January 20th, 2012
03:00 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Gingrich's fiery rebuttal makes debate night more memorable

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Emotions ran high during CNN's GOP debate Thursday night in South Carolina. Readers posted more than 10,000 comments. One topic dominated them all: Newt Gingrich's feisty reaction to a question about an ex-wife's allegations from the moderator, CNN's John King. Let's take a look at what people are saying as the dust settles:

Gingrich delivers showstopper at beginning of South Carolina debate

The following commenter was proud of Gingrich during that moment:

therealoc: "I stood up and cheered when Newt Gingrich responded that the media has protected (President Barack) Obama and has been after every conservative. Where was CNN in 2008 when there was ample opportunity to research the past life of John Edwards and Barack Obama?"

Another said Gingrich shouldn't receive too much praise.

Donaldbain: "Let's be clear here. Gingrich's response was by no means a 'showstopper.' It was an angry response by someone who knows he is guilty. The 'anger response' is used to make people stop asking questions. He didn't answer the question and berated the moderator for asking it. It is called obfuscating, something he is good at. He has no business trying to stand for president, and he knows it."

Omekongo Dibinga of Washington was among the CNN iReporters who shared their views on video. Dibinga said he doesn't support Gingrich's stances but felt such a personal question was inappropriate.

"People in America are generally forgiving of people who admit their shortcomings," he said. "That was the problem with Herman Cain. He took no responsibility for the sexual allegations and let the story go. Newt took it head on."

omekongo: "The debates are clearly showing that the Republican public is turning toward Newt. The timing of the interview with his ex-wife will also support him because Republican candidates will always win a battle against the media. Quite honestly, as long as his sexual relationships are legal, it should be a nonissue or at least one undeserving of such vast attention."

But Cliff Olney of Watertown, New York, said Gingrich was being hypocritical after criticizing President Bill Clinton for having an affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Liberty1955: "King showed his class by not giving it back to Gingrich, who apparently doesn't believe that being president of the United States is entirely about character ... and loyalty, and honesty. Maybe Newt Gingrich has asked for God's forgiveness for his hypocrisy, lying and cheating. But Americans aren't as forgiving for what Gingrich tried to do to Clinton during his second term. Trust and loyalty are two important traits I want to see in my country's president. Gingrich has neither of these."

David Kronmiller, an independent from Burbank, California, said he thinks Gingrich won the debate, with Rick Santorum a close second.

"If you listen to that crowd (reaction), Gingrich helped himself with his answer to John King," he said. "It was one of the more memorable moments from this election so far."

What do you think? Post your own video via CNN iReport.

Indeed, many readers said Gingrich gained ground after the debate.

realtalker1: "For those upset about Gingrich being confronted by the media about his personal life, if he does end up the nominee, I think the media did him a favor by giving him the chance to go ahead and address the issue. One way or another it will come up. Better go ahead and let the public get over their shock and awe that their politician of choice is actually capable of being immoral and corrupt than during the actual campaign. Get it out in the open so people have time to get over it. That way when Obama throws the punch it's a much softer blow because no one really cares anymore."

Another commenter said King should have pushed Gingrich further.

ajbt: "I have to say I am disappointed that John King didn't go there and say it was a relevant question when (Gingrich) preaches morality and the sanctity of marriage and went after Clinton. I may have to give him a pass though as he may have been shocked that the Christian conservatives were cheering so loudly for a man with no morals; it was so confusing."

Timing is important, too, as a lot of readers noted.

Spodumene: "Would Gingrich been less indignant if King had asked the question later in the debate? Americans heard the interview with the ex-wife, and are probably wondering what is the truth."

KeninTexas: "Actually, I would suspect later would have been more appropriate. Being the first question smacks of 'gotcha' journalism. It's a question that would come up at some point, and Gingrich is smart enough to know it. But again, being the first question was a poor piece of work."

Many people credited Santorum with a strong performance.

comment8or: "Romney looks and sounds presidential, and Newt would easily whip Obama in a debate, but tonight's debate has solidified my support for Santorum, especially when he commented after the debate was over that he is ready to lose if need be, to say and do what he believes is right rather than say or do what seems to be expedient at the moment to win the election.  He is someone we can trust."

Debate analyst Todd Graham said he thought Santorum was the true winner of the debate, and some commenters agreed.

Daddy5: "Newt Grinch is a blowhard, Mitt Romney is an out-of-touch rich guy, Ron Paul is too ancient and extreme ... that leaves Rick.  ... He is a solid, stable candidate who would do well against Obamaism."

