Presidential Race

Gingrich's Second Wife Speaks To ABC News

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Newt Gingrich's second wife, Marianne, sat down for an interview with ABC News. The interview airs Thursday night on Nightline. South Carolina holds its Republican primary on Saturday. In the interview, Marianne Gingrich says her ex-husband requested an "open marriage," so he could remain married and have a mistress.


More now on that controversial interview Melissa mentioned with Newt Gingrich's former wife Marianne. She has told ABC News that the former speaker wanted an open marriage so he could have both a mistress and a wife. The interview is set to run on ABC's "Nightline" this evening. Excerpts were released this morning, just two days before the South Carolina primary.

NPR's Kathy Lohr has that story.

KATHY LOHR, BYLINE: In the interview, Marianne Gingrich says Newt admitted to an affair with a congressional staffer, Callista Bisek, for six years. She told ABC's Brian Ross that he wanted to continue this relationship with the woman who became his third wife.


MARIANNE GINGRICH: Well, he was asking to have an open marriage, and I refused.

BRIAN ROSS: He wanted an open marriage.

MARIANNE GINGRICH: Yeah, that I accept the fact that he has somebody else in his life.

ROSS: And you said...

MARIANNE GINGRICH: No. No. That is not a marriage.

LOHR: The former speaker has long been plagued by questions about his moral character, and about the treatment of his former wives. He asked for a divorce from his first wife, Jackie, when she was going through cancer treatment. And he started the relationship with Marianne while he was still married to Jackie. Marianne told the Washington Post while Newt was having an affair with Callista, he was talking to groups across the country about family values, and chastising then-President Bill Clinton about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

In South Carolina campaigning today, Gingrich didn't specifically comment on Marianne's interview. But the former speaker acknowledged again that he has made mistakes.


NEWT GINGRICH: I am 68 years old. I am a grandfather. We entered this race - and we had to think this through for a year 'cause we knew we'd get beaten up; we knew we'd get lied about; we knew we'd get smeared; we knew we'd get nasty, attack ads. And we decided the country was worth the pain. Now, people have got to decide, you know?


LOHR: It's not clear how this will affect conservative evangelical voters in South Carolina, who account for more than half of the Republican primary vote. And Gingrich got one endorsement today from a former opponent - Texas Governor Rick Perry, who left the race. Polls show the former speaker has been gaining momentum in the state. Some who support him say the interview with his bitter ex-wife was released today to try to stop his surge. But they also say that could backfire.

Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Columbia, South Carolina.

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