Newt Gingrich's Marriage, Infidelity Questioned At Town Hall

01/19/2012 01:04 pm ET

BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Newt Gingrich was asked about his marital infidelities by a former Marine Corps drill instructor at his town hall event here this morning. Here is a transcript of the exchange:

Question: My question to you, I'm actually uncomfortable asking it... You are a candidate who truly reflects most of what I personally view and feel. And I think you articulate it in an aggressive and inspiring manner that makes me think of Churchill. So I find you genuinely a very inspiring and genuine candidate. Where I personally waver with regard to yourself, sir, is a history of things that may have to show character that some may genuinely feel questionable. And I wrestle with that, sir. I genuinely do. My personal thoughts are, how do I perceive lapses in personal judgment that perhaps happened in the past? But how is the voting mass of America gonna perceive and come to grips with that if you are our nominee to face Obama in the fall? Could you, as a candidate and as a gentleman who I respect, help me better wrestle with that topic?

Woman shouting: What about Obama's lapses?

GINGRICH: Look, I think this is a decision you have to make. I have been very open about my life. I have been very open about mistakes I have made. I have been very open about needing to go to God for forgiveness and reconciliation. Callista and I have a wonderful relationship. We are very close to our two daughters and their husbands, and we are very close to our two grandchildren, Maggie and Robert. I am 68 years old. I am a grandfather. We entered this race, and we had to think this over for a year because we knew we'd get beaten up -- we knew we'd get lied about, we knew we'd get smeared, we knew we'd get nasty attack ads, and we decided the country was worth the pain. And people got to decide.

After the event, Gingrich did a five-minute press conference with reporters and was asked about his ex-wife Marianne Gingrich's comments to ABC News that Gingrich had asked her for an "open marriage."

Gingrich refused to comment.

"I'm not going to say anything about Marianne. My two daughters have already written to ABC complaining about this. It's tawdry and inappropriate," Gingrich said of the ABC story. "Both of my daughters are prepared to speak on the record with any of you who'd like to talk to them. And some other people who knew the situation are prepared to speak on the record."

"I'm not getting involved," he said.

A reporter asked him why he would not answer the questions.

"I just answered it," Gingrich said.

The reporter pointed out that he had just referred questions to others.

"That's my answer," Gingrich said.

As for his answer to the broader question of his character during the town hall, Gingrich said he did not think he needed to improve on what has been said. "It's an issue I confront every time it comes up and I confront it exactly the same way ... and people seem to be satisfied with it," he said. "You watched the audience just now."


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