Another reader also pointed to Santorum, albeit for a different reason entirely.

AngryBob86: "Santorum is definitely my first pick for the Republican nomination. Because of his religious extremism, he doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of beating Obama. Go Rick, Go. Make a fool of yourself and your party. I'm behind you all the way."

Several expressed support for Paul, with favorable comments cropping up on CNN's main article on the debate and in an opinion piece about the battle to win South Carolina.

FreThinker13: "Ron Paul is the only man of integrity in either party.  Open your eyes, ears and mind."

strongstrong: "I think Ron Paul and Santorum tied. Newt failed, and Romney got a D-."

geothunder99: "It's simple. Ron Paul needs to get out of this and concentrate now on a third-party run. I mean, look at the clowns that are running; it's pathetic. Obama will clean house against any of these clowns."

oakhill: "Obama has lost most of the independent vote. And he wouldn't get one single Paul vote. Paul supporters would write Ron Paul in rather than vote for Obama, or many of the other GOP candidates."

Some griped that the debate audience's participation has become distracting.

Ocean26: "Why is the audience allowed to boo and cheer like they are watching Jerry Springer? Why is there an audience at all? The entire debate format is a joke."

Another reader was upset not only about the crowd's reaction to Gingrich but also about the chatter when Romney discussed his taxes.

barbie1311: "Like a true politician (Gingrich) denies everything flatly. After all, it is his word against his ex-wife's ... and he gets a standing ovation? Romney rants and raves about how much he supports capitalism and connecting it to free enterprise and job creation the country is in dire straits because of unregulated capitalism and he got a huge round of applause for his statement. Who in the hell are those people sitting in the audience? Paid supporters?"

The following reader said Romney should have been tougher on Gingrich.

QthePower: Mitt Romney lost a golden chance.  If Newt manages to come back from behind and catches up or even surpasses Romney, Romney will regret this missed chance.  In politics, you play dirty Romney should have said, 'Newt may act like he's angry, but to me and to most American people, characters matter, especially when you are running for the highest office.  I think these are very disturbing questions about Newt's character and he needs to address them.' "

Others were happy to see another candidate take the spotlight away from Romney.

conoclast: "Newt's offense-is-the-best-defense against  the media will surely come back and bite him.  While his outburst made for great fodder for the radical-right shills in the audience, it was so typical of Gingrich completely over the top in scale.  It may have even won him the South Carolina primary, but later on that 'win' will become baggage, with which he's already overladen. But let's give The Newtster his due: he's slowed the Romney Train enough to where we might even get a glimpse of what it's carrying."

What do you think about these issues? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or be a political pundit on CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

soundoff (280 Responses)
  1. Nationwide Obesity Epidemic

    It might not be a good idea to have a fat man in charge of this situation.

    January 21, 2012 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jennifer

    Gingrich got a huge support from the audience and wide cheers across the country. We are tired of Democrats being protected and Republicans being attacked by the media. Media is more at risk now for their bias than they've been in the past. Americans cannot trust a media that supports a president who is overseeing the destruction of our lives and seems not to care.

    January 21, 2012 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
    • nell

      Why do Reps blame the media when things aren't looking too swell for them? Please, vote for Gingrich, we'll see our selves in WW111 with the whole middle east. Newt maybe intelligent, but he has a big mouth! This is one reason he was kicked out.

      January 21, 2012 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
    • stanitan

      Conservatives, always whining. There has been "ample" (and distorted) scrutiny on President Obama and you know it.

      January 21, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Jilli

      Right – how perfect, cheering a candidates serial infidelity. It's a real testament to the intelligence of the audience. What exactly does the "family values" party actually stand for?

      January 21, 2012 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Man

      Amen-the left is getting away with nothing. They don't seem to understand, you can't BS your way to success.With major media being owned by-government- guess who's horn they will toot?you got it -the head of the government.Only, recourse is pushback from the public. Hopefully this is a start of something real.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  3. R.E.Whyte

    Your Politics are getting scary!!The thought that Americans will put a person like Newt in the White House is just about the scariest thing going on right now. I don't remember CNN covering the Democrats to the extent that they are pushing this arrogant, immoral, person. As a Canadian this makes me very nervous.

    January 21, 2012 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Jilli

      You obviously weren't paying any attention during the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal – or through the whole bill ayers/rev.wright/birthcerticate nonsense.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  4. Dilip Samuels

    Newt Gingrich offers the explanation that his wife is LYING..but Gingrich serially lies

    It's amusing to see him taking credit for Regan's policies and also take credit for Clinton's economic policy

    But Newt was chased out by the Republicans in Congress

    January 21, 2012 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  5. WE THE PEOPLE

    I PLEDGE ALIGENCE TO THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ONE NATION UNDER GOD INDIVISABLE WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL!

