Will have to look at Newt with New Eyes

We’ve all heard the story about how Newt Gingrich — heartless, horrible man — went to his cancer-stricken wife’s hospital bed and told her he wanted a divorce.

We heard it so often, we believed it. I admit, I believed it. Did you?

Well, his daughter says we ought not have believed it:

My mother, Jackie Battley Gingrich, is very much alive, and often spends time with my family. I am lucky to have such a “Miracle Mom,” as I titled her in a column this week.

As for my parents’ divorce, I can remember when they told me.

It was the spring of 1980.
Later that summer, Mom went to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for surgery to remove a tumor. While she was there, Dad took my sister and me to see her.

It is this visit that has turned into the infamous hospital visit about which many untruths have been told. I won’t repeat them. You can look them up online if you are interested in untruths. But here’s what happened:

My mother and father were already in the process of getting a divorce, which she requested.

Dad took my sister and me to the hospital to see our mother.

She had undergone surgery the day before to remove a tumor.

The tumor was benign.

As with many divorces, it was hard and painful for all involved, but life continued.

As have many families, we have healed; we have moved on.


If I have believed a lie — and it seems I may have — then I have been unfair to Gingrich. I didn’t like him much, back when I was a Democrat, so it was easy for me to believe the worst.

Now, in fairness I’ll have to take a second look at Newt. With new eyes.

I suspect I won’t be the only one doing so.

This election couldn’t get more interesting for its twists and turns.

UPDATE: November 19: Hot Air notes the media taking an interest

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Greta

    I have often seen where a lie about a conservative can become chisled in stone while a truth about a liberal is like nailing jello to a wall because of the drumbeat of the MSM.

    I had the privledge of spending time with Newt when he came into town to discuss healthcare and I was on the panel he spent time with over a two week period. I walked away impressed with his intensity and focus like a laser beam on a topic and how he could unpeal it and reframe it to make it seem a lot more understandable to the common folk. He think could come up with the key 10 things that would make a difference, were possible to make happen politically, and list them in order of priority and impact. I was firmly in his camp.

    However, Newt I soon found out is a man of unlimited curiosity and was soon off doing other things. He seems to lack the drive to continue to see it through to completion. It is very frustrating for those who work with him and try to keep up. It is like his brain is suffering from ADD to the max. There would not be a core 4-5 things to keep maximum focus on to completion, but end up with massive numbers of things in various stages many of which never end up happening. I kind of see his personal life in much the same way. I knew the truth on his first marriage, but at the same time, he is now on his third.

    Newt has more talent than anyone in the field today on either side, but he scares me a little as to how he would operate as our president. I also know that his conversion to the Catholic faith is a very profound one and that he spent a great deal of time looking at all issues around faith. I had hopes that this would settle his restless soul and give him a firm base of stablity along with his current wife to whom he truly is devoted. He told me in an email exchange that his time completing the movie on Pope JPII which was outstanding, gave him new insight on perservernce. That is what I am looking for in the debates and by following his web site. If that happens, you could not have a better president than Newt in these troubled times. I pray for it each day.

  • Larry Sheldon

    As will I, but my dislike for the man is based mostly what he did not do when he held the reins in one our best shots at recovery.

    He had a Contract With America.

    And defaulted.

  • Molly Fanning

    I enjoy reading your thoughts. Always been conservative but I must say I believed that story too but I decided a while back that since Newt joined the Catholic Church he must have gone to confession and been forgiven for his sins. That should be good enough for me to at least listen and learn re: candidate Newt.

  • Joseph

    I’m still pulling for Cain, but if his campaign gets derailed, and there are forces in both parties that would like to see that happen, then I just might go with Newt.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    I think it was his other ex-wife. But I’m encouraged to see the Republican gymnastics on the guy so they can sign on to Contract On America Next Generation.

    The thing is that he committed adultery twice (at least) and dumped wives numbers one and two for numbers two and three.

