The GOP nomination debates had their most dramatic opening on Thursday night when Newt Gingrich verbally spanked CNN’s moderator John King after King chose to open the event with a question about the former House speaker’s relationship with an ex-wife.
It was a question about Marianne Gingrich’s accusation that the Newt Gingrich asked her to take part in an “open marriage.”
Gingrich’s reaction came in the form of a stern rebuff of the moderator. He said:
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. … I am, frankly, astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate.
I say, here, here! CNN reminded me that it is the closest thing on American television to the trashy British tabloids. ABC News had held the offending interview with Marianne Gingrich and King tried to weasel-word himself off Gingrich’s rhetorical skewer by saying CNN had not been the first to report the story—but to no avail. Gingrich retorted:
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 the debate with it. … The story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period says the story was false.
Seldom have I heard a politician so aptly put a media operative in his place over shoddy questioning, and seldom have I seen a media operative handle a verbal rebuke so lamely.
A candidate’s personal principles and background should be considered by voters. But Gingrich’s infidelities are well known to Americans. Marianne Gingrich said much the same things in an Aug. 2010 Esquire article, giving GOP voters full opportunity to factor Gingrich’s marriage problems into their choice.
So this recent media attack did not originate from the moral high-ground, but from somewhere closer to the sewer.