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Angry Gingrich Denies Asking 2nd Wife for 'Open Marriage'

Republican presidential candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich participates in the Republican presidential candidate debate in Charleston, S.C. Jan. 19, 2012.
Republican presidential candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich participates in the Republican presidential candidate debate in Charleston, S.C. Jan. 19, 2012.

An angry Newt Gingrich, during Thursday night's Republican presidential debate in South Carolina, faced tough opening questions about his former marital status,  denying he asked his ex-wife to allow him to have an "open marriage" while he had an affair with a staff member in 1999.

Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, told debate moderator John King that he was "appalled" King would begin the debate on such a topic.

Gingrich also attacked what he described as the "elite" news media, calling it destructive, vicious and negative. He said the story about his troubled second marriage is false and he said ABC news, which reported the allegations, refused to talk to Gingrich associates.

Only four Republican candidates remain in the race to defeat President Barack Obama in November. Texas Governor Rick Perry dropped out hours before the debate after poor showings in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, leaving Gingrich, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.

Romney defended himself from accusations that he cut jobs when he headed an investment firm that bought other companies. He said he actually helped companies create jobs, and said he would not apologize for being a successful businessman.

Santorum and Romney criticized Paul for his plans to cut military spending, while all the candidates criticized President Obama's health care plan and called for a crackdown on illegal immigration.

South Carolina holds its primary Saturday. The latest polls show Romney as the front runner, but with Gingrich surging.

Gingrich's second wife, Marianne, told ABC News that he asked her to "accept the fact" that he had another woman in his life. She said she refused his request for them to have an "open marriage." When he was speaker of the House of Representatives, Gingrich helped lead the movement in Congress to impeach then-President Bill Clinton for lying about an affair with a White House intern.

Also Thursday, Rick Santorum's candidacy got a boost when Republican officials in the state of Iowa said he won the most votes in the state's January 3 caucuses, not Romney. Initially, Iowa Republican officials said Romney won the caucuses by eight votes, and Santorum, a social conservative, came in second.

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