Political Animal


January 19, 2012 12:30 PM Can an old story be a bombshell?

By Steve Benen

It’s a very busy day in the race for the Republican nomination. The results of the Iowa caucuses point towards a new winner; Rick Perry is out; Mitt Romney has a variety of problems (tax rates, tax returns, stashing cash in the Caymans); and there’s a debate tonight.

But one of the controversies getting plenty of media oxygen today is this story from ABC’s Brian Ross, which will air tonight on “Nightline” (soon after the debate on CNN).

In her first television interview since the 1999 divorce, to be broadcast tonight on Nightline, Marianne Gingrich, a self-described conservative Republican, said she is coming forward now so voters can know what she knows about Gingrich.

In her most provocative comments, the ex-Mrs. Gingrich said Newt sought an “open marriage” arrangement so he could have a mistress and a wife.

She said when Gingrich admitted to a six-year affair with a Congressional aide, he asked her if she would share him with the other woman, Callista, who is now married to Gingrich.

“And I just stared at him and he said, ‘Callista doesn’t care what I do,’” Marianne Gingrich told ABC News. “He wanted an open marriage and I refused.”

To be sure, this isn’t what Gingrich needs right now. And given his background of attacking Democrats for “breaking down traditional marriage,” the disgraced former House Speaker’s scandalous personal life raises questions about his odious character.

But I’m not quite clear why this is considered new. Marianne Gingrich did an interview with Esquire nearly two years ago in which she told the magazine the same thing — the powerful Republican lawmaker “asked her to just tolerate the affair,” she said at the time. The interview was widely noticed, and I remember writing about it.

Perhaps there’s some new details Marianne Gingrich shared with ABC, but the scoop the network is pushing is the allegations that the GOP leader wanted an “open marriage.” As best as I can tell, we’ve heard this allegation before. Even some of the wording in the reports is the same.

Can an old story be a bombshell? Or is this just a situation in which the political world forgot what it learned two years ago, and this just seems new?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Tom Johnson on January 19, 2012 12:40 PM:

    Lot of time, for the purposes of television, news doesn't ocunt as having been reported until there's video. The "scoop" here is the interview, not the facts.

  • stormskies on January 19, 2012 12:40 PM:

    And, gee, let's remember that pig shit Gingrich did this on behalf of our country ... and the Repiglicans cheer on .......

  • RepublicanPointOfView on January 19, 2012 12:42 PM:

    This story is being aired on our corporately owned media now because Gingrich is once again providing some challenge to our corporate candidate Mitt Romney.

  • Registeredguest on January 19, 2012 12:44 PM:

    I think it's a bombshell. It comes at a more damaging time for Gingrich as he gains some ground on Romney.

    Secondly, those most likely to vote for a conservative need to be constantly reminded of things. They have a great capacity to overlook the sins of their political choices.

  • T2 on January 19, 2012 12:45 PM:

    GOPers don't seem to be to fazed by this type of stuff. Anyone over 18 knows Gingrich is a womanizer and a pretty shameful one at that. The Evangelicals say "God forgives him so he's good to go"....that's pretty much it. When it comes down to Mitt the Mormon or Newt the Dog, the GOPers will go with Newt - 'cause they don't like Mitt, and because Newt will murder Obama in a debate, they think. I love this. Back in July, Newt was toast. Perry/Palin looked like a lock for the nomination. And here we are, back at Newt.

  • sjw on January 19, 2012 12:50 PM:

    It's not news, let alone "new" news. It's sleaze. But that's what the MSM dishes out, day after day. Providing some real news, doing some investigative reporting, making an effort to get the truth -- all this is beyond them.

  • tedb on January 19, 2012 12:51 PM:

    Well, it is news to me, not that I'm surprised. I stopped paying close attention to that sleazebag years ago. Now I, like many Americans, am reluctantly forced to learn more about him. Before reading this post, I was reading about Mitt's unfamiliarity with the concept of telling the truth. Please excuse me now; I feel dirty and must wash up.

