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. Smeagel4T

    American revolutionaries used "terrorist guerilla" tactics. While Washington's army fought largely along the same lines as the British, there were also tons of colonists who fought independently by "cowardly" hiding behind trees and ambushing British columns then running.

    While these are normal fighting tactics today, back in the 1700s only "cowardly terrorists" would fire on troops from ambush and then flee. To the British, the American revolutionaries were labeled terrorists who cowardly refused to engage in a fair fight. Americans shot British soldiers without even facing them.

    The US also engaged in "terrorist" bombing activities when murdering civilian populations during WWII. The fire bombing of Tokyo was indiscriminant mass murder of a civilian population. The bombing of Dresden was indiscriminant mass murder of a civilian population. We don't even have to get to the atomic bombs. We self-righteously proclaim how terrible Germany was in the bombing on London, but the US (in concert with the British) actually engaged in far more extensive and systematic murdering of civilian populations.

    One man's "terrorist" is another man's "freedom fighter". The only difference is who's applying the label.

    December 7, 2013 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  2. Smeagel4T

    Why do conservatives so loudly defend their Second Amendment rights as a protection against a tyrannical government, then blame Mandela for doing precisely what they're implying they'd do if in the same position?

    December 7, 2013 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  3. David Wagner

    Hector Slagg said:
    "And just like America the settler's in South Africa began the long process of improving the lives of all the natives."

    This is without question the stupidest thing I have ever read - anywhere.

    December 7, 2013 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  4. jacky

    racist tea partiers, my elite income, with my elite education, is growing weary of subsidizing this ignorant rabble.

    December 7, 2013 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  5. loudmusic

    Gingrich and Cruz praising Mandela. In other news, dogs and cats are living in harmony, the Taliban are opening a Kosher deli in Kabul, and descendants of the Hatfields and McCoys are sitting down to high tea at the Waldorf. It's a world gone mad, I tell you....mad!

    December 7, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  6. DRO

    Umm...Just how many innocent men, women, and children do you think lost their lives because of his war against the government? Answer....Lots. His cause was just but the way he went about it was wrong. There are always other ways at handling things. I believe that to sacrifice 1 life for a cause is completely unacceptable. He is only hailed as a great man because his fight against the South African government succeeded. If it haven't, history would have portrayed him as a monster. It's funny how the media only chooses one side of history to tell but they never mentioned the many innocent victims that had nothing to do with the government he was fighting against were slaughtered at his own hands.

    December 7, 2013 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  7. Redeye Dog

    Our country is a symbol stemming from the same struggles endured and overcome by Mandela. Changes take time and patience but history shows that great changes took more to be realized...

    December 7, 2013 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  8. noteasilyswayed

    Extreme right wingers are taking over the Republican Party and they want to impose their will on the rest of America. I guess Newt and Cruz found that out this time. The GOP should disassociate itself from these extreme racist conservatives.

    December 7, 2013 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  9. tami tam tam

    touche' tammyk tammy, touche'!!ehame that repubs show no shame in their racism. a great man is just that a GREAT MAN! color is the issue.always.n so-called "founding fathers", they came across something inhabited by people, people who are still being opressed by the "founding fathers" offspring who (some) r just as ignorant as their ancestors.

    December 7, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  10. José

    This is the reason, why I don't vote Republican.

    December 7, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  11. rob

    South Africa today is the murder capital of the world, a nation where a woman is raped every 30 seconds, often by AIDS carriers who go unpunished, and where whites are anything but the citizens of a democratic country which [honours] the principles of equality and freedom,

    December 7, 2013 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  12. NKBL

    Hooray for someone in the ignorant party that finally stands up to the stupidity of the Republican party. What would you do if you were repressed for being an old white man? Let's find out.

    December 7, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  13. buck cameron

    Some of these people can't help being clowns. Let's not give them print when they wet their mental pants yet again.

    December 7, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  14. Shelia

    This coming from the same Washington that kills innocents with drones... NO it s not ok to use violence against innocents that includes Mr. Mandela

    December 7, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  15. Shelia

    Sick world when you can justify violence

    December 7, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  16. Damien

    The "right" is distilling down to its racist core.

    December 7, 2013 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  17. fandancy

    It's a black thing with the rabid conservatives. Someday, they may join the 21st century but they have a long way to go.
    The old Republican party seems to have been swallowed up by the Tea baggers and evangelicals.
    Pandering for the black, female, and gay votes must be really hard for them. It's interesting how they want people they don't like to vote for them.

    December 7, 2013 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  18. DocHollywood

    Sorry Newt and Cruz. This is the culture that you have created over the last decade. You cannot criticize what you have created. But you can see the horror of it. And perhaps wish you had done differently.

    December 7, 2013 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  19. Bob

    Newt, you are spot on. Nelson will be immortal in history I am glad you and somewhat more surprisingly Ted Cruz
    have the courage to state the obvious.

    We have lost a great leader.


    December 7, 2013 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  20. Eric Goldman

    The folks, who jumped at Gingrich for his gracious tribute to Mandela, are clearly foolish and misguided. What they should be pointing out is unbridled crime and violence and desecration that is happening in post-apartheid wonderful democracy that SA is today.

    December 7, 2013 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  21. M. Ozgoren

    "Mandela resorted to violence against a government that was ruthless and violent in its suppression of free speech," said Newt.

    No, Mandela authorized terrorist bombings that killed civilians NOT THE GOVERNMENT. Adults and children, both black and white.

    The founding fathers NEVER targeted women and children.

    December 7, 2013 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  22. amazed

    Newt half of your party is racist. Surely you know that by now.

    December 7, 2013 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  23. Dorothy

    I don't agree with Gingrich on a lot of things, but I want to thank him for being the voice of sanity here.

    December 7, 2013 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  24. jalek

    The man was listed as a terrorist by the US until 2008. His group was considered a terrorist group because, while they didn't target civilians, often their bombings killed civilians. He was critical of Israel, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the US.
    Newt is only showing how totally irrelevant he has become in turning his back on his neocon supporters, the only ones he really had.

    December 7, 2013 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  25. Bribarian


    Terrorist, Communist, and racist

    No wonder libs love him. Just like obama

    December 7, 2013 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
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