Student members of a political club at the University of Pennsylvania didn't let Newt Gingrich off the hook easily when he appeared there for a speech Tuesday night.
According to a report from the online news service Politico, the first student to question Gingrich at the event inquired about the former U.S. House speaker's extramarital affairs and accused him of being a hypocrite.
"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, according to Politico.
"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?" Friedman asked.
Taken aback, the Republican - who's still weighing whether to enter the 2012 presidential race - tried to deflect the question in front of the audience of about 800, Politico reported.
"I'll bet almost everybody here can gather the thrust of your question," he said. "I appreciate the delicacy and generosity in the way it was framed . . . I hope you feel better about yourself.
"I've had a life which, on occasion, has had problems," he added. "I believe in a forgiving God, and the American people will have to decide whether that's their primary concern.
"If the primary concern of the American people is my past, my candidacy would be irrelevant.
"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."
Penn's Social Planning and Events Committee hosted the event, held in the Irvine Auditorium. It was billed as a discussion with Gingrich about American politics and the global transformation.
Gingrich has publicly acknowledged that in the 1990s he had an affair with a staffer who ultimately became his third wife. During that same period, he was pushing for former President Bill Clinton to be impeached after news of his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
An Esquire profile last year aired Gingrich's dirty laundry, including another affair in which he cheated on his first wife with his second.