South Carolina debate: Newt Gingrich fury at media


Mr Gingrich: ''I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that''

US Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich has angrily denied a report that he once wanted an "open marriage", strongly criticising the US media at the start of a key debate.

Mr Gingrich told CNN's debate host that even raising the issue was "as close to despicable as anything I can imagine".

He called the US media "destructive, vicious and negative".

The four remaining candidates appeared in a last-ditch debate before Saturday's South Carolina primary.

Mr Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum debated in Charleston after a dramatic day.

As Mr Gingrich gained on Mr Romney in the polls, an ex-wife revealed in an interview he wanted an "open marriage".

Meanwhile, Texas Governor Rick Perry pulled out of the race and Iowa said a vote mix-up meant Mr Romney had not won its caucuses.

Mr Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is the front-runner in the state-by-state race for the Republican Party's nomination to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama for the White House this November.

He is ahead of Mr Gingrich, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, Christian conservative former Senator Rick Santorum and Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

'Grandiose thoughts'

After Mr Gingrich's blistering opening, Mitt Romney's caution on the issue of his tax returns provided the most revealing moment.

Mr Romney: ''What I have, I earned. I worked hard, the American way''

Asked if he would follow his father's example and release 12 years of returns, Mr Romney - who is worth an estimated $200m (£130m) - said he would release "multiple years", but hesitated in his answer and drew jeers from the crowd.

"I'm not going to apologise for doing well," he said. "What I have, I earned."

Mr Gingrich, by contrast, was able to announce that his campaign had released his tax returns shortly before the debate began.

The candidates also clashed over healthcare and President Barack Obama's controversial reform law.

Mr Santorum said he doubted Mr Romney and Mr Gingrich would keep their promises to repeal the law, citing their previous support for similar legislation.

The former Pennsylvania senator said he had never supported the individual mandate, while Mr Gingrich and Mr Romney "played footsie with the left" on healthcare.


At the end of a day full of twists and turns, it was perhaps inevitable that one of those twists would explode at the latest Republican debate, here in South Carolina. Newt Gingrich thundered with anger when the debate moderator asked about his second wife's allegation that Mr Gingrich once asked her to tolerate an open marriage, so he could maintain an affair with the woman who went on to become his third wife.

His rivals all diplomatically avoided the issue, conscious that the media is doing their work for them. Newt Gingrich has been enjoying a late surge in the polls here and seems to believe he can defeat the current Republican front runner, Mitt Romney.

But in a state with large numbers of socially conservative evangelical voters, stories about a candidate's troubled private life can have an effect. The debate had other lively moments, as the candidates all tried to score some last-minute points, in front of a noisy audience. Polls open on Saturday morning. If Mitt Romney wins here, his eventual nomination will look more certain than ever.

Mr Santorum - who adopted a combative tone throughout the debate - also questioned Mr Gingrich's time as House speaker, a time when he was a close associate of his rival.

"Sometimes you have these worrisome moments," he said, warning that Mr Gingrich could "pop off" at any time, in an echo of Mr Romney's earlier attacks that he was "unreliable".

Mr Gingrich was unapologetic, casting himself as a "rebel" during his congressional days, and arguing that he helped Republicans win a majority in the 1990s.

"You're right. I think grandiose thoughts." Mr Gingrich said. "This is a grandiose country"

Perry bows out

Mr Gingrich took the debate stage hours before ABC News broadcast the full details of an interview with his second wife, Marianne.

Despite poll numbers showing him gaining on Mr Romney, the long-time front-runner, his pitch to South Carolina's largely conservative and Christian electorate looked to be under threat by her testimony.

In an excerpt of her remarks on ABC News' Nightline programme, the former Mrs Gingrich says her ex-husband wanted her to share him with Callista Bisek, the woman who would become his third wife.

"He was asking to have an open marriage and I refused," she said.

A dramatic day on the campaign trail began with the news that Texas Governor Rick Perry had decided to quit - and endorse Mr Gingrich.

Rick Perry: "I know when it's time to make a strategic retreat"

When Mr Perry entered the race in August, he briefly shot to the front of the pack before gaffes and poor debate performances set him back.

The Texas governor told supporters in South Carolina on Thursday: "I've come to the conclusion that there is no viable path forward for me in this 2012 campaign.

"Therefore today I am suspending my campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich."

He called Mr Gingrich "a conservative visionary who can transform our country", adding: "Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?"

His departure follows on the heels of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and last month, Georgia businessman Herman Cain.

Mr Perry had faced calls in recent days to stand aside as rivals warned the conservative vote would fracture across the candidates, ultimately benefiting Mr Romney.

Thursday also saw the final results of the Iowa caucuses certified as a split decision between Mr Romney and Mr Santorum because of missing data.

Mr Romney had initially been declared the winner of the 3 January nominating contest, by a mere eight votes.