    He may well have reformed his life–and I hope he did. Honestly. But I think he’s unfit as a candidate for high office. Plus he was politically trounced by Bill Clinton, and left office in shame, the only House Speaker to have been disciplined for ethics violations. Does the GOP really want him? Really? The rest of us think y’all can do a lot better.

    [Oh. Now "it was the other wife!" That's a joke right? If it is I appreciated it and laughed at it. See, I was never one of those folks that said, "Bill Clinton had an affair -- or many affairs -- so he was not fit for office." I assume assume our leadership is as fallen as the rest of us. But he may have turned his life around. As to his being "the only House speaker to have been disciplined for ethics violations" you're kidding, right? You're KIDDING, right? That's a joke? I think now, I really will have to take a much closer look at Newt, if this is the reaction. You're playing by an old rule book, and it's one that everyone is sick to death of. I personally would love to see Obama and Newt debate. I never liked him, but you cannot deny the intellect, any more than you could deny Clinton's. Yes. I'm going to look more closely. If sneering is all you can do, well...have at it. -admin]

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    I have always liked Newt. But I felt his past was too much of a hinderence to make it to the oval office. I’m reassessing that. Newt has become my alternate to Romney. I want the primary to come down to Mitt vs. Newt. Those are the only two qualified to be president. And a Romney/Gingrinch ticket would slam Obama hands down.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    By the way, do people know that Newt converted to Roman Catholicism a few years ago? He did.

  • fiestamom

    I have always been unsure about that story just b/c it was form the mainstream media.

    I’ve been thinking about giving Newt another look too. He is really good in the debates. But what is going to make it hard for me to overlook is why did he sit on the darn couch with Nancy Pelosi in the global warming ad?

  • Mark L

    Another illustration of Mark Twain’s observation that a lie travels halfway around the world by the time the truth pulls on its boots.

  • David F

    Thank you for this – I believed it too. This is the second time this week I’ve had to adjust my thinking about someone I dismissed based on false information. On Sunday after mass I flipped on the TV and ended up watching a few minutes of Joel Osteen, who I had completely dismissed, but all through second hand sources. I had dismissed him as a prosperity Gospel type, but his sermon was on dealing with disappointment difficulty stemming from expecting prayers to be answered your way. It did not have quite the clarity of a carry your cross talk, but it really wasn’t bad at all. “for whoever is not against us is for us” Mark 9: 40

  • Teresa

    The thought of Newt sitting down with Pelosi on the couch is bothersome, however, maybe he has seen the light. Thank you for this post from his daughter setting the record straight. Previous to this, I disliked Newt primarily because of his alleged treatment of his first wife. Since his conversion to the Catholic Church he seems more mellow and relaxed. What happened with his two previous marriages is between him and his Priest and as far as I’m concerned that is where it ends. Since the debates I am more convinced he can run rings around the current President and his teleprompter. Putting sitting down with Pelosi re global warming aside, I am convinced that Newt can run rings around the current President and his teleprompter in any debate. Romney, the current frontrunner, changes his mind and demonstrates that he has no core beliefs so he will not have my vote in our Primary.

  • Teresa

    Oh gosh, I seem to have repeated myself in the previous post. Sorry.

  • http://breadhere.wordpress.com Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    Thought provoking Elizabeth. I think that hands down, there is no one smarter and there should be no one more qualified than Newt for the GOP to run as a presidential candidate. However, something just seems to always get in the way of that.

    I do think that while certain exaggerations may have occurred, don’t you think that that is true for all politicians in the public eye in these times? One can say that the “other” side doesn’t get grilled by the press so much, but that is a matter of where one stands. While there has alawys been

    This Newt/divorce/philandering thing however, if I might point this out, is another issue of why it is a problem to over-focus on sexuality as the litmus test of candidate morality. Often any candidate’s/politician’s morality issues are around power, a complete disregard for truth (related to power) and – well power is the problem to me, the biggest sin. So much of the what happens – sex, money or whatever, are the symptoms of the real ill.

    And in the end no one wins, least of all our nation, as we tear each other apart with accusations and rarely lift anyone up in an appropriate manner. I am guilty of this, trying to and praying about how to live differently. To see ALL through new eyes.

