(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich is known as a policy wonk and a tough politico.
But a softer, rarely-seen side of the former Georgia congressman was on display in Iowa Friday when he choked up during an event with an Iowa mothers’ group talking about his mother and her struggle with bipolar disorder and Alzheimer’s disease.
“When you think of your mom, what special moment comes to mind when you think of your mom?” Gingrich was asked by Frank Luntz, a GOP pollster conducting the town hall conversation.
“Well, first of all, you’re going to get me all teary-eyed,” Gingrich, 68, said. “First, I will tell you, I get teary-eyed every time we sing Christmas carols. My mother sung in the choir and loved singing in the choir…and I don’t know if I should admit this, but when I was really young, she had me singing in the choir. We have pictures of me singing in the choir. But I identify my mother with being happy, loving life, having a sense of joy in her friends. But what she introduced me to, is later in her life she wound up in a mental-health facility. She had bipolar disease and depression and that introduced me to the whole issue of quality long-term care, which I did with [former Nebraska Sen.] Bob Kerrey for three years. And then that introduced me to Alzheimer’s, which I did with him for three more years. And my whole emphasis of brain science comes indirectly from dealing with the real problems within my family. So it’s not a theory. It’s, in fact, my mother.”
Gingrich has worked with Democrat Kerrey on long-term care for seniors and brain science. The two men have served together on the Alzheimer’s Study Group.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Pamela Brown, Jake Tapper and Dan Merica, CNN
Ariane de Vogue and Laura Jarrett, CNN
Nate Sunderland, EastIdahoNews.com
Dylan Byers, CNN