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Interview with DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz

By The Last Word, The Last Word - January 19, 2012

Guests: Howard Fineman, Joe Klein, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Toure; Goldie Taylor; D.L. Hughley; David Cay Johnston

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Breaking news: Tonight`s Republican debate just ended two hours after it started with this explosive question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

JOHN KING, DEBATE MODERATOR: As you know, your ex-wife gave an interview to ABC News and another interview at "The Washington Post" and this story has now gone viral on the Internet. In it, she says that you came to her in 1999, at a time when you were having an affair. She says you asked her, sir, to enter into an open marriage.

Would you like to take some time to respond to that?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, but I will.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: 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.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: 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.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: My two daughters, my two daughters wrote the head of ABC and made the point that it was wrong, that they should pull it, and I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: As you noted, Mr. Speaker, this story did not come from our network. As you also know, it is a subject of conversation on the campaign. I`m not. I get your point, I take your point --

GINGRICH: John, it was repeated by your network. You chose to start the debate with it. Don`t try to blame somebody else. You and your staff chose to start this debate with it.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: Now, let me be quite clear. Let me be quite clear. This story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period says the story was false.

We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They weren`t interested, because they would like to attack any Republican. They`re attacking the governor, they`re attacking me. I`m sure they`ll presently get around to Senator Santorum and Congressman Paul.

I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Joe Klein, a columnist for "Time" magazine, and Howard Fineman, AOL/"Huffington Post" editorial director and MSNBC political analyst, both joining us from South Carolina.

Gentleman, we`ve never seen the start of a debate like that before -- explosive, right off the bat.

To each of you, Howard, first, how did you rate, how did you score round one?

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, well, round one went overwhelmingly to Newt Gingrich in that crowd.

JOE KLEIN, TIME: I can`t --

FINEMAN: There were 1,500 staunch Republicans in there, the Southern Republican Leadership group, Tea Party people. If Newt Gingrich was looking for a way to cement his comeback in South Carolina, and to win the South Carolina primary, that was the way to start out, by making the media the enemy, the crowd ate it up.

I guarantee you that Southern Republicans and South Carolina Republicans will do the same.

Listen, if life and politics were only debates, Newt would be king. They`re not and he`s not. But, certainly, that was a home run for Newt at the beginning, with this crowd and with this constituency.

O`DONNELL: Joe Klein, if you`re having trouble with your ear piece, I`m going to have Howard Fineman --

KLEIN: I am having trouble with my ear piece. But I will say that --

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