Gingrich to King: ‘Despicable’ debate response just ‘how it works’

Republican presidential candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks during the South Carolina Republican presidential candidate debate Monday, Jan. 16, 2012. (AP/David Goldman)

WASHINGTON – The question at a recent South Carolina debate Newt Gingrich originally called “near despicable” turned out to be simply “how it works” for presidential politics, the former House speaker told CNN’s John King, who hosted the debate.

While speaking on WTOP Tuesday morning, King said Gingrich approached him during the first break of the Jan. 19 debate, clapped him on the shoulder and said the debate was going really well. When King asked about the candidate’s seething response to the opening question about his marital history, Gingrich laughed and said “you know how it works.”

King says he stands behind questioning Gingrich about reportedly asking his second wife to enter into an open marriage. Gingrich responded by lambasting the “destructive, vicious, negative nature” of contemporary news.

“I am appalled you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that,” Gingrich said at the debate, drawing a standing ovation from the audience.

“I am appalled you’d start this conversation this way,” King told WTOP anchors Mike Moss and Bruce Alan on Tuesday, when asked about the heated debate exchange.

The CNN chief national correspondent said he wouldn’t have done anything differently.

“If I had to do it again, I’d do it again tomorrow,” King says, adding the news media “is done” if it begins to second-guess questions that could shift a presidential candidate’s support.

These attacks on the media are a “time-tested Republican strategy,” says King.

Gingrich’s former wife, Marianne Gingrich, told ABC News’ “Nightline” the week of the debate that the former speaker had asked if he could have both a wife and a mistress. Learn more here.

Check out the footage from the debate here:

WTOP’s Paul D. Shinkman contributed to this report. Follow Paul and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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