DES MOINES, Iowa — Wiping back tears at the memories, Newt Gingrich said Friday his now-deceased mother’s struggles with bipolar disorder and other ailments of aging helped form much of his public policy during his time in Congress.
Mr. Gingrich was appearing at a discussion hosted by CafeMom, an online website for mothers, and moderated by Frank Luntz, the word guru whose fingerprints can be seen on many of the GOP’s big policy pushes during the last two decades.
Mr. Luntz asked Mr. Gingrich to talk about an important moment with his mother, Kit Gingrich, and the former House speaker first recalled her singing in the choir — and admitted she had gotten him to sing in the choir as a boy, too. He said he still tears up over Christmas carols today.
But Mr. Gingrich then went on to talk about his mother’s health problems as she grew older, and said his work on Alzheimer’s Disease and long-term care developed out of that.
“It’s not a theory, it’s in fact my mother,” he said.
He choked up at the memories at one point, and wiped tears away.
“I apologize, I did not mean to put you through that,” Mr. Luntz told him.
The event was designed to be a chance for moms to ask Mr. Gingrich their questions and for him to talk directly to them.
Mr. Gingrich’s two divorces have been a sticking point for many voters, and he has sought to try to ease those concerns, saying he’s not the person he was during those times. One woman asked him to “convince us that the change was a fundamental change of the heart, and not just political talk.”
“I am a sadder and slower person than I was 25 years ago,” he said.
He said voters should judge him not on every part of his life, but on being “a 68-year-old grandfather” who has spent his recent years studying the problems facing the country.
Mr. Gingrich’s two daughters and two grandchildren were in the audience and at the beginning of the event microphones caught Mr. Gingrich telling the panel his grandson had just passed a big milestone for a southern lad: “he just got his first shotgun at 10.”