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. Observer

    Nelson Mandela deserves praise for his struggle against racism and for what he though was good for his country; however, yes, he was a sympathizer of communist dictators like Fidel Castro. Mandela never raised his voice for denouncing the lack of liberties and discrimination in communist Cuba. As a Nobel Prize he should do it regardless his political friendship..
    Mandela was not the longer political prisoner in the world. Mario Chanes the Armas spent 28 years in Castro's dungeons before he was released and came to the United States where he died years later. Mandela never suffered cells like Castro's sealed cells where prisoners spent 5, 10 years without visitation, naked, and in total isolation. Mandela never suffered the so-called "drawers" cells in Cuba where 5 to 10 prisoners spent months and months in a six feet time 4 feets without bathrooms rights and making his disposals in the same floor where they took turns for sleeping. When someone slept, the others stand ( no room for more) nor Mandela suffered the "searchs" in Cuban prisons where prisoners where brutally beaten and whatever property they had was destroyed periodically by sadistic guards in order of keeping them under a terror regime.
    Mandela never raised his voice, Mandela befriended Castro. Let God be his judge.

    December 7, 2013 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  2. wizzman

    hopefully the republicans will see that pandering to these hateful people will only end up coming back to haunt them

    December 7, 2013 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  3. Thomas

    Rick McDaniel
    When government does the wrong things, it is up to the citizens, to use whatever means they have to, to oppose tyranny in government, including rebellion.

    Those who do not recognize that, need only wait, to see that this country, is already on that same path, and it will take the people to stop the tyranny of this government, as well.


    Rick , what is it about equality that upsets you ?

    You cant have peace without justice , you can't find wisdom without the truth .

    When you live in fear , you stay in fear . Join the winning side Rick .

    December 7, 2013 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  4. Just sayin....

    praise for Nelson Mandela (feel free to replace mandela with any other topic) triggers criticism from the right wing...these folks are predictable if nothing else...

    December 7, 2013 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  5. jardennis

    I don't get why some republicans don't like Mandela. Was he poor?

    December 7, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  6. CrazyDog

    Mandela was no angel. But he went a long way in his struggle, including both violent and non-violent means. I would not support canonizing him but it think he was able to overcome his devils and came to the idea – no matter how achievable – of peace and harmony. And so may he rest in peace.

    December 7, 2013 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  7. dikelmm1

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

    Notice she called him a gorilla warrior not a guerrilla warrior. I doubt it was a mistake.

    December 7, 2013 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  8. cbp

    Perhaps Newt Gingrich will understand exactly how this group of Americans can turn on those they previously supported. Just do something that they do not agree with and you are out.

    Nelson Mandela was fighting against apartheid which clearly was used to deny certain citizens their rights and freedom because of the color of their skin. Those who condemn him for his actions were not living in So. Africa at the time nor did they have the experience of being denied freedoms. Mr. Mandela spent years in prison and he paid a huge price for trying to change his country. When he was released he worked to make South Arica a place where people of color could live in South Africa. That does not mean that you have to agree with the actions that were taken so many years ago. However, one would not expect the Conservatives in the US to make complimentary remarks about Mr. Mandela. These same people have a hard time accepting a black man as President of the United States. They will do all they can to make sure he does not succeed.

    December 7, 2013 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  9. twalk

    But yet they support and praise GWB and Cheney. Two war criminals.

    December 7, 2013 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    i'm not a republican, i believe in socialism, from medicine, education, economic equality....but Mandela is not the saint of saints, nor was Churchill, Gandhi, or Jesus...gotta agree, look at the history of the movements, the early years, and even the later pushes, its not saintly, we can do better

    December 7, 2013 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  11. dick Ember

    Gingrich got kicked out of Congress for corruption. Who cares what he thinks????

    December 7, 2013 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  12. Ricky Gibson

    These are the seeds Newt and company helped to sow, and the crop is mature.

    It was pretty easy to inflame and infuriate and be the party of hate. Ask Rush Limbaugh and his imitators–it's also quite profitable.

    What goes around. . .

    December 7, 2013 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  13. Been There Done That

    Right in the middle of watching "Les Misérables" stop to check the new's.... Man I'll tell you, IT IS THAT BLACK AND WHITE, reading this story, and also seeing Hugh Jackman being hounded mercilessly by Russel Crow.

    The petty mean spirited character, Russel Crow portrays, is just so RIGHT WING. Incredibly uncompromisingly pig headed, compared to the character, Hugh Jackman show's as having done bad in stealing a loaf of bread, then paid 2o years in prison for it. He CHANGED, committed himself to God, and lifting up others. Does that stop pig headed Crow? Not a chance!
    Dead On characterization being told in this story. You go Newt! Tear em a new one!

    December 7, 2013 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  14. Alex

    I have to say, I've never been a Newt fan but I was surprised when reading this article about his respect for Nelsom Mandela. Why is anyone surprised about the right wing responses to Newt respectful comments about Mandela. All they are is hateful and biggoted...simple as that. Tea baggers are the political arm of the klan.

    December 7, 2013 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  15. miss muji

    Mandela was a bum ..... stuff that in your libbie pipes and smoke it.

    December 7, 2013 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  16. 2Km N of G Zero

    "gorilla" ? It seems that some people want to bring back apartheid. And maybe cancel the 13th Amendment?

    December 7, 2013 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  17. Marc Florida

    Moderate Republicans must be shaking their heads and wondering what haopened to their party. First the Pope and now Mendela. IS there any hope that sane laeadership will put the party back to a sensible and productive agenda.

    December 7, 2013 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  18. Peter Blanchard

    This so called 'pseudo conservative' right wing of our GOP is a copy-cat of the KKK and would have put the Nazis to shame!

    December 7, 2013 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  19. Smeagel4T

    Right wing haters are going to hate. It's how they try to convince themselves that they're important.

    December 7, 2013 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  20. evan

    To Trish Schafer, when it comes insurgencies, the correct spelling is GUERRILLA, not gorilla. I guess that was a freudian slip. Sounds like she would have supported Apartheid. Go back to reading Tea Party backed, "birther" articles in whatever southern state you come from.

    December 7, 2013 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  21. res65

    Luc Zagbo
    What amazes me as always it is that the oppressor always asks the oppressed when the latter fights back that he/she should forgive him. Today, Israel is oppressing the Palestinian people, but tomorrow when Palestine gets the upper hand, there will be call for forgiveness.#################
    What a shallow comparison Luc. You should spend some time in Israel when your compadres in Palestine are launching their barrage of rockets into Israel and then you cry foul when Israel retaliates..Grow up and get educated.

    December 7, 2013 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  22. adibese

    I am now utterly convinced that the majority of Republicans are deeply racist (Obama/Mendela, etc.). I've tried to give benefit of the doubt. There have been innumerable atrocities done in the name of what one party thinks is right. Look at US involvement in foreign countries, and the mass amount of deaths because of someone's policy. Nelson was involved in violence to get equality. He shed his violence to allow for peace when he got into power. Hard to do with so much hatred built over a long period.

    December 7, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  23. Bill

    What a low blow. Where is the evidence that these fools are "conservative" or "right wing".

    December 7, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  24. Balls of Steel

    I must admit that the Mandela bandwagon was a bit over the top. Yea, he did something for South Africa, SOUTH AFRICA people, for 99.99999% of Americans he did squat which is OK because he was from SOUTH AFRICA.

    December 7, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  25. natasha M.


    December 7, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
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