CHARLESTON - Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich angrily defended himself on Thursday against allegations that he had asked his ex-wife for an open marriage, lashing out in perhaps the most crucial debate yet in the 2012 campaign.
The CNN-sponsored debate got off to a raucous start when moderator John King asked Gingrich to respond to charges put forth by his ex-wife Marianne that he had sought an "open marriage" while having an affair.
The impropriety charges have dogged Gingrich for years and threaten to slow his momentum in South Carolina as he seeks to upset front-runner Mitt Romney in the first primary vote in the South on Saturday.
"I think the disruptive, vicious, negative nature of the news media makes it harder to govern this country," Gingrich fumed. "I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that."