Just after Newt Gingrich sparred with his rivals in Thursday's Republican debate, his second ex-wife, Marianne, appeared in a tell-all interview on ABC's Nightline. She made the (already widely reported) claim that Gingrich had asked her for an "open marriage," and charged that he lacks the moral character to be president. In response, Newt essentially called his ex-wife a liar, and branded the media "despicable" for making a fuss over this story. Did Marianne Gingrich's interview measure up to the hype? Here, five of the most relevant topics of discussion to emerge from the broadcast:
1. The instantly infamous "open marriage" allegation
Marianne Gingrich says that in the late 1990s, Newt admitted to a years-long affair with a congressional aide, which he often conducted in the bedroom he and Marianne shared in their Washington, D.C., apartment. And he didn't want to end the affair. "He wanted an open marriage and I refused," Marianne Gingrich told ABC's Brian Ross. Ugh, says William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection. It's Marianne's word against Gingrich's, and divorce records indicate that Newt's relationship with Callista began during a separation after Marianne left him. Well, Gingrich can't resolve doubts about his morals by getting "all huffy," says attorney Belinda Luscombe at TIME. "You can say a lot of things about your spouse of 18 years, but you can't pretend her opinion of you is ill-informed."
2. Newt's daughters are on his side
These claims are "simply not true," said Kathy Lubbers, one of Newt's daughters from his first marriage. "Our father and Marianne had a difficult marriage. They had a difficult divorce. ... The American people have moved on. Our father has moved on." That's telling, says psychiatrist Keith Ablow at Fox News. "Never dismiss evidence of who the children gravitate toward and admire." Nice try, but Gingrich's daughters won't "save him," says Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft. These "are his daughters with Wife No. 1." So "how would they know what happened?"
3. Gingrich's decade-long plan to win the White House
Almost immediately after Gingrich lost his position as speaker of the House in 1998, he began preparing to run for president — but Marianne says he had no intention of making her first lady. Instead, he planned a campaign with his former mistress and current wife, Callista Gingrich, by his side. "He did tell me once that she was going to help him become president," Marianne says. Well, Callista's certainly not helping among some religious conservatives, says Victoria Pynchon at Forbes. Focus on the Family's James Dobson says one reason he prefers Rick Santorum for president is that his wife, Karen, "would make a fabulous first lady role model." And "the zinger"? Dobson says, "Newt Gingrich's wife... was a mistress for eight years."
4. The gratuitous hype
Based on all the advance media attention this interview got, I was expecting "earth-shattering revelations," says James Crugnale at Mediaite. "What juicy lurid details would emerge from this mightily-hyped segment? Secret affair videos? Explicit photographs?!" Sadly, none of the above. "Despite heightened expectations for some Lewinsky-esque exclusive information, as it turns out, Nightline aired no real smoking gun." What a letdown.
5. ABC's controversial decision to broadcast it
Nightline has taken a lot of flak for broadcasting Marianne's allegations just two days before the crucial South Carolina primary. But ABC was right, says Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft. After all, Gingrich is the one who decided to go out "campaigning on family values." If he loses Saturday's primary because voters are disgusted by his behavior, he has only himself to blame. Look, if Nightline had something new to report, the interview might have been worth airing, says Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic. But they "had the aggrieved ex-wife of a presidential candidate eager to speak with them on record... and the most relevant bit of information they managed to get was" a rehashed story about an affair? The shocking thing isn't that they aired this "pointless" interview now, but that they chose to air it at all.
Watch ABC's interview with Marianne Gingrich for yourself:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- The best places to find love — and lust — according to science
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life
- What's the difference between in- and un-?
- Sex can't explain the culture war
- Boyhood's refreshingly unsentimental take on motherhood
- Everything you need to know about Japan's population crisis
Subscribe to the Week