    January 21, 2012 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
  6. sifto

    i can't believe people are considering Gingrich for a conservatice nominee–what happened to common sense and hiring the best person for the job–G is volatile and angry–not a good choice for POTUS–leave personality and charisma alone and vote for Romney–the guy who has proven to have created jobs....

    January 21, 2012 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  7. Gary

    This is not reporting. this is anecdotal regurgitation. Random comments picked from a very small sample of people with agendas either for or against a candidate. Not even a poll or survey—just copy and paste comments form god knows who. It would have been interesting to discuss the limits of personal questions in debates with thought leaders or find out is his comments resonated with the larger electorate. That would have been a report. This is Lazy and Lame.

    January 21, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • JN

      I must admit I have to agree. This "article" is little more than a high school level sampling of thoughts.

      January 21, 2012 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • nsaidi

      Thanks for your feedback. I want to make this feature awesome, so any suggestions you have are welcome.

      January 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JN

    I felt the question was appropriate and I thought John King should have followed up on it because character does matter and part of Gingrich's public policy platform is moralizing against gays, young blacks, the unemployed, etc. If he is going to present himself as all-perfect and all-knowing, then his personal life should be examined as well. The question actually gave him an opportunity to address what ABC was airing that night. For that he should have been thankful. He played angry to a Republican red-meat crowd with evasive grandstanding, and that showed his character as well. Do we really want someone like that being president? The other candidates whiffed at an opportunity to force him to confront what they hint at on the stump anyway: that Newt has character issues and is a serial adulterer.

    January 21, 2012 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Man

      Good point- if you have any questions on the subject you can ask- Bill Clinton, John Edwards and Gary Hart.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  9. Brian

    I cannot believe that King let him go on that. Character and integrity is an election issue, especially for self-claimed conservatives, those who rode high on social issues, family values. It's about trust and commitment.

    Whether you are democrat or republican, once you threw yourself into the race, your marriage is no longer a private matter.

    I'm appalled by SC people, who seem to be most conservative in the country, gave Newt the applause for his hypocritical answer. What happened to your family values? Why did you endorse adultery?

    January 21, 2012 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. Nate

    It is amazing the ease with which New can lie. In that respect he is a lot like Casey Anthony – totally amoral.

    January 21, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jules

    Anybody think Callista should buy Newt a bigger suit jacket?

    January 21, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  12. Poppy

    His outburst was just another way of avoiding answering the question. That's how the Republicans have handled the hard questions: no solutions, just attacks on the media and President Obama. Is that how a republican president chosen from this year's crop will respond to world leaders when real problems occur? If so, we all may as well pack our things and move out of the country because they'll get us all blown up with these angry non-answers.

    January 21, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  13. Man

    God Bless Newt!-only thing working against him is his age. I think either a Romney Newt or Newt Romney ticket would be outstanding!! Personnaly I prefer Newt. You beat Obama, with facts and using those facts aggresively Obama is a paper tiger and easily beaten as long as someone is determined to do so. Good strong Republican leadership,with the popilace conses behind them- will be a terrific scenario.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  14. Tim

    I am not a Newt Gingrich supporter, but I am curious. How did John King and CNN think this question would play in a presidential debate? A debate generally presents a topic in which the participants share and support their position. What position did John King expect the other candidates to share about an unsubstantiated conversation between Newt Gingrich and his estranged second wife? Did the National Enquirer purchase CNN? Is CNN this desparate for viewership? John King has single handedly lowered CNN to the likes of the paparazzi. John King/CNN should appologize to all the other candidates. It is likely their idiocy has catapulted Newt Gingich to a win in South Carolina.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  15. Tom Johnson

    Congress has an all time low on its approval rating. The same could be said about the media. The question to start off the Republican presidential debate was an example of why the approval rating is as it is. We focus on tax returns, marital difficulties, gays, etc. When will we focus on substance; jobs, education, energy dependence, foreign policy, etc. The media says that they just bring up what the public is talking about. On the contrary; the media determines what the public is talking about. Thus the abysmal approval rating and thus the absence of candidates with substance and character. John King's rationalization about why he started off the debate with a question on marriage fidelity is an example of the small minded, arrogant focus of the media that does a disservice to us all.

    January 21, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
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