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Gingrich angrily denies he sought open marriage

Republican presidential candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks during his caucus night rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Republican presidential candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks during his caucus night rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

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Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, speaks at the Personhood USA forum in Greenville, S.C., Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Newt Gingrich angrily denied that he asked his second wife for an "open marriage" and denounced the moderator in Thursday night's Republican presidential debate for raising the issue in the leadoff question.

Gingrich blasted what he called the "destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media."

The former House speaker slammed CNN moderator John King during the debate, saying that he was "appalled" that King would begin a presidential debate with the topic.

Gingrich called the question about his ex-wife's allegations "as close to despicable as anything I can imagine."

The former speaker's second wife, Marianne Gingrich, said in an interview with ABC News that when she discovered Gingrich was having an affair he asked her for an open marriage.

He called her claims false.

Marianne Gingrich's claims came on the same day that Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the race and endorsed Gingrich.

Gingrich also released his 2010 income tax returns, which showed he owed $613,517 in federal taxes on more $3.1 million in income. They showed he owed roughly 31.6 percent of his adjusted income in taxes, giving about 2 percent to charity.

Two days before the pivotal South Carolina primary, Gingrich's political and private life were clashing just as new polls showed him rising as he looks to overtake GOP front-runner Mitt Romney in the third state to weigh in on the presidential race. Gingrich has seen his crowds grow in recent days after a strong performance in a debate Monday.

It was unclear how the new revelations from Marianne Gingrich would play in a state where religious and socially conservative voters hold sway.

Equally uncertain was whether Gingrich would get a boost from Perry's endorsement, given that the Texas governor had little support in the state, and get conservative voters to coalesce behind his candidacy. Complicating Gingrich's effort is another conservative, Rick Santorum, who threatens to siphon his support.

"Newt is not perfect but who among us is," Perry said as he bowed out of the race and called Gingrich a "conservative visionary."

It was all but certainly intended to provide political cover for Gingrich with evangelicals here ahead of the interview with Marianne Gingrich, her first on television since the divorce from Gingrich in 2000, that ABC News was set to broadcast Thursday night.

In excerpts the network released earlier in the day, Marianne Gingrich said that when she learned of Gingrich's affair with Callista Bisek, a congressional staffer, he asked his wife to share him.

"And I just stared at him and he said, 'Callista doesn't care what I do,"' Gingrich' second wife said. "He wanted an open marriage and I refused."

Hours after the excerpts were released, Gingrich brushed aside reporters' questions after a campaign event along the waterfront in Beaufort, S.C.

"Look, I'm not going to say anything about Marianne. My two daughters have already written to ABC complaining about this as tawdry and inappropriate," he said, referring all queries about his second marriage to his two daughters from his first marriage, Kathy Lubbers and Jackie Cushman.

"I'm not getting involved," said Gingrich, who has said in the past that tough questions are fair game for a candidate running for president.

Later in the day, campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond told The Associated Press that Gingrich never asked Marianne Gingrich for an "open marriage" and suggested, like Gingrich's daughters did a day earlier, that Marianne Gingrich's comments may be suspect given the emotional toll divorce takes on everyone involved.

"Divorces are very tough and people have very different recollections of how things happen," Hammond said.

The television interview with Marianne Gingrich threw a wild card into the race in its final hours.

Its mere existence shines a spotlight on a part of Gingrich's past that could turn off Republican voters in a state filled with religious and cultural conservatives who may cringe at his two divorces and acknowledged marital infidelities.

Marianne Gingrich has said Gingrich proposed to her before the divorce from his first wife was final in 1981; they were married six months later. Her marriage to Gingrich ended in divorce in 2000, and Gingrich has admitted he'd already taken up with Callista Bisek, a former congressional aide who would become his third wife. The speaker who pilloried President Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky was himself having an affair at the time.

A CNN/Time South Carolina poll released Wednesday showed Gingrich in second place with support from 23 percent of likely primary voters, having gained 5 percentage points in the past two weeks. Romney led in the poll with 33 percent, but he had slipped some since the last survey. Santorum was third, narrowly ahead of Texas Rep. Ron Paul and well ahead of Perry.

Regardless of the South Carolina outcome, Gingrich was making plans to compete in Florida's primary on Jan. 31.

Confidence exuded from Gingrich, who rose in Iowa only to be knocked off course after sustaining $3 million in attack ads in Iowa from an outside group that supports Romney. Gingrich posted dismal showings in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

By the time the race turned to South Carolina, he was sharply criticizing Romney as a social moderate who is timid about attacking the nation's economic troubles. He also raised questions about Romney's experience as a venture capitalist, while a super PAC that supports Gingrich aggressively attacked Romney as a vicious corporate raider. Gingrich also ripped Romney for standing by as a super PAC run by former top Romney political aides continued to attack him in South Carolina.

Romney ended up on the defensive and by Monday night's debate, Gingrich was back in command. He earned a standing ovation when he labeled Democratic President Barack Obama "the best food stamp president in American history." The clip became the centerpiece of a television ad that began airing Wednesday as Gingrich worked to cast himself as the Republican with the best chance of beating Obama in the fall, stealing a page from Romney's playbook.

Said Gingrich senior adviser David Winston: "His taking on Barack Obama showed a toughness and an electability that the electorate is looking for."

