By Greg Richter
After posting on Facebook that Mandela was “one of the greatest leaders of our time,” the former Republican speaker of the House received mixed results, with some saying he should have condemned Mandela’s violent actions and embrace of communist allies.
“Such an amazing re-write of history since 1962 and 1990. Newt, I thought you of all people, a historian, would be true to who this guy really was,” one person posted.
Appearing Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Gingrich said he was surprised by the criticism. Some people returned up to five times repeating how angry they were, he said.
Gingrich didn’t let the matter lie. He took to his online newsletter on Friday, responding with a post titled “What would you have done?”
“As Americans we celebrate the farmers at Lexington and Concord who used force to oppose British tyranny,” Gingrich wrote. “We praise George Washington for spending eight years in the field fighting the British Army’s dictatorial assault on our freedom.”
He noted to CNN that Mandela attended a Methodist school and “went on to be largely a nonviolent person.” As a lawyer, he “very effectively used his role as defendant.”
But when the savage pro-apartheid party took over in the late 1940s, he was up against an oppressive dictatorship. Black people were in a police state.
“All your options are gone,” Gingrich said.
Mandela had a deep commitment to freedom, Gingrich said, “which I think most of us can identify with.”
Mandela did move in the ’50s away from a nonviolence model and allied with communists, Gingrich said, but there were no conservative allies. Mandela was desperate by that stage, he said.
Asked why so many people were angered by his praise for Mandela, Gingrich said, “I think some people bought a rationale that defined everybody who was in any way in rebellion against the established system in the third world as anti-American, which I don’t think they were.”
Gingrich was among a group of young Republicans in the 1980s who opposed apartheid and favored Mandela’s release from prison. The Reagan administration opposed sanctions against South Africa and Mandela’s release, but Gingrich noted that Reagan’s ambassador to South Africa consistently put pressure on the government to moderate and condemned Apartheid.
Gingrich said the Reagan administration, along with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was rightly concerned with ridding the world of the communist threat at the time, but it wasn’t concerned enough with “secondary issues,” such as Apartheid and the rise of radical Islam.
Gingrich wasn’t the only Republican to receive criticism from his own followers over praise for Mandela. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz also was blasted over a Facebook post.
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