  • daisy

    That first marriage, wasn’t that to his high school teacher? How was that valid in the first place?

  • Holly in Nebraska

    So a man shows remorse for committing adultery by divorcing his wife and marrying his mistress?

    I’ll give anyone a mulligan, but if you have had 3 wives or 3 husbands, you are either a bad judge of character or an impossible person to get along with. Are you fit for president? You better shine in some other areas to make up for it. If you can’t get along with people you claim to love, how are you going to get along with people you don’t like?

    [And of course, as Christians, we don't believe anyone can change or be reformed. Except Robert Downey Jr! :-0 -admin]

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Over at Mother Jones, they reprinted last spring part of the original article that caused all this.

    Take a look here:


    Dcn. G.

  • kevin

    The nice thing about Bill Clinton is how he lowered the bar so much. Cain accused of sexual harassment of two women via gestures 12 years ago? Who cares?? Clinton got away with the Juanita Broderick thing, Jennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky, etc., etc.

    Newt is probably somewhere between Clinton and Reagan on the moral scale. What most concerns me as Greta noted is his seeming ADD and inablity to focus on anything for very long. I do think he would trounce 57 states Barry in a debate though.

  • friscoeddie

    Ah Cain is out and Newt is now in? We Dems tremble!!!

    [Don't know that anyone "out" or "in." Right now I don't see anyone I want to vote for. But keep trembling. -admin]

  • http://breadhere.wordpress.com Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    It is always nice to see us all line up, not as Catholics but as Republicans or Democrats first. How sad.

  • Mutnodjmet

    If this is true, and since it comes from Newt’s daughter (and not the MSM), I will assume it is, there is something to really weigh: How much intestinal fortitude it took Newt not to go public with this version of events, and take the slings and barbs so he didn’t trouble his ex-wife.

  • friscoeddie

    Newt’s people dropped the dime..1. he’s from Georgia 2. he was the only one around in 90s to have a connection with the restuarant assoc.. 3. he benefits most on Cain crash.
    Dems still trembling? not

  • Roz Smith

    I long wondered about the veracity of the story because I knew through a friend that Newt had a close relationship with his daughter. That didn’t jibe with the story about doing his first wife dirt. My friend told me she had been out campaigning with Jackie one October when they ran across a man who went on a tirade about how much he loathed Newt. Jackie let him say his piece, then stuck out her hand and said “I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Jackie Gingrich.” The guy didn’t know what to say.

    Newt’s attention span does worry me but I suspect that many Brits felt the same way about another difficult personality with a mixed record of political success, Winston Churchill.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    “That’s a joke right?”


    I don’t perceive the need to get testy about this. I always thought the deathbed divorce request was a little too convenient a story. None of my business, anyway. Not having lived in Georgia, I never had the oppotunity to vote for the man. I agree with Fran’s assessment. Mr Gingrich is an immensely talented and intelligent man, and despite his getting outmaneuvered by President Clinton, a very able politician, too.

    Like many smart guys, Mr Gingrich has tripped on the stumbling block of pride. Again, not unlike his 90′s foil in the executive office. It is a matter of record he was the only sitting Speaker censured for ethics violations. That’s not to say other Speakers did meaner or more immoral things. They probably have.

    Like Fran, I think adultery and philandering point to other character flaws. Having sex outside of marriage does not disqualify one from public office. But a person who has a shaky relationship with the truth? Most definitely.

    Not being registered in a political party, I will be largely a spectator for the Iowa caucuses. But with this current raft of candidates, finishing last in the 2008 presidential election should mean something a bit lower than second place. I really feel for you Republicans. Every one of your candidates has serious flaws that will render them unelectable.

  • http://www.jackofclubs.blogspot.com/ JackOfClubs

    I’ve always liked Newt as a politician and just assumed that the stories about his divorce were at least exagerated if not outright lies. The media does that to popular conservatives and I basically don’t pay attention unless it is something that directly relates to their office. Even then, I am highly suspicious of “facts” as reported. Glad to know the truth is finally out, but it seems strange that no one bothered to rebut this slander before now.