Since then, Romney's campaign, sensing Gingrich's rise and working to deflect from its own troubles, has been trying to undercut Gingrich's claim that he helped President Ronald Reagan create millions of jobs in the 1980s, likening it to "Al Gore taking credit for the Internet."Romney also dispatched supporters to make the case that Gingrich is erratic and unreliable. A new Romney Web video features former Republican Rep. Susan Molinari of New York saying Gingrich lacked discipline and labeling his time as speaker "leadership by chaos."

Gingrich, for his part, has been helped by the fact that Santorum has seemed unable to capitalize on the endorsement of a group of influential Christian conservatives. Those who aren't backing the former Pennsylvania senator seem to be coming Gingrich's way.

Comments

Cleanupguy 2 years, 11 months ago

OK, so my point was lost in the sad rancorous personal attack below, which has become all too typical in political discourse today, accomplishing nothing in the end. Generally personal attacks are the clearest sign of being either incapable or unwilling to deal openly with rationality and facts. The simple fact is that Bill Clinton is in the past and we can do nothing about that, whereas Gingrich could be in our future if we are willing to accept the disgusting behaviors that BOTH have practiced. No excuses for Clinton, and similarly none should be allowed for Gingrich. We should expect better of any Commander-in-Chief. While Newt has had all sorts of wonderful ideas, like space mirrors to eliminate street lights and mining minerals on the moon (I kid you not), I’d rather have some other viable candidate more grounded in stable conservative common sense, with a touch of morality on the side.

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Cleanupguy 2 years, 11 months ago

No, Clinton’s marriage was not open. He eventually manned up, admitted it and apologized for it. Clinton came under fire for it from a guy that did even worse numerous times over several years, denied it and never apologized, to either ex-wife. Both Callista and Marianne knew that Newt was married when they were his mistresses, and they got what they got, a sleazy philanderer. I think it is reasonable to have concern for what other country might wind up as Newt’s new mistress should he become President.

Newt cannot even be honest about either his man-crush on Clinton or his self proclaimed close relationship with Reagan. Reagan’s own diaries mention Newt only once, noting that he had listened to one of Newt’s grand ideas, found it to be terrible, and he chose never to listen to him again.

Newt is not fit for public office – even the Republicans didn’t think so when they threw him out the last time.

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NewsReader 2 years, 11 months ago

Well, if it isn’t our village idiot showing up to weigh in with his two cents worth. And that’s about what it is worth; two cents. I don’t proclaim to condone the actions of Newt Gingrich regarding his infidelities. You are such a hypocrite to give Clinton a free pass, yet condemn the actions of another man for doing something so equally egregious. Manned up? Clinton was busted, and perjured himself and got caught. He had “sexual relations” “…with that woman…” “Monica Lewinsky” and lied under oath. Newt violated his marriage vows. Clinton, as the highest executive office in the land, violated the law. I find you calling Newt a sleazy philanderer down right poetic. And your man-crush crap is beyond reasonable and you don’t have an ounce of evidence to support that crap. You’re another pompous windbag spewing mountains of bovine bowel movement with little or no basis to substantiate it. You’re just another one of those worthless liberals who can be summed up in three words (entitlement, irresponsibility, and hypocritical). If Newt isn’t fit for public office, you’re not fit to vote.

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Cleanupguy 2 years, 11 months ago

Speaking of hypocrisy, then in summary you are saying that two wrongs (as they both were, but again, Newt has kept on doing it) make a right. Bad Clinton, bad Newt, period. So sayeth a knee jerk - incidentally, I've managed campaigns exclusively for local, state and national Republicans for the past 28 years (95% success rate) and have left my blowharding behind, but nice try, you might want to give that a spin yourself. Again, sorry, but even the Republican Party saw Newt as unfit to serve as Speaker of the House and booted him - you can't have it both ways.

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NewsReader 2 years, 11 months ago

You can always recognize a lying liberal jerk when they start off with "...[so what] you are saying...". Here's a novel idea. Read what I said idiot. I didn't say anything of the sort. I know what I said. Everybody else can read what I said. I don't need a stupid liberal interpreter to tell anybody what I said. The fact is, two wrongs don't make a right, but you praise Clinton and condemn Gingrich for very similar behavior saying Clinton "manned-up". If you've done all this managing you claim to have done, then it appears as though that you are 28 years into being part of the establishment, and thus part of the problem. But that doesn't matter because we both know that is a lie too. If you don't like Newt, then fine. You are the one here shoveling crap so deep, it's got to be blowing back in your face and falling all over the top of your head. None of the BS you spew passes the muster test.

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Cleanupguy 2 years, 11 months ago

Wow - this is way too easy - I easily found several dozen quotes like this (referring to the great Gingrich / Clinton meeting regarding the government shutdown forced by Gingrich):

"I melt when I'm around him," Gingrich said in January 1996. "After I get out, I need two hours to detoxify. My people are nervous about me going in there because of the way I deal with this." Newt Gingrich on Bill Clinton

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Sthrnldy 2 years, 11 months ago

"incidentally, I've managed campaigns exclusively for local, state and national Republicans for the past 28 years (95% success rate) and have left my blowharding behind"

I thought you were a custodian / janitor? You've had a very interesting career, in your own mind. You still sound like a blowhard though!

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nicholson 2 years, 11 months ago

Let's see, we have someone running for office who is a brilliant orator, gives a good speech and can debate, but has no executive leadership record. Sound familiar? But wait, unlike Obama who had no record, Gingrich does have a leadership record and it is not good - the conservatives in the House overthrew him after 4 years for poor management and ethics violations. So why would America want to make the same mistake of voting for another arrogant college professor, this time on the right, who has no executive ability but can dazzle with their words? Same result I am afraid as the last 4 years.

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