New Furor Erupts Over Leaked Information on Texas Evangelical 'Endorsement'

26
Sign Up for Free eNewsletter ››
  • Callista Gingrich stands by her husband at Myrtle Beach, SC GOP tent rally
    (The Christian Post/Paul Stanley)
    Callista Gingrich, wife of GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich stands by her husband at the Faith and Freedom tent rally in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. January 16, 2012.
  • santorum
    (Photo: Reuters/Chris Keane)
    Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum gestures as he speaks to supporters during a Faith, Family and Freedom Town Hall meeting at the Beacon Drive-In in Spartanburg, South Carolina January 18, 2012.
1/2
By Paul Stanley, Christian Post Reporter
January 18, 2012|8:55 pm

CHARLESTON, S.C. – A new furor rocked politically active Christians today as news leaked that the founder of Focus on the Family, Dr. James Dobson, may have cast aspersions on Callista Gingrich, wife of GOP contender Newt Gingrich, at a key moment before evangelicals voted in Texas to support Sen. Rick Santorum in the GOP presidential primary race. The effect of the disclosure on the race, especially on uncommitted Christian voters, is still unclear.

The comment happened at last Saturday’s meeting of influential evangelical leaders who had gathered at the Texas ranch of Judge Paul Pressler to discuss the GOP primary. In the run-up to the first vote, Dobson was praising Karen Santorum, the wife of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, when he mentioned Callista, as “a woman who was a man’s mistress for eight years.”

“Floored – a startling moment,” was how some of the attendees felt after digesting Dobson’s comments, according to a source that spoke to Business Insider, which first broke the news.

But others attending the meeting differed with the characterization. “I don’t think this is news to anyone,” said a source that attended the meeting and spoke to The Christian Post on background. “Listen, everyone knows what Newt and Callista’s relationship was. How voters process that moving forward is up to them and the voters of South Carolina in particular.”

It is not clear how the information was leaked or why. The Gingrich camp denies they had anything to do with it, according to R.C. Hammond, a spokesman of the campaign. Some have argued that the disclosure would turn uncommitted evangelical voters away from the Texas endorsement of Santorum.

In response to a request for comments, a spokesman for Dobson released an email to a Politico reporter, which asserted, in part: "My five second comment to that effect was not intended to be cruel or hurtful, just a statement of fact.

Follow us Get CP eNewsletter ››

“I spoke for another 60 seconds about Karen Santorum, who was a guest on my radio program, Family Talk, a month ago. Karen is a very impressive lady who not only has a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh, but is also a neonatal nurse who worked in a hospital for some time.”

The statement continued, “She abandoned these two lucrative careers to stay at home full-time with her seven children whom she homeschools. The youngest of these children is three year old Bella, who has Edward’s Syndrome, and is physically and mentally disabled. She has written an outstanding book for children on the subject of manners. I not only said Karen Santorum would make a great First Lady, but I wrote that opinion in my book, Bringing Up Girls, which was completed in early 2010 before the primaries began."

The Dobson disclosure is not the first public relations hiccup surrounding the meeting. Tensions between opposing groups within the meeting quickly surfaced after the group’s designated spokesman, Tony Perkins, advised the media of the results at the conclusion of the meeting, referring to it as an “endorsement.” Under fire from the Gingrich camp, he later issued a statement recanting the use of the phrase since those who voted are not bound by the final outcome.

It was the understanding of those in attendance that a 24-hour media blackout would be adhered to before discussing what happened during the meeting. The blackout was not honored and information about the closed-door meeting continues to leak out.

Gingrich, like Santorum, has been hard at work courting evangelical voters in South Carolina and across the nation in an effort to overtake former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee. Prior to Saturday’s gathering in Texas, both were being considered for the group’s pseudo endorsement, which eventually went to Santorum after three rounds of voting.

As reported earlier by CP, Gingrich supporters were undeterred by the vote and are vowing to continue their fight to attract social conservatives. After a very strong debate performance this week, the latest national poll conducted by Rasmussen has Gingrich trailing Romney by only three points, 30 to 27 percent, an 11-point post-debate surge for Gingrich. Santorum stands at 15 percent of those surveyed in the Rasmussen poll. In South Carolina, Romney still holds a 10-point lead in the latest pre-debate poll.

Regardless of who leaked the information, the news of Dobson’s statement is ill timed. Many South Carolina evangelicals are still undecided, and Santorum, Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry still are heavily courting Christians in the last days leading up to Saturday’s South Carolina GOP primary. Even Romney is reminding social conservatives that he will support traditional marriage if elected.

 

Videos that May Interest You

CP Insider: Tony Perkins on How Americans Should Respond to the Culture Wars

Advertisement