Ron Paul tore into Newt Gingrich early in Monday night's debate, claiming that he had left the speakership due to lack of support from his conservative colleagues, not voluntarily -- as Gingrich has suggested -- following the GOP's poor performance in the 1998 elections.
Mitt Romney also "opened fire" on Gingrich, attacking him over ethics charges as House speaker, and stressing that many of Gingrich's Republican colleagues had voted to reprimand him in 1997.
"It was members of your own party that voted against you," Romney said, noting that Gingrich left the House "in disgrace" when he resigned his seat in late 1998.
Gingrich asked moderator Brian Williams for time to respond.
"I asked Republicans to vote yes [on my reprimand] so we could get this over with and move on," Gingrich said of the three-year investigation into more than 80 charges of ethics violations that was closed in 1997.
"Democrats were very bitter" when the GOP won a majority in 1994, Gingrich said, noting that "The only thing that I admitted was that a lawyer wrote an inaccurate letter."
Gingrich paid a $300,000 fee to cover the costs of the investigation, and while he didn't resign until 1998, the settlement of the charges marked the beginning of the end of his tenure as speaker.