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. Jack

    To me it shows the pettiness of the conservative wing(Tea Partiers) of the Republican Party and how they attract the old Jim Crowe people! In saying that I'd like to point out the extreme left of the Democratic is no better upon the passing of President Reagan they did the same!

    The only difference is that the Democrats don't have the that extreme group controlling the part right now

    December 8, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  2. Longo

    conservatives are the most hypocritical narrow minded people in the world. They praise George Washington who killed the Brits because he fought oppression but when Mandela resorts to violence, they say he is bad! Conservatives need to understand that sometimes in order to fight oppression, you may have to resort to violence

    December 8, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  3. EncinoMan

    Since the holidays are near, I will communicate my lamentations with a certain holiday flare. If we were in "It's a Wonderful Life" Mandela would be George Bailey, the man who gave and sacrificed for the people of his community. Oh, and Mr. Potter would be played by The Tea Party. Enough said.

    December 8, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  4. Ray

    This is the monster that the right and the right-wing propagandists have made. They can not take a single moment to acknowledge the passing of a great leader. It is just attack, attack, attack. Welp, now it loops like the dogs are starting to turn on their own masters. Eat up dogs!

    December 8, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  5. CueBallSTL

    Any celebrity or political figure that posts anything the least bit controversial is going to face a backlash. Mike Winkelman and Trish Baehr-Schaefer are certainly not representative of the majority of conservatives. Show me backlash from someone that matters in the Republican party, and this might be a story.

    December 8, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  6. behonest

    Don't usually care for Gingrich, but in this case, good for you. Way to push back those ignorant critics.

    December 8, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  7. Ted Harris

    I Salute Newt Gingrich as someone who finally has the "Balls" to put history in the right prospective and "Praise Nelson Mandela as the Founding Father of South Africa that tore down apartheid as George Washington is Praised as Founding Father of USA, with 13 colonies that broke away from the Kingdom of Great Britain!" The revolutionaries led by George Washington, fought brutal battles against the British Empire. Nelson Mandela was a "Freedom Fighter" who first fought as a lawyer within the bigoted court system of apartheid then fought as a revolutionary, then spent almost 3 decades to come our as compassionate fighter of freedom for all the people of South Africa including those who once imprisoned him as well as murdered tens of thousands of Blacks... Nelson Mandela fought to include All of South Africans To Be One Nation. Our US Pledge of Allegiance calls for America to be "One Nation Under God"... And Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinate for his efforts to rid America of its own form of apartheid ... George Washington owned slaves while calling for American Freedom... Dr. Martin Luther King of America and Nelson Mandela of South Africa called for all people of their nations to be Free and United....Again as a Black American who also served in US Army in Africa during the 60's and learning more about South Africa and Nelson Mandela's fight before information about this was ever allowed to be printed in the United States, I Salute you Newt Gingrich!

    December 8, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  8. wayner

    This discussion is truly disgusting. This segment of the population who are trashing one of the greatest men who ever lived should be ashamed of themselves. Hopefully they are a very very small minority and I believe that it is. Pick up a book once in awhile and do your homework before spouting off and making fools of yourselves. Wait a minute, why read books when you already know it all, got it.....

    December 8, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  9. Yes

    I never thought I would agree with Newt, but that's the case. Mandela is a hero, a mensch, and now an angel, and hopefully one day, a canonized saint.

    December 8, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  10. Truth Today

    When we go after terrorist we resorted to violence.When we fought the British during the American Revolution, we resorted to violence. When we fought Hitler in WWII, we resorted to violence. when a man uses violence to fight against a racist White regime who used violence to suppress his liberty and right to economic prosperity, then somehow he is wrong and criticized? It is hypocritical of anyone to suggest so. He should be celebrated for fighting evil.

    December 8, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  11. palusko996769

    Interesting, how the conservatives are always "ready to use their weapons to fight the tyranny", and when someone else does it, it makes him a terrorist. Hell, US army has been fighting tyranny and sometimes "tyranny" all over the world, with millions of people as a collateral damage. But hey, that was to make the world 'a better place'. Unlike Mandela, who fought in his own country. I guess that didn't make the world a better place...

