Newt, the media and momentum
If Newt Gingrich is elected president of the United States this year, he will owe it all to John King and to his former wife, Marianne.
Let's go back to the recent presidential debate in South Carolina. There stood Gingrich, gripping his podium, staring at King, the CNN debate moderator. The former Speaker of the House had to be delighted. King was doing just what Gingrich and his advisers thought he might do: He was trying to embarrass Newt by asking him about salacious stuff his bitter ex-wife told "Nightline."
"She says you asked her, sir, to enter into an open marriage," King said, and the crowd hushed. "Would you like to take some time to respond to that?"
Gingrich paused a beat. Then, with a slight sneer, he let loose: "No, but I will. 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." Gingrich was rolling.
"And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that."
King was thrown off his game. He backpedaled. Gingrich continued to lash out. Finally, King sought a mandatory eight count: "As you noted, Mr. Speaker, this story did not come from our network (CNN)."
Forget it. Gingrich hammered him again: "John, it was repeated by your network. You chose to start the debate with it. Don't try to blame somebody else."
It was all over. Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul should have just walked off the stage. Gingrich had slayed the media dragon, and blood was on the ground. Nothing else would matter that night, and now Gingrich has a decent shot at securing the Republican nomination. Before King and Marianne, the speaker was dead in the water.
One thing is certain: Gingrich knows about anger. He well understands that many conservative Americans have had enough of being loathed by Hollywood and by the media chieftains in New York and Washington. The condescension shown to the right is undeniable. Every media survey ever taken shows that the vast majority of press and entertainment people are committed liberals. And unlike Walter Cronkite, who largely hid his leftwing ideology, today's media folks are out of the closet.
Gingrich also understands that he cannot win the Republican nomination without a populist uprising. His targeting of the media is brilliant, and now the speaker says he will go after the anti-religion crowd.
But there is one big problem: It is difficult to sustain outrage. It gets exhausting, and it can become circus-like if not used wisely. Gingrich had his moment, and he nailed it. It will be hard for him to duplicate what happened in South Carolina on a regular basis.
But everybody now knows there is a deep-seated anger among many Americans who believe they have lost their country. They are looking for a champion. If a candidate can truly fit that profile, he just might become the next president of the United States.
Veteran TV news anchor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show ''The O'Reilly Factor.'' Visit his website at www.billoreilly.com. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/billoreilly.