Newt Gingrich compares 'Duck Dynasty' star Phil Robertson to Pope Francis
Newt Gingrich 121913 [CNN]

Newt Gingrich went beyond calling suspended Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson a good Christian on Thursday, going so far as to liken him to Pope Francis.

"Ironically, if you read the whole interview, not just take one section, he talks very specifically about loving everybody," Gingrich said on Crossfire. "He talks very specifically about not being judgmental toward anybody, that's God's decision, not his. I mean, it is remarkable. There's sections there where he sounds like Pope Francis."

Panelist LZ Granderson quickly countered Gingrich's argument, saying, "There's nothing really remarkable about slandering people and then coming around and saying, 'Love everybody.' People have been doing that time and time again: 'Love the sinner but hate the sin.' That's nothing remarkable."

Unlike the Pope, however, who has criticized the Catholic Church for antagonizing the LGBT communities, Robertson is quoted in GQ Magazine comparing homosexuality to bestiality, saying, "Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."

Gingrich then accused Granderson and co-host Van Jones of wanting to "edit the Bible so that the parts that you approve of are allowed to be talked about."

"What we're pointing out is the hypocrisy that the right always wants to edit the Bible to justify their positions," Granderson responded.

"What am I editing?" fellow panelist and Concerned Women for America head Penny Young Nance asked. "I'm accepting the whole text for what it is."

"You're for slavery?" Jones asked Nance.

"I'm gonna completely disagree that the Bible, in any way, justifies slavery," Nance answered, not mentioning that the book of Leviticus, for one, sanctions "foreign slaves" becoming their owner's property in perpetuity.

However, none of the panelists would touch on Robertson's racially-tinged remarks, including his assertion that African-Americans were happier in Jim Crow-era Louisiana ("Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.") or his reasoning for voting for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. ("One of the guys who’s running for president is out of Chicago, Illinois, and the other one is from Salt Lake City, Utah. ... Where would I rather be turned around at three o’clock in the morning? I opted for Salt Lake City.")

Nance and Gingrich also attempted to defend Robertson's remarks by describing them as a crude interpretation of the book of Corinthians. However, they did not specify which part of Scripture would tie in with Robertson's assertion that to him, "a vagina -- as a man -- would be more desirable than a man's anus."

But Granderson -- a gay man and a Christian, himself -- pointed out Robertson holds a Master's degree in education, while also criticizing the co-opting of the Bible to justify prejudice.

"The Bible has been used throughout history as a way to oppress the minority," Granderson told Nance. "Wherever the majority is, they've always found the right verse to justify slavery, to justify keeping women -- in fact, there's a couple of verses that should have you home right now."

Watch the discussion, as aired on CNN, below.