WASHINGTON — Dredging up a past that Newt Gingrich has worked hard to bury, the Republican presidential candidate’s second ex-wife said Gingrich asked for an “open marriage” in which he could have a wife and a mistress.
In an interview on ABC’s “Nightline” Thursday night, Marianne Gingrich said she refused to go along with the idea that she share her husband with Callista Bisek, who would later become his third wife.
The interview aired just two days before the presidential primary in South Carolina, a state with a strong Christian conservative bent.
In excerpts of the interview released ahead the broadcast, Marianne Gingrich said her husband conducted his affair with Bisek “in my bedroom in our apartment in Washington” while she was elsewhere.
“He always called me at night and always ended with ‘I love you,’?” she said. “Well, she was listening.”
Marianne Gingrich was Gingrich’s second wife. “He was asking to have an open marriage and I refused,” she said. “That is not a marriage.”
She also said Gingrich moved to divorce her just months after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“He also was advised by the doctor when I was sitting there that I was not to be under stress,” she said. “He knew.”
Gingrich, 68, asked by a voter Thursday about his past, said questions about his past life were inevitable, but that he long had since sought forgiveness. He said he expected attacks when he got into the race.
“We knew we would get beaten up,” he said while campaigning in Beaufort. “We knew there would be nasty ads, and we decided the country was worth the pain.”
Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond rejected Marianne Gingrich’s account, saying, “It couldn’t be any more opposite of the truth.”
Gingrich said he wouldn’t say anything against his ex-wife, but added that his two daughters from his first marriage had written to ABC to complain that the interview was “tawdry and inappropriate.”
He didn’t answer questions about the specifics of the interview, directing questions to his daughters.
In an interview Thursday with The Washington Post, Marianne Gingrich said that within days of asking for a divorce, her husband gave a speech in which he stressed the importance of ethics and family values in American culture.
“How could he ask me for a divorce on Monday and within 48 hours give a speech about family values and talk about how people treat people?” she said.