  • Emile on January 19, 2012 12:52 PM:

    This is an old story, not a scoop ..... at least not according to old journalism rules and ethics. But when did rules and ethics ever hold our media conglomerates back. Ethics schmethics.

  • boatboy_srq on January 19, 2012 12:53 PM:

    Is it a bombshell if the target audience doesn't read Esquire but does watch TV news?

    That gives it a resounding YES in my book.

    Of course, this would have MUCH greater impact on the GOP demographic if it were on Faux Snooze.

    And for the fundie set, "affair" and "open relationship" have VERY different connotations: the one's a "boys-will-be-boys" non-event, and the other's one step away from polyamourous man-on-dog indecency.

  • davidh on January 19, 2012 12:54 PM:

    old news is new news to those who didn't hear it the first time. i read that esquire piece, and you read that esquire piece, but there are many who haven't read it and didn't hear its allegations repeated. plus, video is different than print, and there's nothing like video of marianne herself telling the truth about her relationship with the grinch.

  • mmm on January 19, 2012 12:56 PM:

    Arent't you paying attention? Sarah Palin just called for more vetting... so that's what the lamestream media is doing! As has been mentioned many times, the public has the attention span of a gnat, so let's review! Remind everyone why Newt and helmet hair Callista will never be in the White House.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on January 19, 2012 12:57 PM:

    The real "news", the part that's always baffled me, is why Republicans are so willing to overlook this stuff in their quest for a "family values" savior. I get that IOKIYAR, i sorta get that sometimes even for them winning is more important than maintaining moral purity (although you'd think they'd support Romney or Huntsman, then). But why would you support someone with clear contempt for your values if you're going to vote plainly on those values?

    As often happens, this sleaze is legitimate news only because of the candidate's hypocrisy.

  • mikefromarlington on January 19, 2012 1:01 PM:

    Can it be a bombshell? I really don't know but what I do know is that THIS IS EXCELLENT NEWS FOR MCCAIN!!!

  • Robert Waldmann on January 19, 2012 1:02 PM:

    But this time it's on TV ! Look I read about the Abu Ghraib scandal (including that there were photographs of nude prisoners) long before the photos leaked out. That was a bombshell. Don't you know "photos or it didn't happen". Video of an interview is just different from boring ink on paper. I mean do you think South Carolina Republicans read ?

    Also the political world assumes that voters have forgotten or never knew. The idea that, because something is in the public record, everyone knows it is both obviously utterly absurd and necessary for the assertion that old news can't be a bombshell (which I note you didn't make).

  • Hedda Peraz on January 19, 2012 1:04 PM:

    A wife AND a mistress?
    How terribly French!

  • jim filyaw on January 19, 2012 1:07 PM:

    no, it isn't new. but, why the hell is the msm taking this garden variety psychopath as a serious national candidate?

    no, it isn't new, but maybe we needed a reminder of why we consigned him to the rubbish heap years go. and please, don't get me started on 'fair'.

  • j_h_r on January 19, 2012 1:07 PM:


    you only thought it applied to the rarefied intellectual pursuits of professional wrestling and superhero comics?

    although the timeframe can be understandably compressed with regards to the modern 24-hour news cycle, obviously

  • gasb on January 19, 2012 1:07 PM:

    I bet if Mitt had his druthers, it would be a wife... and a wife!

  • FriscoSF on January 19, 2012 1:08 PM:

    So, here's a Serial Adulterer,
    Chicken Hawk War Monger
    and all around villian

    advising African Americans about how to run their lives.....

    Go figure

  • Michael on January 19, 2012 1:17 PM:

    Or is this just a situation in which the political world forgot what it learned two years ago, and this just seems new?

    Aside from the general tendency to whitewash conservative misdeeds after a couple years (or news cycles, depending on how small you are on the political landscape), this shouldn't be surprising. Two years ago, people would still laugh openly at the thought of Gingrich running for president; stories of Gingrich Marital Fail were ho-hum because Newt was relatively unimportant, a has-been. Still someone you'd invite on your network's talk shows, somewhere between Dick Morris and Tom Delay, but no one whose stories of dickishness were going to be a big deal.

