Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) on Sunday defended his praise of Nelson Mandela after a few Republicans were criticized for honoring a leader that some insist was a violent communist.
Gingrich published a Facebook message honoring Mandela and saw backlash for his praise. He wrote a newsletter on Friday defending Mandela, and reiterated his defense on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“Everybody says they love freedom. Everybody who is proud of the farmers at Lexington and Concord who stood up to the British army, everybody who’s grateful to George Washington for eight years in the field fighting the British empire,” he said on CNN, explaining that the United States was established after violent rebellion against an oppressive ruler.
Gingrich said that Mandela was a “largely non-violent person” who at one point needed allies, and the communists in South Africa were the best option.
“There’s no question that in the 50s, Mandela moved from a non-violent model towards being allied with the communists,” Gingrich said. “Mandela was desperate by that stage. He saw the scale of the oppression.”
He also defended President Ronald Reagan’s opposition to sanctions against South Africa during Apartheid.
“In all fairness to Reagan, Reagan’s ambassador to South Africa consistently put pressure on the government to modify its position and consistently condemned apartheid,” Gingrich said. “But their commitment was to defeat the Soviet empire.”