  • Holly in Nebraska

    Sure you can reform, Christian or not. But Max had a good post a while back that pointed out that religion doesn’t necessarily fix your life and I agree. Has his basic personality changed? His decision-making? If you pledged your eternal love and devotion to 3 separate women I’m not giving you the benefit of the doubt. You are going to have to show me. I’m glad he found Christ. I’m glad he’s a Catholic. I think Todd is right about pride. After all he’s done, you’d think he would be just happy to find Christ and a another wife to love and retire and be thankful. To go back into public life and expect public trust? Does he think we can’t live without him?

  • Diogenes

    The only thing about his story that has changed is that he didn’t show up at the hospital when his wife was allegedly dying of cancer to present her with divorce papers. He’s still an admitted serial adulterer who is thrice married and who was involved in an affair with staffer while he was seeking to have President Clinton removed from office over the Monica Lewinsky affair. My opinion of him has not changed much at all. I hope he has repented, but that doesn’t change the fact that his past lack of character well into late middle age disqualifies him from my even considering voting for him. Why would this one change in his story really make a difference given the entire sad, scandalous life which no one, including Newt or any of this family denies.

  • Greta

    Got to love how the Democrats here are finding joy in the wide array of Republicans running for office. About this time in the last election, there were a number of folks like Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, Tom Vilsack, Tom Daschle, and screaming Howard Dean bouncing around. Hillary got beat based on Bill, John Edwards was given a pass for months on the rumors which proved far more than smoke, Biden is an ass whose mouth eliminated him, Kucinich is a nut job who now wants to impeach Obama, Daschle could not get confirmed for the healthcare job, and Howard the Duck Dean was a walking joke.

    Barry survived only because he got a complete pass on everything including his complete lack of any real experience and his horrible associations. How quickly we forget that most people credited the massive numbers and ongoing debates as good prep for the election fight. When the republicans get a nominee, you will see everyone rally because one thing is certain, the country cannot afford four more years of Obama at any price. I also note that many on the left are trying to mount some kind of a challenge and I would not rule out a third party from the left.

  • Mike McLaren

    Tell me something Todd, what makes Obama so, re-electable? This next election is going to be based largely on the failures of the current president, as it always is when there is an incumbant in the race.

  • Mike Lee

    Or maybe you should just realize that you know very little and therefore shouldn’t judge people too quickly (or at all)?

    I don’t understand why people read something and then think they know what the truth is. So you read one thing, and formed an opinion based on it. Now you read something that contradicts the first thing you read, and so THIS must be truth? I find the whole way of thinking very stupid. Wise up.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    Greta, please. I have no problem standing under the banner of not-Republican, but that doesn’t make me a Democrat. There are more than two choices. Quite frankly, I find both parties way too plutocratic and conservative for my taste. I wish they both would die–it’s the one form of euthanasia I can readily embrace.

    And while I admit I’m finding great entertainment at the Republican field, trust me when I write: I wish we had some real choices between good women and men who might live up to the office. We need diplomats, visionaries, and courageous leaders. Not celebrities in airbrushed sound bytes. No more lawyers or business leaders, please.

  • Klaire

    Regardless if the Newt wife story is true or false, what is true is the the man since became a practicing Catholic, a faith he takes seriously.

    For any Christian to view Newt as “damaged goods” is about far worse than if Newt were proven guilty. The cruz of Christianity is to repent and get back up, which Newt did, big time. To deny that, is to also deny the extraordinary mercy and love of God, which would also mean that the rest of us sinners were as doomed as Newt.

    It truly blows my mind that some of the biggest Newt finger pointers are the Christians, with some wraped mentality that God’s grace, forgiveness, and mercy can never apply to Newt.

    FWIW, I expect to see a Cain/Gringrich ticket; together an ideal combo for what the country needs at this time in history.

  • justamouse

    Huh. Well, that changes things. I’m glad she is trying to clear his name.