    Today, however, Newt may be The Last Anti-Romney, and that's a Very Big Deal to our toddler media who, not having attention spans or a great deal of self-awareness, now see Marianne's new/old relevations as Very Big. Not so big as to point out their own culpability of pimping a sleezeball like Gingrich during the great Clenis-hunt of the 90's, but still pretty big.

  • T-Rex on January 19, 2012 1:22 PM:

    It's a little amusing to see Marianne, who knew when she took up with Newt that he was married, is "shocked, SHOCKED" by his demand for open marriage. But it might be interesting to know what Diamond Cal thinks of Newt's alleged claim that she WOULD approve of such an arrangement. Pass the popcorn, the cage match between these two sluts should be very entertaining.

  • Captain Haddock on January 19, 2012 1:30 PM:

    Esquire is a little elitist, don't ya think? Its like Arugula. When nice Iceberg Lettuce like Nightline plays the story it is really news.

  • Quaker in a Basement on January 19, 2012 1:32 PM:

    Mitt and Newt?

    Almost makes a name like "Barack" seem ordinary.

  • schtick on January 19, 2012 1:32 PM:

    Do as I say, not as I do. Tealiban mantra.

    And Hedda, the terribly French just may be the downfall for him. Americans just have this thing about ripping up and hating the French all the time.

    crapcha....trunuing Oct....October?

  • Trinity on January 19, 2012 1:36 PM:

    I pretty much ignore Newt Gingrich but I am a bit of a political junkie and this is news to me. I'm laugh my ass off that this is coming out now.

    Politics ain't beanbag.

  • ElegantFowl on January 19, 2012 1:48 PM:

    NPR had an astonishing interview on yesterday with a South Carolina voter. Evidently she feels that Gingrich is a very moral person who asked for forgiveness and deserves redemption, and for her the matter is closed. I don't understand the mindset myself, but I can't imagine that new revelations would change it.

    I think Gingrich would make an excellent GOP nominee, and a very clear alternative for America to choose next November.

  • WiNoJoE on January 19, 2012 2:00 PM:

    There was a blurb on Current TV last night, think it was Olbermann, that the ex-wife was going to come out with details about how Gingrich was unable to perform his matrimonial (i.e. manly) duties with the wife during much of the marriage.

    Don't know if it's true and it shouldn't really matter in any case, but maybe that is what is generating more/new interest in the story.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on January 19, 2012 2:02 PM:

    I chuckle at the sheer irony of super gay liberals like Dan Savage having to defend real “family values” from the likes of the Newt…

  • Lance on January 19, 2012 2:08 PM:

    Listen to the Debate tonight.

    Does Mitt say with a wink that the Mormon Church had decided to end polygamy over a century ago?

    Does Rick say with a wink that Marriage is the union of one man and ONE WOMAN?

    Does Ron say with a wink that the Government shouldn't legislate against open marriages?

    Or will they be less subtle?

  • Brenna on January 19, 2012 2:09 PM:

    Callista comes off looking like a sleazebag herself. Oh, she was very amenable to an open marriage. Newt always makes it sound like Callista encouraged him to become a holier-than-thou Catholic. They deserve each other. A match made in heaven.

    That the American people would consider this trashy couple as the prez and first lady is astounding!

  • bdop4 on January 19, 2012 2:24 PM:

    "But Iím not quite clear why this is considered new. Marianne Gingrich did an interview with Esquire nearly two years ago in which she told the magazine the same thing ó the powerful Republican lawmaker ďasked her to just tolerate the affair,Ē she said at the time. The interview was widely noticed, and I remember writing about it."

    It's new because most Merkans can't remember what he did last week, let alone what transpired two years ago. And Dems are too polite to bring it up. Also, the GOP today is even crazier than the 2009 version.

    It will be fun to see Newt's supporters contort themselves to rationalize his "family values."

  • Snarki, child of Loki on January 19, 2012 2:45 PM:

    Since Newt left the woman that refused an open marriage, and wound up marrying the woman that was okay with one, that leads to some questions that MUST be asked in the debate tonight:

    "Does Newt *currently* have an 'open marriage'?"


