Tonight’s CNN Republican debate in South Carolina started off with a bang as Newt Gingrich got into a heated exchange with moderator John King about a pair of interviews in which his ex-wife, Marianne, claimed he asked her to enter an open marriage prior to their divorce.
“I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that,” Mr. Gingrich said.
Mr. King used his first question to address the open marriage allegations.
“Just as Speaker Gingrich surged into contention here in South Carolina a direct, fresh character attack on the Speaker and Mr. Speaker I want to start with that this evening,” Mr. King said. “As you know, your ex-wife gave an interview to ABC News and another interview at the Washington Post and this story has now gone viral on the internet. In it, she says that you came to her in 1999, at a time when you were having an affair, she says you asked her sir to enter into an open marriage. Would you like to take some time to respond to that?”
“No, but I will,” Mr. Gingrich answered. “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 public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.”
Mr. Gingrich’s response was met with a mix of cheers and boos from the audience. He continued by noting many people have problems in their personal lives.
“Every person in here knows personal pain. 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 the presidential campaign is as is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine,” Mr. Gingrich said. “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.”
Mr. King attempted to defend his network.
“As you noted Mr. Speaker, this story did not come from our network,” Mr. King said. “You should also know it is the subject of conversation in the campaign. I’m not–”
Mr. Gingrich cut him off before he could finish.
“John, it was repeated by your network you chose to start the debate with it. Don’t try to blame somebody else. You and your staff chose to start this debate with it.”
After his attack on CNN, Mr. Gingrich addressed his ex-wife’s allegations. He described the story as “false” and accused ABC News of running it as part of an attack on the Republican Party.
“Now let me be quite clear, let me be quite clear, the story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period says the story was false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false,” Mr. Gingrich said. “They weren’t interested because they would like to attack any Republican.”
Mr. Gingrich didn’t just accuse ABC of anti-Republican bias. He finished remarks on the open marriage allegations by accusing the entire “elite media” of being biased in favor of President Obama.
“They’re attacking the governor, they’re attacking me. I’m sure they’ll presently get around to Senator Santorum and Congressman Paul,” Mr. Gingrich said. “I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans.”