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. luvUamerica

    I read an article on LA times on how the GOP is desperately trying to get Asians to come back to the GOP. The problem with the GOP is that they are still stuck in the 60s. The world has changed. The country has changed and continues to change at a rapid rate. In the last 10 Presidential elections, I think they only got one election where they won more than 50% of the votes. Only way they can retain the House is by redistricting the states they control. I do not think they will ever get control of the House unless, they really do some drastic changes to their platform.

    The Tea party controlled GOP has alienated just about every non-Baptist white people in America. It was not surprising that the GOP attacked Newt of all people for saying something nice about Nelson Mandela. It is a very hard thing to change your stripes.

    The GOP has absolutely nothing to constructive to offer at this point, except obstruct.

    December 8, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  2. luvUamerica

    Edit -Only way they can retain the House is by redistricting the states they control. I do not think they will ever get control of the Senate unless, they really do some drastic changes to their platform.

    December 8, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  3. Peter

    When a significant amount of people in the GOP feel that Newt Gingrich and Ted Cruz were wrong in complimenting Nelson Mandela rather than condemning him as a terrorist, you know that the GOP is overrun with extremists.

    The GOP has to take back the party from these crazies. They aren't going to help win any elections.

    December 8, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  4. Steve Fielder

    Newt Gingrich and other leading Republican figures are, with a mid-term election coming up, absolutely desperate to whitewash the rampant racism in the ranks of the GOP, and issued their glowing praises of the late Nelson Mandela primarily with that goal in mind.

    Too bad, though, that a great number of ordinary Republican base-voters undermined such efforts by posting bigotry-laced criticisms of Mr. Mandela all over the internet for the whole world to read....

    December 8, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  5. Michael SC

    as Reagan was supporting Saddam does that make Reagan a terrorist?
    Bush41 was supporting Saddam and Bin-Laden,. So he is a terroist 4 sure, right?

    December 8, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  6. T

    ...The radical right of the GOP has shown their true colors again and again........Every time they post stuff like the anti-Mandela crap,............ that 30 DAYS in jail for committing RAPE,.......mandatory transvaginal probes to women,............Death Panels that never existed............the GOP LOSES CREDIBILITY WITH INDIES...........and ultimately will LOSE ELECTIONS...................
    ...................................................................BUT..........THEY SIMPLY CANT HELP THEMSELVES ............

    December 8, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  7. Fred

    Now, if we could only get rid of the economic apartheid here in North America. The powerful few who have all the wealth need to do more to show how much they appreciate the middle class whose purchases, investments, and hard labour provide them with their riches.

    December 8, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  8. Bort

    I bet if Mandela was white, those same critics would love him. Don't understand how they hate so much to be called racists, but constantly do things that seem so obviously tainted with racism.

    December 8, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  9. DonJuan1943

    These are the low information voters who would have voted for Adolf Hitler in 1933. Nothing they say should surprise us. And nothing we say will change their low information status. ...their metaphorical knuckles are dragging on the ground. In truth, Mr. Mandela saved us from bathing in blood.

    December 8, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  10. Enlightened.

    I would ask Newt what would MLK would have done in Mandela's shoes.

    December 8, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  11. Mopery

    Oh Newt, when will you realize that the Presidency is forever beyond your reach?

    December 8, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  12. John

    Newt is not unintelligent and never was. There was a day he opposed any support for Nelson Mandela, and later he had the brains to change. Crucial skill that, being able to adapt. But now as he slaps down the moronic in his party, his only hope here is to keep them from making bigger asses of themselves than they already are. They had no real need to attack a man now dead, but they cannot help themselves because he was black and famously successful, and he reminds them of Obama. Too bad Newt. They cannot keep their mouths closed any more than moths can avoid the light.

    December 8, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  13. Joe M

    What kind of idiot attacks Nelson Mandela the day after he passes away?

    Finally, any critics of Mandela should be ignored like the self righteous 1% fringe minority they are.

    December 8, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  14. tony

    But republicans want those hate votes.

    December 8, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  15. Robert

    "I was very surprised by it," Gingrich said Sunday CNN's "State of the Union" about the backlash.

    Really Newt? After decades of right-wingers using "communist" and "terrorist" as convenient labels to demonize anyone they deem to be a threat to American foreign policy (i.e. economic) interests, I'm not surprised at all that their supporters can't think beyond such simplistic terms. Their attempts to gin up rabid hatred of "enemies" has been successful, that's all. This is just an example of chickens coming home to roost, Newt.

    December 8, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  16. skytag

    Gingrich's critics here are people who see everything in very simple terms. It's capitalism or socialism. You're with us or against us. Everything is black and white in their world as they are incapable of understanding the real world is more nuanced than that. It's a world where compromises have to be made and sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.

    As Gingrich points out, those in what would become this country who resorted to armed rebellion against the British would have been considered terrorists in their day. Mandela opposed an oppressive white-suprmacist government as best he could given his limited options. It seems to me only white racists have issues with what he did.

    December 8, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  17. Miles B.

    It's easy to respect Newt's feelings...and I do. It is however unfortunate the backlash comes from the monster he helped create.

    December 8, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  18. Azure skies

    @STEVE FIELDER – Thanks for enlightening us on that...Good to know that Gingrich was planning on 2014 Midterms since the Reagan presidency

    December 8, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  19. Robyn

    Nelson Mandela, a man of courage, conviction, and integrity who suffered for 27 years at the hands of thugs and murderers. When the moment came that he finally could take his revenge on those who had done so much evil, he instead chose to forgive those who wronged him and turn the other cheek.

    I am certain that someone, somewhere, said that was the right thing to do.
    But of course, most Republicans would be against anyone who follows that path.

    December 8, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  20. Juanito

    Most people don't remember when Africa burned when throwing off the colonial influences in the early 80's.

    The African National Congess(ANC) were easily infiltrated by pro communist regimes(east Germany, Soviet Union, Cuba) as no western country had or wanted anything to do with freeing Africa from colonial rule or influence. The US was occupied with central and South America, the. Middle east and soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

    In turn, the communist influences served as a focal point to oppose the ANC.

    This is the sticking point for conservative support of Mandela.

    I agree with Gingrich on this, and anyone truly embracing the principle of freedom would do so as well.

    December 8, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  21. JP

    What's sad is that someone's response to Gringrich couldn't even spell "guerrilla fighter" correctly. However that is a true fact, but Mandela was doing it to obtain equality. So many countries fight for that cause. George Washington was a soldier in two major North American wars that ended in the death of thousands. What's wrong with Mandela being involved in fighting to obtain equality for his people. He is one of the greatest leaders of all time for uniting South Africa.

    December 8, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  22. Linda

    Clearly, Newt is an opportunist, but when he does speak truth, he deserves the support of thinking people.

    December 8, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  23. melvin

    This country was built on race and blood spillage of people of color. Translation: Hatred of minorities in their fight for equality. The status quo is very nervous about the inability to retain power over others instead of sharing it. No wonder this country's reputation as a country of freedom is quickly going down the toliet.

    December 8, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  24. shan

    So Trish Baehr-Schaefer (quoted in the story) who apparently is running for office, must be either uneducated or a complete r acist. Or maybe both.

    Because she either doesn't know the difference between a guerrilla and a gorilla or she is literally calling Mandela an ape.

    December 8, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  25. seafoodwatch

    Politicians will degrade Mandela because Mandela philosophy suggests "too much" freedom and peace which is a threat to their power and corruption based security. War and inequality are a business.

    December 8, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
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