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. kamal koin

    how can one have hope for mankind after reading some of the comments herein? Good for Newt and, if his motives were sincere, good for Senator Cruz. Most of the cerebrally active republicans like Ted and Newt are tripping over their own pseudointelligence. It's very sobering to see and read the vitriol directed at president obama. some things it seems will never go away. human minds are becoming so putrid that i don't think an act of God can help us. Do the republicans really think our creator doesn't see what they're doing?

    December 8, 2013 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  2. MrManhattan

    Seriously, what do you expect from tea baggers raised during the Reagan Administration education cuts???

    December 8, 2013 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  3. jmacca62

    Thinks Guerrilla is spelled G-O-R-I-L-L-A, accuses others of being uninformed. The Tea Party base in an nut shell.

    December 8, 2013 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  4. ohioan

    The far right of the GOP are only about fear, intolerance, and hate.....losers all!

    December 8, 2013 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  5. CAC

    In response to exceptional Americans- who would benefit from doing some serious reading about the Revolutionary War and Nelson Mandela's anti apartheid struggle. Nelson Mandela never engaged in or advocated "necklacing" i.e. burning tires around an opponents neck. On the other hand, some independence supporters during the Revolutionary War tarred and feathered Tories, which was a much more violent and potentially fatal than most people realize. We don't blame George Washington for every atrocity committed by people who participated in his revolution and it does not make any more sense to blame Nelson Mandela.

    December 8, 2013 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  6. Tom

    It's not only their own that republicans eat. Their breath smells like a sewer.

    December 8, 2013 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  7. Name

    Both sides are wrong. He wasn't the man they believe him to be. But he did change some things. Mostly for the worse. In the end all that counts is the time you are seen on tv. Not the substance or lack there of in your message.

    December 8, 2013 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  8. The Contentious Otter

    The Tea Party began as an attempt by the Koch Brothers and their cohorts at the American Legislative Exchange Council to co-opt populist discontent with the effects of the Bush/Cheney recession, and to use that discontent as an engine for fighting against new environmental regulations coming from a Democratic administration. Apparently the Koch brothers didn't realize the group they were getting was that exact same group of southern conservatives who have been bouncing back and forth between political parties for years, and which represent -for all intents and purposes- the political arm of the Klu Klux Klan. They used to call themselves Democrats (even though they had nothing in common with Northern Democrats) because right up to 1948 they still hated Lincoln for freeing the slaves. After Truman integrated the military and HH Humphrey announced Democratic support for the Civil Rights Act in 1948 they became "Dixiecrats", then followed Strom Thurmond over to the GOP and became Southern Strategy Republicans. After Obama was elected they recycled all their own Southern Strategy talking points and started calling themselves "The Tea Party".

    December 8, 2013 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  9. Loe

    Mandela didn't attack the government, he attacked innocent citizens with acts of full blown terror. He once even threw a hand grenade unto a school bus. Were the children on that bus the ones oppressing his race? He was a coward and murderer and a communist rodent.

    December 8, 2013 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  10. Larry in Houston

    @tammy k tammy – – I think you are spot on...As an Independent, to be perfectly honest, I hate to be a bearer of bad tidings, but the republicans are going to have a tough time, come 2014, & beyond for awhile....I think they need to re-group or something.....Their war on women / the gay thing / and the whole 9 yards is getting a bit much....I mean, they say one thing, and on the other hand, they contradict themselves.....If you listen to them long enough, they stick their foot in their mouth...LOL – sometimes it's so pathetic to the point it's not : what's that guy's name ? todd aikin or something like that ? and the list of those people goes on....

    December 8, 2013 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  11. kb

    Typical Republicans. The worst of the worst of people in this country.

    December 8, 2013 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  12. TGA

    Someone should tell Trish Baehr-Schaefer (quoted in the article) that it's "Guerrilla", not "Gorilla".

    December 8, 2013 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  13. Eric

    "he was among the many Republicans in Congress who pressured the president to impose sanctions on the apartheid regime." - which failed. Democrats and Republicans had to override Reagan's veto to do this.

