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article imageGingrich angrily rebuffs 'open marriage' claim at GOP debate

By Yukio Strachan     Jan 21, 2012 in Politics
Within the first moments of the GOP debate in South Carolina, Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich stole the spotlight, turning a question about allegations by his ex-wife into a scathing attack on the media.
Gingrich's campaign got a boost on Thursday when CNN's John King opened the debate in Charleston, South Carolina by asking Gingrich to comment about allegations made by his second ex-wife, Marianne, who told ABC News that he had sought an “open marriage" as an alternative to divorce, CNN reported.
"Would you like to take some time to respond to that?"
"No," Gingrich paused. "But I will."
The audience roared with thunderous applause.
“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,” he seethed. “And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.”
Rising to their feet, the audience whistled and clapped as Gingrich appeared to take it all in.
Just hours before Thursday's final debate two days ahead of South Carolina's primary vote, ABC News released teasers with Marianne Gingrich in her first televised interview since her split from Gingrich in 1999, alleging that he informed her he was having an affair with Congressional aide, Callista Bisek, whom he married in 2000.
Marianne Gingrich also alleged Newt wanted an open marriage where he and Marianne would remain married but he would also keep Callista as a mistress.
"And I just stared at him and he said, 'Callista doesn't care what I do,'" Marianne Gingrich told ABC News' Brian Ross. "He wanted an open marriage and I refused."
Gingrich responded directly to his ex-wife’s allegations in the debate. “The story is false,” he said.
King told Gingrich that the allegations “did not come from our network.”
Emboldened, Gingrich scolded King on personal responsibility: “John, John it was repeated by your network. Don’t try to blame somebody else,” he said. “You and your staff chose to start the debate with it.”
More applause followed. The former House speaker added, “I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans,” the Washington Post reported.
Then King transitioned to the other three candidates on the stage, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
"Speaker Gingrich doesn't believe this is an issue. Governor Perry says this is not an issue," King says. He turns to Santorum, "I just want to start with you, sir, and go down. Do you believe it is?"
Santorum's focused on Christianity and forgiveness and redemption: “This country is a very forgiving country. This country understands that we are all fallen and I'm very hopeful that we will be judged by that standard and not by a higher one on the ultimate day,” he said.
"Governor Romney?"
Romney wasn't going there. "John, let's get on to the real issues is all I've got to say."
King turns to Paul, "Congressman?"
Paul piggybacked on Santorum's comment on standards. “I think setting standards are very important,” he said. “I'm very proud that my wife of 54 years is with me tonight.”
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