December 7th, 2013
12:45 PM ET
8 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."

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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. Dennis

    I cannot be considered a Newt supporter but on this subject I completely agree. Kudos to Newt.

    The only way that I am a newt supporter would be in Monty Python terms, "She turned me into a newt. I got better."

    December 8, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  2. GulpOff

    Some people love to hate. Trish, double-baa-rrel, you are one of them. fool.

    December 8, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  3. Miranda Rights

    There was a poster named Jim that said Mandela and his wife were paid soviet thugs. So was the Apartheid, paid American capitalist thugs. If your oppressors are capitalist what would you be?

    Besides that you sound like a bigoted goon who came out of his Cave dwelling

    Finally Newt sticking to his principles

    December 8, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  4. Rich

    "This clenched-fist, murdering, gorilla warrior does not deserve respect from informed Americans,"

    Either this woman does not know how to spell or it yet another attempt to belittle a people by comparing them to the apes. If she is considered informed I prefer ignorance. Keep at it, GOP – you're doing a great job of alienating everyone!

    December 8, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  5. svann

    Gingrich nails it.

    December 8, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  6. chibs

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

    haha..."gorilla warrior"....thanks for keeping it real, Trish Baehr-Schaefer.! 😀

    December 8, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  7. John

    The republican remarks about Mandela are like the canary in the mine. They should not be forgotten. The words a person says are a reflection of the inner person. We are not headed to a good place.

    December 8, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  8. Peter Vogel, Learning Tree

    Go, Newt.

    December 8, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  9. There, their, and they're

    If you want a comprehensive understanding of the history of South Africa up to 1970, including the establishment of Apartheid, read James A. Michener's historical novel, The Covenant, published in 1980.

    December 8, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  10. mattand

    If you need any clue as to the current mindset of the current Republican Party, the quoted comment by Trish Baehr-Schaefer in 5th paragraph pretty much says it.

    "Gorilla" warrior. Your modern GOP, ladies and gentlemen.

    December 8, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  11. Jakinak

    Newt Gingrich's attempts to appear relevant would be laughable if they were not so pitiful. His "what would you have done" defense of Nelson Mandela demonstrates how far he has fallen.

    Nelson Mandela was a man, with all the imperfections and frailties that the rest of us have, he made mistakes, his actions resulted in unintended consequences and innocent people suffered because of it, he was indeed a leader, but he was not a saint.

    December 8, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  12. I agree with Newt?

    @Andrew. Racism and arrogance have compromised the republican party.

    December 8, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  13. LCSWquilter

    Those people whose knee-jerk criticisms of Mandela most likely are racist. It's simple - when a black man succeeds, racists feel threatened.

    December 8, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  14. cryptosquid

    For conservatives, if you're white, you're a patriot fighting oppression. If you're brown, you're a terrorist.

    December 8, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  15. No doubt about it!

    This is what happens when you foster and build your party out of trailer trash.
    December 8, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
    You are SO right, "Guest" - and I hope the Democrat Party listens to you and improves its trailer trash standards!

    December 8, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  16. texasnotea

    The tea party is a lie. The tea party message is a lie. The tea party is full of bigots and extremest people who can't stand the color of black and will believe 'till the day they die that people of color everywhere are insignificant to them. It's the way they roll.

    December 8, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  17. NorthVanCan

    Interesting to note that it was Mandela's reading of Shakespeare in prison that changed him.
    Not the Bible.

    December 8, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  18. Julia

    "gorilla warrior" says it all.

    December 8, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  19. Justice

    Always the same, the guy was fighting a very brutal, oppressive and criminal regime, but this regime was supported by the USA and his allies so "he was a terrorist", but if it was a regime "enemy" to the USA and allies then the guy would have been a Freedom Fighter, just like the Bin Laden followers, "saints", fighting in Syria. Great for the confussion which happens to be a daily reality of the "interest" world.

    December 8, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  20. MP in VA

    Ignorance will be the downfall of this nation. Armed, uneducated, unthinking Americans are slowly infiltrating the upper echelons of our society. If only Gingrich, Cruz, and their like would take a stand against their supporters' brand of ignorance more often. They made a living off of exploiting it, unfortunately.

    December 8, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  21. Citizenatlarge1

    The negative reaction to the praise of Mr. Mandela referred to in this article is reprehensible. Unfortunately, ignorance is not limited to the illiterate. We see it everyday from BOTH the extreme Right and Left. Madiba, as he was called by those who loved him, was indeed a great man and will be remembered as such by history. No amount of ranting by extremists will ever change that fact. And as for posts made by readers?... Opinions, and we all know how the saying goes.

    December 8, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  22. chutzpah

    The Republican Right is deep-dish, dyed-in-the-wool racist. What do you expect?

    Kudos to Gingrinch (I'm not a fan) for standing up to them.

    December 8, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  23. Steve

    Stay classy liberals.

    December 8, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  24. gregorthemendel

    I wonder how Prudential Realty feels knowing Trish Baehr-Schaefer represents their brand? I'd be careful buying real estate in Madison, WI.

    December 8, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  25. oldsarg

    Even Amnesty International refused to take on Nelson Mandela’s case because they asserted that he was no political prisoner but had committed numerous violent crimes and had had a fair trial and a reasonable sentence.

    December 8, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
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