Marianne Gingrich is about to make news—simply by having gone in front of a television camera.
A knowledgeable insider says that Newt Gingrich’s second wife does not say anything in the taped interview with ABC News that she hasn’t said in previous print interviews. But to repeat her account of how their marriage failed—because the then-House speaker was having an affair—in a form that can be endlessly replayed on television could prove a serious distraction for the presidential candidate two days before the South Carolina primary.
The insider says ABC is weighing how to handle the Marianne interview with Brian Ross but that there’s a good chance it will run Thursday. Its existence first popped on the Drudge Report.
One question for the network is how long to wait for a response from the Gingrich campaign. Another is whether it would be unfair to air the potentially explosive interview too close to the South Carolina voting.
The Gingrich campaign pushed back Wednesday night by releasing a letter to ABC from Newt’s daughters, Kathy Lubbers and Jackie Cushman.
“The failure of a marriage is a terrible and emotional experience for everyone involved. Anyone who has had that experience understands it is a personal tragedy filled with regrets, and sometimes differing memories of events,” it says.
“We will not say anything negative about our father’s ex-wife. He has said before, privately and publicly, that he regrets any pain he may have caused in the past to people he loves.
“ABC News or other campaigns may want to talk about the past, just days before an important primary election. But Newt is going to talk to the people of South Carolina about the future.”
Gingrich has acknowledged being unfaithful in his first two marriages and asked for forgiveness in the early stages of his campaign. He told the Christian Broadcasting Network, “I was doing things that were wrong, and yet I was doing them. I found that I felt compelled to seek God’s forgiveness. Not God’s understanding, but God’s forgiveness.”
Marianne Gingrich has said that her husband asked for a divorce with a phone call when she was in Ohio to celebrate her mother’s 84th birthday, leaving her in tears. He informed her that he was having an affair with Callista Bisek, a House aide 23 years his junior—this while he was leading the drive to impeach Bill Clinton over his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Bisek is now Gingrich’s third wife.
“I was totally shocked,” Marianne Gingrich told the Washington Post in 1999. “I had no idea.” Her mother, Virginia Ginther, added: “It’s about the cruelest thing you can do. You certainly would not want to be told like that.”
Most people following the presidential campaign know of Gingrich’s tangled marital history. But with the ex-congressman running about 10 points behind Mitt Romney in South Carolina, where a defeat Saturday could end his candidacy, the revival of this story cannot be good news.