During a heated moment of last Thursday night’s GOP debate, Former Speaker Newt Gingrich attacked debate moderator John King for asking Gingrich a personal character question about his ex-wife Marianne Gingrich’s claims that after 18 years of marriage, he called her to ask for an “open marriage.” Gingrich lashed out, “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.”
This kind of rhetoric is nothing new for Gingrich; in almost every debate, he attacks the moderator whenever he can. But, King was right to press Gingrich on this issue. The news media has a responsibility to ask questions to public officials that the average person cannot. As a public figure, you take the risk of letting your private business become public. When it does, don’t bash people in the media for doing their job.
As a former news producer myself, we’re taught to ask questions that our viewers, listeners, or readers want the answers to. Our public officials, especially those in elected office, are accountable to the people. The average person does not have access to a political candidate to ask them the questions which are on their mind. Gingrich’s assertion that King should not have brought up this question in a presidential debate is particularly disturbing to me. Yes, Newt, he should have.
Journalists are taught to lead with the newest, most compelling facts. Quite frankly, developments in Gingrich’s personal life were breaking news, and many people were talking about it, especially on social media web sites. These kinds of questions can help discover a candidate’s true character. People want to know what kind of person they are getting when they elect a president. They want to know this person shares the same values they do. All King was doing was giving him the opportunity to respond to his ex-wife’s claims.
The media didn’t seek out Marianne Gingrich, she sought the opportunity to share what she felt people needed to know about her ex-husband. Personally, if I were a Republican voter, I would want to know if her allegations are true. People need to know that the media’s role is to speak for you. To ask questions that you want asked. The idea that the media is picking on Republicans in order to protect President Obama is ludicrous. Do I think there is a media bias? Yes, but on both sides.
Gingrich chose to be a public official. He knew what he was getting himself into. All candidates do. If there is something in your past that may embarrass you, be prepared to answer the question. Don’t yell at a reporter for doing their job and asking you about it. King did the right thing in asking the question, and he asked it at the right time. Shame on you, Newt, for not understanding the risks you take when running for president.
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