    "Is Callista available for parties?"


  • biggerbox on January 19, 2012 2:46 PM:

    I'm going to be disappointed if there isn't more here. Brian Ross, the ABC "journalist" isn't someone who normally avoids sensationalizing, so it may be just a rehash of the old stuff, but I'm hoping.

    Given how much I hate Newt, I'm rooting for bestiality, frank psychotic episode, and/or role-play with Marianne as Monica Lewinski in a blue dress.

  • Bj Smith on January 19, 2012 3:15 PM:

    It could be ABC is doing their corporate best to tone down the real story about a very greedy man hiding money, lots & lots of money, for who knows how many years & then expects to become POTUS.

  • HiHeels on January 19, 2012 3:20 PM:

    This is a Lie. Marianne Gingrich has appeared on a prior televised interview.
    I have been searching for it and it is so buried.
    I watched her and the shoot was taken outside on a lawn and I believe water front.
    Why has this been washed?

  • HiHeels on January 19, 2012 3:25 PM:

    When I watched the first televised interview, the only thing she said about him was " Newt is a do as I say, Not as I do" type of man. Referencing of course that Clinton was bad to stick his cigar in a strange hole.

  • toowearyforoutrage on January 19, 2012 3:51 PM:

    This will be a bombshell to some. I heard the same interview ElegantFowl did, but disagree with his/her conclusion. This one woman said she'd overlook the infidelity since Newt had made peace with God and his wife, so why should she judge? Will she consider Romney now that it's plain that Ms Gingrich isn't as sanguine as Newt wishes she were?

    And on a parting note, I award the thread to Hedda Peraz for the Democratic talking point to pursue. Merveilleux!

  • R. L. Hails Sr. P. E. on January 19, 2012 4:31 PM:

    Compare and contrast:
    Bill Clinton,
    John Edwards,
    Newt Gingrich,
    the press coverage, and
    your standards. Does it matter? How did they resolve the family - political problems? Do you care if they lie to you about it? Do you care if they lie under oath? Will you accept their claim that they have changed, repented? Can you forgive and forget? Does this effect your vote for the person that will hold your son's life, or livelihood, in his hands?

  • SKM on January 19, 2012 5:52 PM:

    I've read somewhere that Newt's real name (birthright)is Newton Leroy McPherson, and that he was adopted by his mother's new husband and his name was changed to Gringrich. That could be the reason he has a problem with minorities. Or, who knows, maybe his mentor was Lee Atwater.

    And someone hit the nail on the head, the media is calling this old news. However, they never gave Angelina Jolie a break. They kept trying to put Jennifer Aniston on a pedestal. And at times they still report rumors and lies in order to break up Angelina and Brad's marriage.

    This is the problem I have with both Gingrich and Romney - what are their real names and aliases? The only people I know of that use so many different names are people that have something to hide, or they are up to no good.

  • SKM on January 19, 2012 6:00 PM:

    Oh, and in case people forgot, this is not the first time the issue came up with Obama and foodstamps. There was a, I want to say, council member in Orange County Calif. that made pictures of foodstamps with Obama's picture on it with watermelons on the whitehouse lawn - he claimed to have done this as a joke, calling them 'Obama Stamps.'

    And that is why, I will not vote for any candidate that have use racial statements - have a history or past of racism - and that would include any candidate using money from Citizen's United. I will not vote for anything (measures/propositions) that is broadcast in the media - I look to my voter's guide to see who endorses which measure/proposition - and big corporations, groups like America For Prosperity do not have my vote.

  • kevo on January 19, 2012 7:33 PM:

    The God of History will remember Newt Gingrich as the late 20th / early 21st century personification of James G. Blaine!

    Poor Newtie, he wants to be remembered in history as a grand figure, yet he will be rendered to the dust pile just as Blaine has been!

    A politico who works first to profit, then to profit some more, and then to meanly recriminate his political foes with ego-satisfying gusto! -Kevo

  • Suzii on January 20, 2012 12:41 AM:

    Does Callista care now?