December 7th, 2013
12:45 PM ET
12 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. Matt

    What's a "gorilla warrior"? I came across this in the article above. It was apparently quoted by some conservative.

    December 8, 2013 05:10 am at 5:10 am |
  2. PointOfFact

    Racist Right rears it's ugly head yet again

    December 8, 2013 05:22 am at 5:22 am |
  3. PointOfFact

    Racist Right

    December 8, 2013 05:23 am at 5:23 am |
  4. Dead bear

    Glad to see the racist Republican base putting it out there for all to see. There's no denying the label now. I guess all of you were too stupid to hold your tongues.

    December 8, 2013 05:44 am at 5:44 am |
  5. Brute

    Yes, he co-founded a very militant group that used terror tactics.. but what did he do after being in prison for a loooong time? He came out and preached peace and understanding. The right rarely understand this because they never change their views.

    December 8, 2013 05:51 am at 5:51 am |
  6. Matt

    So you're saying because the founding fathers and early settlers didn't massacre red indians in the same manner as nelson mandela fought back against the apartheid regime, nelson mandela is more evil than they are?

    December 8, 2013 06:03 am at 6:03 am |
  7. TJeff1776

    Newt is usually very logical on his interpretation of world events. Had he only practiced what he preached in the past, he would be politically ahead of the game. Instead, he possessed sneaky snake type deceptions and therein lies the present day rub no matter how far CNN and other right wingers attempt to push his agenda.

    December 8, 2013 06:13 am at 6:13 am |
  8. Ndoo

    Seriously, This guys are something else. I really don't believe they will ever win the presidency. They have so much anger management problems and a lot of lunatics. God bless America

    December 8, 2013 06:13 am at 6:13 am |
  9. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    This reminds me of the time that Newt told the truth about Lyin Ryan's budget being "right wing social engineering". The Guns Over People tea potty wingnuts can't handle the truth so they live in their extremist hate echo chamber.

    December 8, 2013 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  10. Kenneth

    The detractors oppose anyone of color and fall flat on their faces when accuracy is demanded. I was taught as a child not to speak ill of the died. We all will die someday, so I'm calling you idiots racist pigs before you die.

    December 8, 2013 06:32 am at 6:32 am |
  11. heidi

    No the founding owned slaves and decimated the native population of this country.What a ridiculous statement. Not only that they started a war with England for their freedom. Thank God Newt has more sense. How hard would you fight if you had to carry a pass wherever you went. were not allowed to vote. You woukd fight as he did. he went to prison for 27 years yet asked for unity. Few people have the dignity and courage he had. Yes I applaud Newt for this.

    December 8, 2013 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  12. Kenneth

    The detractors oppose anyone of color and fall flat on the argument when truth is demanded. I was taught as a child not to speak ill of the died. Guess some people were not taught civility by their parents.

    December 8, 2013 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  13. BO

    No surprise here. Both men were repeat adulters.

    December 8, 2013 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  14. AMB

    Think about the what Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama have in common the next time you hear or read a Right-wing hate message

    December 8, 2013 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  15. M

    Just goes to show what happens when a political party dances with the devil (racistss) in order to win elections. Now they are learning they don't want to dance with what they brought to the party because it isn't serving them so well any more.

    December 8, 2013 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  16. McDoud

    Tea party really is the rebirth of the KKK.

    December 8, 2013 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  17. Dan

    I'm done calling these extremist tea baggers. They're just the 2013 brand of the Republican party. This is the level of crazy and hate you get when you vote for any republican in any election.

    December 8, 2013 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  18. Me too

    The GOP is the party of bigots, racists, and haters. Grumpy old men and witchy women. Disgusting behavior for the partt that is supposed to represent the Christian right.

    December 8, 2013 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  19. lauradet

    Newt Gingrich finally got something right. He really highlighted just how hypocritical republicans truly are: "Some of the people who are most opposed to oppression from Washington attack Mandela when he was opposed to oppression in his own country. ."

    December 8, 2013 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  20. John Vance

    Never confuse mainstream conservatives (or progressives for that matter) with foaming-at-the-mouth radicals.

    December 8, 2013 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  21. kevin flannigan

    Lowering the flag is not enough, I say we put his image on the dollar bill.

    December 8, 2013 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  22. re333

    we have a sick country...

    December 8, 2013 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  23. scarf

    I admit that I'm nowhere near as good a man as Mandela, but he lost my admiration when he said the United States was guilty of "unspeakable atrocities" and criticized the American record on human rights. We may not be perfect, but Mandela had plenty of flaws, also. He had no room to criticize the US while snuggling up to Castro and his ilk. Like Marshal Petain, I would remember Mandela with greater admiration if he had died 20 years earlier.

    December 8, 2013 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  24. MollyBee

    Newt, This is what happens when your political party panders to (and even encourages) the haters and racists. If the GOP/TP wants to regain favor of Americans, it will have to dump hate rhetoric and hate campaigning.

    December 8, 2013 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  25. JC Mack

    Has anyone checked to see what type of tea Republicans are drinking today

    December 8, 2013 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
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