  • Greta

    Deacon Greg, not sure why you want to add Mother Jones to any discussion. I note in the article that they do not bother with facts and dismiss the daughter’s discussion as not bearing on the story they want to tell. One simple question…is there anyone at Mother Jones that does not bear a massive hatred of Newt Gingrich? How about a story on Nancy Pelosi from Rush or Hannity? That would give an unbiased truth to a story.

    Again, without a doubt, Newt is the brightest in both parties and also is very strongly committed to life, especially after his conversion to the Catholic Church and his time filming the movie on Pope John Paul II. He also has a very good understanding of how things work in Washington and how to get things done. His biggest mistake was not giving full credit to the biased nature of the MSM and how much they would side with Clinton on the shutdown or how effective Clinton was at communicating his point to that same friendly MSM. He has talked about that and I would believe has learned how to deal with the same MSM going forward.

    He does show strong signs that he has gained a new peace in his faith and in his marriage and at some point in age, one hopes a quiet maturity to detail. One thing is certain, if a series of Lincoln Douglas type debates, he would destroy Obama left unteathered to his teleprompter.

    As to his sitting with Pelosi on global warming, I think Newt has learned a lot more as we all have on how the data for much of this was distorted and while still wanting to act to protect our environment, is far from the Democrat position which would kill what is left of our industry and jobs.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    “Or maybe you should just realize that you know very little and therefore shouldn’t judge people too quickly (or at all)?”

    Or maybe not.

    It’s largely conceded that Mr Gingrich committed adultery with wives numbers three and two while he was married to wives two and one.

    “Tell me something Todd, what makes Obama so, re-electable?”

    He has no serious competition. He’s an excellent politician. He’s raised lots of money. Liberals who don’t like him are scared of the alternatives if they stay home for vote third party. The Republican who emerges from this primary cycle will be battered. If OWS gets traction, the real meanieheads will be the 1%, not the One. Maybe Americans would get nervous about the GOP holding both Congress and the White House–that didn’t go so well last time.

    I think a lot of Americans *hope* and *wish* he weren’t so re-electable. But be realistic. The president is going to have to have a major gaffe to blow this election. Still, on that score, I’ll grant that he is a Democrat …

    [Todd, the fact that you don't think this president has yet had a major gaffe speaks volumes about the sort of questions you say you ask! :-) -admin]

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    Excellent politician my foot. Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s the most inexperienced president in generations. Romney is going to kick his butt.

  • LisaB

    Todd, funny you didn’t mention he could be re-elected on his record of accomplishments.

    He won’t win. The regular guy type Democrats I know don’t like him and they’re old enough to know the world won’t fall apart if a Republican is president. Like Toby Keith & Gloria Estefan, I think we’ll see a lot more celebrity Democrats supporting Republican candidates. For celebrities like Steward and Colbert (who are desperately lacking comedy material because they can’t joke about the One) will just withdraw their support for O – they’re probably loosing money hand over fist right now – they need an R in the WH.

    Klaire, I like that ticket.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    Manny, your foot may well be an excellent politician. Does it have a position on single payer, Palestine, and financial reform?

    I’m sure that Democrats are pleased to see such sentiments getting reinforced in the blogoyard. The Clintons threw everything they had at the guy and his organization, and all they got out of the bargain was State.

    Like Mr Bush the second, Mr Obama doesn’t need to know what he’s doing. He has the organization in place. All he has to do is assemble his top advisors and say, “I’ll do everything you tell me in 2012, if you can get me reelected.” And between the money and brains and the Republican fumblebutts, it’s going to happen. Don’t underestimate this guy like you did in 2008. Remember, he routed one of the most experienced GOP politicians in the country.

    On the other hand, yes, we are talking the Democratic Party. If any “sure” thing can be botched, they’re the ones to do it. And this isn’t quite a sure thing, obviously.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    Lisa, no it’s not funny. But I didn’t ever say I was a supporter of Mr Obama. I’m not agreeing with you, but don’t make the error of thinking I’m automatically lining up behind the guy y’all love to hate. Count me as a skeptic: if anyone is lined up to agree with me, I ask questions. I always encourage people, even conservatives, to treat the world around them with the same attitude.

