBC, with a huge dose of skepticism.
One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist, and that's the way it is, December 7th, 2013.
Anyone beating the drum against Mandela, will be on the front lines in the next revolution fighting the government for the very same reasons Mandela fought against that government. Do you think you are that different? Guess again, when the next revolution happens in the US. Time is short so start prepping.
Newt, for the first time-I'm proud of you....Good for you !!
A short summary of South African history: Look up on Wikipedia: 1. Necklacing 2. Cato Manor (subheading: riots). This will give you an understanding of how the black people of South Africa did their "uprising" and how different it was from the USA's MLK. Rosa Parks etc. Also read on wikipedia: Piet Retief (subheading: death) to understand that the white South Africans were just like the Americans pioneers. Also look up Jan van Riebeeck: the first white settler to arrive in South Africa in 1652. Enjoy and truly understand history. Do not judge until you are fully informed.
Time to bury the far right and get on with leading America. The far right has never made a significant contribution to America's well being. Just a lot of smoke and noise. Totally useless
Newt helped to create the monsters that are now biting at his and Cruz's heels.