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. budshot

    These days, it's always about race to right wingers...

    Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine:

    'a failure to grasp the historical character of racism is not merely a recurring problem for conservative racial thought, it is its defining quality.'

    'The distinguishing element of conservative thinking on race is the belief that, at any given moment, the balance of actual or threatened power is arrayed against whites. The conservative line often concedes that whites may have sinned against blacks in the past, and may even continue to do so, but that at the present moment the risk lies in taking things too far in the opposite direction.'

    December 8, 2013 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  2. budshot

    These days, it's always about race for right wingers. Actually, it always has been...

    Jonathan Chait,New York Magazine:

    'The distinguishing element of conservative thinking on race is the belief that, at any given moment, the balance of actual or threatened power is arrayed against whites. The conservative line often concedes that whites may have sinned against blacks in the past, and may even continue to do so, but that at the present moment the risk lies in taking things too far in the opposite direction.'

    "A failure to grasp the historical character of racism is not merely a recurring problem for conservative racial thought, it is its defining quality."

    December 8, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  3. Surthurfurd

    To Exceptional Americans... I guess you never heard of tar and feather. Also you seem to like to bear false witness.
    In almost every fight for one group to gain power or share power there are those who engage in horrible acts. The question we need to ask is are they representative of the whole?

    December 8, 2013 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  4. Paula Kramer

    One segment of Republicans believe in a world ordained by God in which everyone has their place. Whites are at the top. In their view, white violence against blacks is always justified because its purpose is to keep blacks in their place. Violent whites label blacks who respond with violence as terrorists. Violent whites label violent blacks as terrorists because they consider black violence an attack on God's ordained order.

    December 8, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  5. noroomforhumans

    @hectorslagg – How can you say Lincoln doesn't get recognition? There are at least 5 national monuments to him, and downtown Springfield, Illinois is almost entirely dedicated to Lincoln. Isn't there room for more than one great man?

    December 8, 2013 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  6. American Firster

    Newt loves Communists.

    December 8, 2013 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  7. Bob

    There is a lot of hate and irrationality on both sides of the aisle. This is not unique to conservatives by a long shot.

    December 8, 2013 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  8. achepotle

    haha...pretty funny when Swingin' Newt is the voice of reason in the GOP 😛

    December 8, 2013 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  9. Todays Reality

    Newt is right in defending Mandella... but to pretend there is an "oppression from Washington" that somehow compares to the oppression placed on the peoples of South Africa by the apartheid regime is just playing to false drama created by the money-mongering self-pitying whining right.

    December 8, 2013 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  10. Jules

    The GOP has sewn fear and hatred, especially on those people of color and those who are poor. What Newt is experiencing is exactly what comes from that, nobody can be great or kind or worthy unless they are white and don't need any kind of assistance in life. I am glad Newt is standing up to the hate mongers – the rest of the GOP leaders should do the same.

    December 8, 2013 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  11. Juergen

    Mandella was a great man. Gingrich made a heartfelt statement. Cruz's comment is sucking up to the black vote.

    The T baggers once again show the racist slant that caused their kickoff in 2009.

    December 8, 2013 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  12. Marie MD

    @thank you rick, since your teaklan party is the one trying to suppress it's people by taking away human rights, voting rights and people marrying those they love.
    Shutting down the government should be seen as treason and those who campaigned for and finally did it should be tried for treason and jailed. I take it we don't execute traitors anymore. Shame.
    They should all go with their Canadian leader back to his country of birth , Canada or his papi's country Cuba where they would be shot on sight! I doubt Raul would allow Rafael Cruz to open his mouth.

    December 8, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  13. Aculeius13

    Who is this Trish Baehr-Schaefer, who speaks of "informed Americans?" Informed by whom? I consider myself well-informed, and never limit myself to learning from one or two biased sources. Does the use of "gorilla" instead of "guerrilla" to describe Nelson Mandela strike anybody else as deliberate? I thought that civilized people no longer used racist language describing Africans as sub-human. Have I been wrongly informed? It's inaccurate in any event. Mandela may have studied guerrilla tactics at the height of Apartheid, but there's no evidence that he ever fought in a battle or resorted to arms against his oppressors. For most of his life, Mandela was a strong advocate of non-violent resistance, following the model of Gandhi. That's the very reason why South Africa's transition to what is perhaps the most stable and prosperous country in Africa was a peaceful one, instead of a violent revolution. It seems to me that Nelson Mandela's critics are the ones who are ill-informed.

    December 8, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  14. George

    So where are these guys when Pete King (R, NY) praised the IRA? crickets

    December 8, 2013 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  15. kashbmaryd

    Newt got it right. His haters need to sit down and get educated.

    December 8, 2013 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  16. tara

    I'm just floored that there's a person under the delusion that the Europeans improved the lives of the North American aboriginals by murdering and raping them while forcing them off their land. Just... wow. Really hoping that's a troll.

    December 8, 2013 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  17. CTYank

    I love it- righty-tightie whackos are just fine with whatever "theirs" do, but simply cannot abide different folks being elected. Then they want "2nd amendment" remedies. Bloody nuts! Not if I can help it, McDaniel! Sit down and grow up.

    December 8, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  18. Tanner

    Our CIA considered Mandela terrorist at one time. Look it up.

    December 8, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  19. Stephen

    There may be hope for Newt yet. At least he can see the greatness in a dark skinned person from another country.

    December 8, 2013 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  20. OrmondGeorge

    Freedom fighter/terrorist, it only depends on your perspective.
    Did Mandela live a "perfect" life or an exemplary life – obviously, his life as a whole would be an achievement REGARDLESS of his color, his Religion, his Country of birth, his political ideology.

    Fight for what you believe, be willing to give your life in that fight if you must.

    ANY of you old white Republican males that have anything to say against this great man, answer this one question:

    Had you been born into the life that he ultimately lead, what would you have done differently to get the approval that you withhold from him now?

    December 8, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  21. Danram

    As a registered Republican, I continue to be embarrassed by these ultra right-wing idiots. I wish nothing more than that you fools would split off to form your own party.

    December 8, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  22. tom

    Nothing wrong with killing to free his people and bring down the hateful apartheid government. This is the same reason I support those fighting Israel, another racist regime that gets away with crimes by constantly playing the WWII victim.

    December 8, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  23. Ned

    "Gorilla" warrior? That's a new one. Maybe the language is devolving once again.

    December 8, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  24. liftingingoshen

    Mandela purposely targeted civilians, he is by definition a terrorist.

    December 8, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  25. ashd

    i wonder if the people who are making these claims that mandela was a terrorist have actually BEEN to south africa let alone looked at the history of the apartheid regime. and here's more food for thought: did it ever occur to them that the 'patriots' in our american revolution were probably viewed as terrorists by the english government? probably not, since they were fighting to overthrow an oppressive regime. the same applies to not just mandela, but all the figures on the african continent who stood up to the colonial regimes.

    December 8, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
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