    If you happen to know several million guys, then maybe you know something the pollsters don’t. I think that those comedians you mention have had plenty of material the past few years. They’re still selling commercials, right? Somehow I doubt Jon Stewart is hoping for a Bush III presidency so he can have another eight or more years of comedy material.

  • http://www.patheos.com Amy

    Republicans for the most part, are quick to chastise members of their own party, be it a Congressman, Senator, or President. They even chastise the party as a whole for failure to do what they promise to do. In my state, Republicans tried to vote out a certain Republican Senator, but he was still elected.
    Democrats, on the other hand, vote for the party, not the person, so it doesn’t matter how inexperienced or the lack of moral values, principles, etc a Democrat running for office has, the Democrats will continue to vote for the Party. The Democrat mantra is PRO-CHOICE. That doesn’t matter to so many so called Catholics or Christians. They vote Democrat Party because they are completely uniformed. “Oh, my family has always voted for Democrats.” How many times have you heard this? And the Church has failed, too, supporting Democrats who support abortion. And just to be fair, the religious mainstream Republicans, in my opinion, do the same – vote Party. They don’t vote for the best candidate.

    A third party candidate would be welcomed. Mix it up a bit.

    I would love to see a retired general, admiral, any military man or woman throw his or her hat in the race from either party. Service to country, knowing the enemy, being on the front lines…leadership. No wishy-washy decision making. Yes means yes, no means no.

    And no Democrat wants to run against Obama? What does that say about the Democrat party? Either way, it is a very sad state of affairs.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    “And no Democrat wants to run against Obama? What does that say about the Democrat party?”

    A few things …

    First, I’m sure that a few people want to run. But they have to assess their overall situation: if they can’t win, they will be marginalized by a sitting president 2013-2017.

    Second, you have the name of the party wrong.

    Third, I don’t remember significant GOP primary battles in 2004, 1992, 1984, or 1972. In my living memory, a sitting president almost always gets a pass from his own party, except maybe for 1980.

    Again, I think many of you *wish* it were the way you’re writing. But objectively, your diagnosis tends to be way off.

    If we can’t get viable third and fourth parties in the US, the least they could do is give us the following option at the ballot: none of the above. If a candidate couldn’t get 50% of the vote, then a runoff election with new candidates could be declared. Or at least any candidate outpolled by “none of the above” would have to retire from the campaign. Then I think you’d get to see some serious people running for office.

    Why don’t all you embittered Republicans just leave your party and join me in rejecting the plutocratic pandering to mediocrity? I can’t see voting for a major party candidate in 2012. The president is too conservative (no matter what Fox tells me about his socialism). The GOP is hopeless. Even our webmistress here is blatantly trying to convince herself to support a has-been who should be a professor emeritus enjoying his new-found Catholicism and his third wife in semi-retirement.

    If you had a candidate who could galvanize and inspire you in any way like Mr Obama did his supporters in 2008, you might have something. But seriously, y’all are just voting for a not-Obama. I get that. But is that the best that we as a country can do? Let’s all agree to write in “none of the above” on the second Tuesday in November 2012 and see what happens. What do you say?

  • http://www.patheos.com Amy

    How do you vote “none of the above” on an electronic ballot? I REALLY want to know!

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    The difference now Todd is that Obama has a record and by more than 50% disapproval the public does not like what they see in that record.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Todd, why don’t all you embittered progressives just stop shilling for incompetent frauds like Obama, whom, you always claim, are going to “Galvanize and inspire” us. Then, when things come crashing down, you accuse them of being “Too conservative” (ha!) and bellow at us to reject “Plutocratic pandering to mediocrity” (or whatever), and join you in going all gung-ho for the next Hope ‘n Change messiah. I mean enough is enough. Back in 2008, Obama was the greatest thing since sliced bread for you guys! Now you don’t like him anymore, and you demand we join you in your hunt to find some other (alleged) paragon of wonderfulness.

    It will all turn out the way Obama did, and you’ll still be bellowing. Republcians have their problems, to be sure, but you guys don’t offer anything.