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Photo slideshow of Newt Gingrich's controversial SPEC Connaissance speech. Related: Former Speaker Newt Gingrich inflames students

When the Penn Democrats learned that conservative Newt Gingrich would be speaking at the Social Planning and Events Committee’s spring Connaissance, they invited Pennsylvania governor and Penn alumnus Ed Rendell to respond the next day.

On Wednesday, Rendell addressed a controversy that sprang up overnight — and that has received national media attention — concerning a question Penn Democrats president and College sophomore Isabel Friedman asked Gingrich the previous night.

“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 Tuesday, referring to his self-admitted extramarital affairs.

“Republicans are absolutely the biggest hypocrites in the world when you talk about moral values,” Rendell said.

However, “it probably was not the right time for [Friedman’s question] because he was an invited guest — although a paid invited guest,” Rendell added.

Since asking her question, Friedman has received a flood of messages and responses from people on campus and all over the nation — some congratulatory, others disapproving.

She received requests for comment from various news outlets, including MSNBC and CBS, all of which she turned down because she is not interested in “staging a publicity stunt.”

“I didn’t ask the question with any intention of eliciting the amount of national media attention that it’s gotten — but I’m more taken aback by the positive response that it’s gotten ... from people all over the country thanking me for pointing out something that they had all been thinking,” Friedman said. “You can criticize my choice of words, but at the end of the day, I got my point across,” she added.

“I’m obviously aware that it was a controversial thing to say, but [Gingrich] himself is a provocative public figure and should be prepared to answer questions about the controversy that he himself stirs up,” she added.

Penn College Republicans president and Engineering junior Peter Terpeluk thought Friedman’s comment was “entirely out of line.”

There has been a lot of criticism aimed at Republicans in recent weeks over an allegedly venomous rhetoric and national dialogue, Terpeluk said.

“To be quite honest, I don’t think the venom is coming from both sides. We’re seeing it from one side — the left,” he said, adding that Tuesday’s episode was an example.

College junior James Jennings, who describes himself as “pretty liberal,” felt that the question posed by Friedman was inappropriate.

“Even though most of the things that [Gingrich] has done with his life probably don’t agree with my own views, I still felt that the question was inappropriate and generally lowered the tone of the debate,” which had been optimistic before, Jennings said.

“Resorting to personal attack was not the way to win an argument, and I’m surprised she didn’t know that,” Jennings added.

College sophomore and Penn Dems membership director Graham White said he speaks for “the rest of [Penn Dems] when I say that we’re behind Isabel 100 percent.”

Regardless of whether other Penn Dems members would have asked the question, “they were definitely thinking it,” White said.

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