But the final count shows Mr Santorum ahead by 34 votes. No winner has been declared because the results from eight precincts are missing.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    At some point in November this year the US is going to elect a new Republican president. Or re-elect Obama. Obama hasn't performed the miracles expected of him but,for me, he's still a better option than any of these 4 candidates.
    As to why we in the UK should care? Basic curiosity at least; and because the US still has huge global influence and we be aware of how they are thinking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    Meanwhile, in the UK, assorted politicians, and their advisers, are in desperate race to formulate policy on 'Responsible Immigration'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    #186 I really don't like Gingrich either but to be balanced I can list plenty of unpleasant democrats too. Start with JFK... son of a bootlegger & nazi sympathiser, mafia help in the election, serial adulterer, damn near took the world into WW3 because Castro damaged his ego. Vietnam was far more damaging than any war Bush started etc. If he hadn't been shot he'd have been impeached.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.


    Paid? lol I am posting of my own free will, because I believe in him and want to be free. You think someone trying to get what they believe in doesn't exist? Maybe not in your world, but after all I guess you are not educated on the issues, instead of voting for the guy who puts on the best fake show. Research who you want to have elected. Same for UK
    Vote Ron Paul

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    Why is Ron Paul rarely mentioned by the media? "

    The was a rather prominent discussion about him on the "Today" programme on Radio 4 just now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    "Ron Paul fans - I'm picking your candidate isn't appearing in the copy because he has niche appeal."

    No, he isn't appearing anywhere in the BBC's coverage and as little as possible in the US media's coverage because those in power do not want Paul as president. BBC news anchor 3 days ago: "His (Paul's) views are pretty far out there". She didn't have a clue what his views are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    The patriotic rhetoric is stuff of parody. Attacking rivals for speaking French! "It's a grandiose country"? Grow up. Does politics in the most powerful country in the world really boil down to proving how American they are? Who cares? Leadership is more important than mindless flag waving.

    And if you don't mention Ron Paul his fans go crazy in the comments. It's scary. Like a cult. Yeesh.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.


    The OBR has had a new role created, at the top. A banker was put in it. Ratings agencies will rate our hospitals to see if they are viable. Adam Werrity likes to start and close Healthcare companies.

    All rather interesting but not learned from the BBC.

    Ed Balls wont commit to a spending plan for 3 years into the future though, so the BBC jump all over it for two days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    "He called the US media "destructive, vicious and negative". Is that why the GOP candidates have arms length super-campaign teams engaged in "dirty media tactics" so they can say they aren't negative/dirty because as far as I can see all their campaigns have been dirty at source let alone at "media output" stage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    Is thist he same Newt Gingrich who said that his first wife wasn't attractive enough to be a President's wife?

    From everything that's been documented about this man, from the way he treats family, to the way he treats normal people, to the way he abuses power, he is a total hypocrite to stand and say the media are wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    Why is Ron Paul rarely mentioned by the media? because he's out of his tiny little mind!

    His economic policies are so nuts even Repulbicans think he's insane. If it ever looked like he might get near the White House the market panic would wipe out the US economy long b4 he got the chance to destroy it himself!

    He's sort of like a crazy drunk guy at a party who everyone tries to ignore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Fascinating that people are trying to promote Ron Paul on here when he is probably the most dangerous of the lot, not least for pushing the illlusory "free market" when that thinking led to the current crisis. None of these people have what it takes to be president. However, if they end up with "President Newt" we will at least be able to laugh at the US like we did often when they had Dubya.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    The only thing of worth to come out of Ron Paul is his special appearance in BRUNO. "This guy's trying to put a hit on me". Classic. Bruno for leader of Earth. With Borat as Vice leader.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    Totally agree with the comments about 'who cares about the news in the US'. This a result of the media in the UK having a fascination with all news from the US. The other foreign english language TV news channels show items from all over the world. I;m tired of watching endless uninteresting news from the US broadcast on the mainstream UK channels. Including the US presidential elections.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    Google "Mike Krieger on why he supports Ron Paul" if you want to read a good article that discusses the merits of Ron Paul.
    Bankers don't want Ron Paul to get the chance to run against Obama. It doesn't matter if Mitt Romney does, as he'll be a puppet for them just like Obama. Approx $5 trillion additional debt during Obama's term!! There's no such thing as a debt ceiling in the US these days!

  • Comment number 189.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    #137:"does he speak a second language though? We've been told that this is a sure sign of dodgyness if youre american!"

    I do not know the name of the second language he speaks for sure, but I have reason to believe it isa pure and unadulterated version of B*ll*x, just like the rest of them.

    And as for the Ron paul acolytes, their contributions here are becoming tedious and remain incomplete.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    BBC can you please improve your coverage and give Ron Paul a fair mention. For a candidate who is in a close 2nd/3rd place you are not giving him proportional airtime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    Gringrich is definately the best Republican.

    He was the very first speaker to be disciplined for ethical wrongdoing (84 total ethics charges!), so he already has the firm foundation that many Republicans before him shared.

    He is also very religious, so hopefully we should see some witch burnings and crusades, homophobia and brainwashing children in schools.

    The perfect republican!

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    Ron Paul fans - I'm picking your candidate isn't appearing in the copy because he has niche appeal. This isn't my opinion of his policies, but I think his social liberalism turns off social conservatives, and his antihegemonic foreign policy turns off those who would have the US as the world's classroom monitor- alienating a large part of the Republican vote without picking up dems or independents


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