Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich got an unpleasant preview Tuesday night of what may lie ahead -- at least in some unfriendly venues -- if he decides to launch a campaign for president.
Gingrich, speaking at the University of Pennsylvania, was challenged by a Democratic student to square his moralistic stand on social issues with an illicit relationship he had while married
in the 1990s, Politico
and the Daily Pennsylvanian
"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," said Isabel Friedman, president of the Penn Democrats. "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, an outspoken conservative, didn't take kindly to the grilling. "I'll bet almost everyone here can gather the thrust of your question," he told her. "I appreciate the delicacy and generosity in the way it was framed. . . I hope you feel better about yourself."
Gingrich, who has admitted to an affair with a woman who is now his third wife, followed with his take on his political viability. "I've had a life, which, on occasion, has had problems," he said in Politico's account of the speech. "I believe in a forgiving God, and the American people will have to decide whether that [is] their primary concern."
He was also heckled by AIDS demonstrators who marched out of lrvine Auditorium carrying placards declaring, "Global AIDS Budget Cuts Kill," the student newspaper reported. One shouted, "That's a million lives we're talking about!"
Friedman said she didn't regret asking Gingrich the pointed question. "He has offended more people than I did," she said.
But Penn senior Grant Dubler found it "very inappropriate and irrelevant. I would have preferred policy questions."
Gingrich, 67, has said he will announce next month whether he intends to go forward with a campaign for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.