Newt Gingrich attacks ‘vicious’ media during heated South Carolina TV debate

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich used last night’s lively CNN TV debate to criticize the media and deny a report that he asked his former wife for an "open marriage," the Los Angeles Times reported.

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The two-hour-long face-off, on a stage in Charleston, South Carolina, began with a tense confrontation between Gingrich and CNN moderator John King – who asked if Gingrich wanted to respond to the open marriage allegation.

Gingrich called the story – aired Thursday on ABC News as part of an interview with Marianne Gingrich – “trash.”

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

Gingrich, the favorite in a tight race ahead of Saturday's South Carolina primary vote, earned a standing ovation from the audience after launching a scathing attack on the media.

"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."

Results of a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey, released Thursday, gave Gingrich a 35 percent lead in South Carolina – ahead of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who has been leading the polls so far, but this time took 29 percent, Agence France Presse reported.

Texas congressman Ron Paul and former senator Rick Santorum tied for third on 15 percent.

Meanwhile a new Politico survey, whose results were also released Thursday, showed Gingrich narrowing the gap with Romney to 7 percentage points. This followed a well-received performance in Monday night's debate in Myrtle Beach, the LA Times reported.

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But Gingrich’s stock rose Thursday hours before the debate kicked off, when Texas Governor Rick Perry pulled out of the race – and endorsed him.

Also Thursday, authorities in Iowa rescinded Romney's eight-vote victory in the Iowa caucus, instead naming Santorum as the winner.

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