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Opinion: CNN Was Right to ask Gingrich About Open Marriage

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Newt Gingrich reaches to shake hands during a campaign stop in Charleston, South Carolina.

When CNN’s John King asked Newt Gingrich at the beginning of Thursday night’s GOP debate if it was true that Gingrich had once asked his ex-wife for an open marriage, Gingrich sidestepped the question and instead lambasted King for asking it:

"I think 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. Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.”

That got him a standing ovation.

Now I’m not about to argue that the media aren’t liberal. Democrats pulled in 88 percent of ’08 contributions from TV news people. And I’m not about to argue that the media aren’t in Democrats’ pockets either. CNN once “fact-checked” an SNL skit making fun of President Obama. 

But Gingrich is misrepresenting King’s question – and its newsworthiness. That Gingrich’s ex-wife accused him of having an affair might not be “news.” But that it comes after Gingrich himself spent months trying to get Bill Clinton impeached for lying about Monica Lewinsky IS. 

It’s a surprising thing in a notable person’s life – the definition of news! 

In CNN’s post-debate coverage, former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer held that questions about Gingrich’s personal life should’ve come later in the debate. But Gingrich-gate was the latest thing crossing the wires at that point, as King mentioned to Fleischer, and that’s what a “lead” – or the first thing mentioned – ought to be.

Like I said, the media are liberal and sometimes prone to journalistic malpractice. But this isn’t an example of that. King was pursuing a legitimate news story, whether Gingrich likes it or not.