Newt Gingrich in the Spotlight Leading Up to the South Carolina Primary

In an up-and-down kind of campaign day, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich picked up an endorsement from former rival Rick Perry but also faced new accusations from one of his former wives. AP’s John Mone reports from South Carolina.

Presidential candidate Mitt 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 November 2012.

Romney is ahead of Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, and won the New Hampshire primary earlier this month.

Romney is taking heat this week for hesitating on releasing income tax information. Gingrich faces trouble as his ex-wife Marianne claims he wanted an open marriage while having an affair with his current wife Callista Bisek. Newt Gingrich angrily denies that he ever wanted an ‘open marriage.’

Rick Perry dropped out of the presidential race and announced that he endorses Gingrich.

At the onset of the CNN debate in Charleston, South Carolina, debate moderator John King asked Gingrich to respond to allegations by his ex-wife that in 1999, Gingrich asked her to have an open marriage with him.

“Would you like to take some time to respond to that?” asked Moderator King.

“No, but I will,” responded Gingrich, receiving loud, sustained applause with whistling from the audience.

“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,” he said. He called the opening question despicable.

When King asked if he was finished, Gingrich said he would like to be allowed to continue:

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 a presidential campaign, is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.

My two daughters, 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.

King replied that the interview was not done by CNN, but by another network — ABC.

“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. … 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. They weren’t interested because they would like to attack any Republican. They’re attacking the governor [Mitt Romney]. They’re attacking me. I’m sure they’ll get around to Sen. Santorum and Congressman Paul. I’m tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans.”

— Newt Gingrich

During the interaction, the other Republican candidates stood quietly — Rick Santorum took notes, Mitt Romney stood attentively looking directly at Gingrich, and Ron Paul gazed into the audience with a sheepish smile, seeming to enjoy the backlash.

Politician Newt Gingrich is also an author, and political consultant who served as the 58th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999. He represented Georgia’s 6th congressional district as a Republican from 1979 until his resignation in 1999. Gingrich served as the House Minority Whip from 1989 to 1995. Gingrich founded and chaired several policy think tanks including American Solutions for Winning the Future and the Center for Health Transformation.