PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Republican stalwart Newt Gingrich, speaking in Philadelphia, avoided a direct answer on how his extramarital affairs square with his conservative values.
After he finished his speech at the University of Pennsylvania Tuesday, the first questioner asked how Gingrich reconciled having three affairs with his defense of religious values, Politico reported.
"You adamantly oppose gay rights ... but you've also been married three times and admitted to having an affair with your current wife while you were still married to your second," Isabel Friedman, president of the Penn Democrats, said to Gingrich. "As a successful politician who's considering running for president -- who would set the bar for moral conduct and be the voice of the American people -- how do you reconcile this hypocritical interpretation of the religious values that you so vigorously defend?"
The former House speaker told Friedman he hoped "I hope you feel better about yourself," then said his life "on occasion, has had problems" and believed in a "forgiving God," but voters would have to decide whether his past was relevant to his future.
"If the primary concern of the American people is my past, my candidacy would be irrelevant," Gingrich said. "If the primary concern of the American people is the future ... that's a debate I'll be happy to have with your candidate or any other candidate if I decide to run."
Other students, critical about Gingrich's lack of commitment to AIDS research funding, waved posters saying "Global AIDS Budget Cuts Kill" and yelled as they left while he was still speaking.
Gingrich, in an interview with Politico, said he expects to announce in early March a final decision about whether to seek the Republican presidential nomination.