    December 8, 2013 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  14. shesaracistidiot

    This clenched-fist, murdering, gorilla warrior does not deserve respect from informed Americans." Someone should inform the informed Trish Baehr-Schaefer the difference between guerilla and gorilla, not that she'd care.

    December 8, 2013 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  15. courtney

    tell it gingrich. there are still some ignorant people in the world but lets do what mandela would have done and thats to forgive them. rip mandela.

    December 8, 2013 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  16. jimmy

    The republican/conservative/fox news party is walking on very thin ice thats just about to crack wide open and won't surface again for a long time; 2014 elections.

    December 8, 2013 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  17. danita

    This man is like Obama... Most of his folks are very poor and on welfare. Always need someone to speak for them... Can say he had a backbone unlike most of his and bama's followers...

    December 8, 2013 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  18. Steve Storch

    All the hate from the Right is not helpful. Glad Newt got this one right.

    December 8, 2013 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  19. steve

    @Luc Zagbo Totally misread the article didn't you. Mandela was strong enough as a human being to forgive his "oppressors" without their asking for his forgiveness. In doing so he won over his enemies to his side, peacefully, something Palestinians, Islamists, and you could never do. It takes a Mandela or Gandhi to bring about peaceful change but there are no such people alive in the Arab world. And what about the Arab states that still oppress Palestinians by making them live in refugee camps? Cat got your tongue on that one or do you enjoy being a hypocrite?

    December 8, 2013 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  20. Shocked

    How is it that the right-wing continues to surprise me with how ignorant they are!?!?

    I'm predicting in the next 10 years they'll start defending the Nazis.

    December 8, 2013 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  21. Russ

    I praise Gingrich and Cruz. (I can't believe I just wrote that) They are right, and those who call Mandela a terrorist are dead wrong. Let me ask you this. If he was a terrorist, why are white and black S. Africans crying? There is universal recognition by S. Africans and world leaders alike that Mandela waa a great man and important historical figure. It is doubtful that any other person could have brought down apartheid. But, I guess if you loved apartheid, he was a terrorist.

    December 8, 2013 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  22. Art

    As a white person from South Africa, I find the whites in America who made these preposterous comments about Nelson Mandela to be pathetic. You know nothing of the history of my country. Mandela took extraordinary measures against a regime that was as oppressive as Hitler. That's right! HITLER. And the world watched as this took place. Mandela freed all of South Africa from the tyranny of a small group of racist whites who knew no basic human decency. He didn't just free black South Africans. He freed South Africa from tyranny. He is the very definition of a hero. There is no white person alive in America who has sacrificed as much as this man did. And I am so angry at whites in America for their blatant stupidity and arrogance. It's part of the reason so many people around the world hate you so much.

    Whites in America know no struggle. You are so far removed from the rebellion that created your country, you can't fathom what it is like to be treated as sub-humans. You are a droll lot filled with petty hatred and religious fanaticism. You are bigots of the first order and deserve no respect for your world view.

    With all due respect to whites in America, sit down and STFU. Handle you own issues and stop projecting your absurdity onto the world.

    And no, Jesus doesn't love you best. God and Jesus aren't real. Get a bloody clue already.

    December 8, 2013 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  23. jeff

    Mandela didn't change the government of the South Africa, the policy of the Aparthied ended with economic sanctions and the leader of the time ending the policy and turning the government over to a majority rule at the ballot box. This doesn't excuse the tactics and innocent men this man killed on his way to power. South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world, AIDS is in epidemic proportions, not to mention the white population are still the business leaders in South Africa. What did this man really change?

    December 8, 2013 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  24. Steve

    You see who your supporters are newt? Those are the members of your grand ole party. Nelson Mandela was one of the greatest leaders of our time. All you have is that once in a while you break with conservative lines to do the obvious right thing.
    It's so crazy that coming out against apartheid South Africa was somehow radical for any American. But I guess you get points for being right sometimes newt... Even when it is obvious to any human being with a heart and mind.

    December 8, 2013 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  25. OM

    Newt Gingrich has won my respect and vote. He has taken his rightful place as a leader with global perspectives. Newt stood up against the pseudo conservatives that have given being a republican a bad name!

    December 8, 2013 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
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