    December 8, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  12. Richard Miller

    Have we forgotten how this country and it's Democracy was formed? Our forefathers certainly did not form the United States using nice talk and kissy face politics. We fought a war for our right to form this place we call America and there was violence and atrocities on all sides in the process-that is what happens in wars. As much as I personally despise Gingrich's brand, he did get this right. Mandela was a great man and South Africa and the rest of the world have lost a real gem.

    December 8, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  13. Bradd Shore

    Did I read this right? "This clenched-fist, murdering, gorilla warrior does not deserve respect from informed Americans," posted Trish Baehr-Schaefer. At first I assumed she meant "guerrilla warrior" but maybe she's not as bad a speller as she seems to be. In any case I think the mistake is very revealing.

    December 8, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  14. Andrew

    So many bigots in the Republican Party.

    December 8, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  15. Vittorio Forde

    Those jumping on Newt are obviously supporters of the racist's that brutalized an entire race of people only because of the color of their skin. They are the sorriest excuse for humans in the history of man. They don't realize that many of the things the patriots of this countries revolution would today be called terrorism by some today. When the capitalist countries were in bed with the South African government for it's diamonds and gold, where else were the opposition to turn but to the Communist exploiting them. Did Mandela turn the country communist? NO!

    December 8, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  16. morganwolf

    "'This clenched-fist, murdering, gorilla warrior does not deserve respect from informed Americans,' posted Trish Baehr-Schaefer." That's either an ignorant typo or one of the cruelest racial slurs I've heard in a long time. Either way, she fails in my opinion. This is a good example of either racism or lack of education, both of which seem rampant in the conservative party.

    December 8, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  17. John

    I might be wrong, but the very same people who spew hate at Mandela for taking up arms against a government that raped and butchered and oppressed his people, want to storm the American White House because President Obama suggested that it might be a good idea to limit the magazine capacities of AR-15 rifles. Now I'm a white guy and I own guns, but the answer to my own implied question is even obvious to me. And that is that an awful lot of white guys just can't stand the fact that we are not in absolute charge anymore. They just don't like the fact a black man in Africa, for all of his flaws, is one of the greatest men of our time. And they sure don't like the fact that a black man is the President of the United States of America.

    December 8, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  18. akwildflower

    For once – I'm with Gingrich, and even Cruz.

    December 8, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  19. chutzpah

    Right wing racists

    December 8, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  20. Jake

    This line from the right is particularly fascinating, given the right's extreme success is rewriting Reagan's legacy to be something it was not, and their continued efforts to rewrite history textbooks to fill them with falsehoods and inaccuracies that support their agenda. Glass houses, teatards, glass houses.

    December 8, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  21. Rip

    Sometimes, Newt can surprise you with his views. He can act as far right as any Tea Bagger, but he has also said that FDR, the bane of conservatives for decades, was the greatest president in the 20th Century. But Newt is right on this one as well. The man fought, sometimes peacefully, and sometimes violently, for the freedom of his nation, which was run by racists. I think the problem here with the right wing nuts, as it is with President Obama, is the color of Mandela's skin. Had this been a white man who had done the things he had done, he'd be a hero on the right. Racism is still alive and kicking among those on the far right. This is simply another testament to that fact.

    December 8, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  22. Mymy

    Yes, our founding fathers fought against injustice and because of that we became a nation, a nation of freedom, a nation that continued to shed blood when others opposed us. The Mandela haters are ignorant trailer park trash who often times cry out for an uprising in our own country. These right wing wacko's cry for their right to bear arms so they can murder those who they disagree with but somehow can't understand why other people in other nations kill to keep their rights. The reason they oppose Mandela and his past is purely because of the color of his skin.

    December 8, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  23. David Stone

    It's not Mandella's politics all those yelling at Newt's comments hate, it simply is his color.

    December 8, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  24. Concerned81

    To call Mr Mandela a terrorist is to support the government that existed during that time. You can not be on both sides of this issue. Its a yes or no question.

    December 8, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  25. stuj

    Nothing is F'ed here? The GD plane has crashed into the mountain! The implosion continues. May the GOP RIP.

    December 8, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
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