CNN wasted no time in asking Newt Gingrich the burning question of the day: did he, as his wife claims in interviews, ask for an open marriage so he could carry on his affair with then-mistress Callista Gingrich? Gingrich wasted no time in slamming the media every which way for asking.
“No,” he said when asked if he wanted to address the issue. The audience burst into wild applause at his response. “I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country harder to attract decent people to run for office. I’m appalled you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.”
The crowd in the palm of his hand, a visibly enraged Gingrich continued on a tirade against CNN for raising the question and the news media for promoting his ex-wife’s story, which he denied was true.
“Every person in here knows personal pain,” he said. “Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary, a significant question in a presidential campaign, is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.”
He said that “my two daughters wrote the head of ABC and made the point that it was wrong, that they should pull it, and I am, frankly, astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate.”
When moderator John King noted that CNN hadn’t originated the story, Gingrich kept up the attack.
“John, it was repeated by your network. You chose to start the debate with it. Don’t blame it on somebody else,” he said, before again being interrupted by the audience’s roaring approval.
As for the substance of the story, Gingrich said “the story is false” and that “every personal friend I have who knew us in that period says the story was false.”
He added that his campaign “offered several of them to abc to prove it was false. They weren’t interested because they would like to attack any Republican.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.