By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor
Newt Gingrich took a harsh question last night during an event at the University of Pennsylvania, when Penn Dems President Isabel Friedman put the prospective 2012 Presidential candidate on the spot about his extramarital affairs.
In a story first reported by POLITICO writer (and former writer for Penn’s student newspaper, the Daily Pennsylvanian) Emily Schulthies, Friedman asked Gingrich how he could talk so strongly about issues like gay rights given his cloudy moral past.
“You adamantly oppose gay rights… but you’ve also been married three times and admitted to having an affair with your current wife while you were still married to your second,” Isabel Friedman, president of the Penn Dems, said to Gingrich. “As a successful politician who’s considering running for president, who would set the bar for moral conduct and be the voice of the American people, how do you reconcile this hypocritical interpretation of the religious values that you so vigorously defend?”
Gingrich took a shot back at Friendman.
“I’ll bet almost everybody here can gather the thrust of your question,” he said. “I appreciate the delicacy and generosity in the way it was framed. … I hope you feel better about yourself.”
“I’ve had a life which, on occasion, has had problems,” he added. “I believe in a forgiving God, and the American people will have to decide whether that their primary concern. If the primary concern of the American people is my past, my candidacy would be irrelevant. If the primary concern of the American people is the future… that’s a debate I’ll be happy to have with your candidate or any other candidate if I decide to run.”
Friedman’s question, while certainly harsh, was not the only opposition Gingrich experienced on campus.
A group of students stormed out of the auditorium in protest while Gingrich was still speaking, and Penn Democrats sent out emails referring to him as “an evil salamander.” Some students even hung posters of Gingrich’s face and his controversial quotes on doors of bathroom stalls and above urinals, according to a Daily Pennsylvanian editorial condemning the “deplorable” disrespect.
Gingrich’s response was well-received (the video below shows the applause he drew). As well it should be, because he will likely be giving it quite often if he decides to proceed with a campaign. Indeed, CNN has also picked up the story.