(Updates with interview excerpts in fourth paragraph. For more campaign news, go to ELECT.)
Jan. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Newt Gingrich asked for an “open marriage” amid an affair with former House aide and current wife, Callista Gingrich, according to an interview with his second wife, Marianne Gingrich, that is to be aired on ABC News tonight.
Gingrich asked if she would share him with Callista, she said in the interview. “And I just stared at him and he said, ‘Callista doesn’t care what I do,’” Marianne Gingrich said in her first televised interview since their 1999 divorce. “He wanted an open marriage and I refused.”
In the interview with ABC’s Brian Ross to air tonight on “Nightline,” Marianne Gingrich said her former husband lacks the moral character to be president and his campaign positions on family values and marriage don’t reflect his personal behavior, according to excerpts of the interview released by ABC.
The affair took place while Gingrich was leading the House impeachment proceedings against former President Bill Clinton, which were prompted by news reports about his affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, she said in the excerpts.
Marianne Gingrich described her “shock” at Gingrich’s behavior, including learning that he conducted his affair “in my bedroom in our apartment in Washington,” according to the excerpts.
‘She Was Listening’
“He always called me at night,” she said, “and always ended with ‘I love you.’ Well, she was listening.”
Marianne Ginther Gingrich and the Republican presidential hopeful began dating while Gingrich was still married to his first wife, Jackie Battley Gingrich. They were married about six months after his first divorce in 1981.
During their marriage, Gingrich credited Marianne with helping him lead a Republican Party comeback that culminated in the 1994 takeover of the House, ending 40 years of Democratic control of the chamber.
Gingrich has tried to put his personal past behind him by saying he’d made mistakes. Gingrich divorced his first wife as she was being treated for cancer. Gingrich moved toward a divorce with Marianne Gingrich months after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she said in the interview, according to ABC.
“He also was advised by the doctor when I was sitting there that I was not to be under stress. He knew,” she said, according to ABC. Gingrich campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Gingrich’s two prior marriages were part of the primary discussion during the run-up to the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. Last month he revived the issue with claims about the details of his first divorce that were disputed by a former aide and court documents.
The Republican presidential candidate insists that it was his first wife who sought a divorce in 1980. After court records showed he filed the action, the Gingrich campaign said he’d done so at her request.
Gingrich, 68, has largely sidestepped specific questions about his second marriage, saying he has “no relationship” with Marianne Gingrich.
An online column in May by daughter Jackie Gingrich Cushman, referenced on his campaign website, asserted her mother had asked for the divorce. The elder Jackie, 75, couldn’t be reached for comment.
In a Jan. 18 memo from Gingrich’s daughters to ABC News leadership, which was released by his campaign, Kathy Lubbers and Jackie Cushman said “the failure of a marriage is a terrible and emotional experience for everyone involved.”
--With assistance from Julie Bykowicz in Washington. Editors: Jeanne Cummings, Laurie Asseo
To contact the reporter on this story: Heidi Przybyla in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright 2013 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.