Do Newt Gingrich’s Wives Matter?

Do Newt Gingrich’s Wives Matter? November 16, 2011

Joan Walsh has a great line:

The GOP presidential primary is a lot like a kindergarten t-ball game: When it comes to being in first place, just about everybody gets a turn. And now, congratulations, Newt Gingrich: It’s your turn!

This means, of course, that the amiable professor now will now be freshly scrutinized in both his personal and his political life.  So far, he’s not been considered a threat, so his liabilities have been overlooked by his rivals.  However, as he rises in the polls, his life is about to undergo the same treatment that Herman Cain and Rick Perry have experienced… and it’s not going to be pretty.

First let’s talk about the most obvious problem – his wives.  Nineteen year old Newt married 26 year old Jackie Battley, his former high school geometry teacher in 1962.  They had two children, but Newt had an affair with Marianne Ginther and left Jackie to wed Marianne one year later.  Then, in the mid-1990s, Gingrich met a staffer in the House of Representatives — Callista Bisek  — who is 23 years his junior. Newt married her shortly after his divorce from his second wife Ginther.  They are currently married, and Callista plays a front-and-center role in Newt’s campaign.  (She has her own portion on Newt’s website here, in a move that shows that Newt might be tone deaf on how much women voters want to see the trophy wife of a Presidential candidate supposedly running to protect family values.)

Of course, it’s not just the fact that he’s had — count ’em — three wives.  There’s the infamous “hospital story,” too.  Apparently, Newt visited  Jackie and demanded that she discuss terms of their divorce, while she was in the hospital recovering from an operation for uterine cancer.  (Read how this anecdote has come to define Newt in ways that do not promise to disappear if nominated for the GOP.)

Walsh writes:

Gingrich is probably best known for serving his wife with divorce papers while she was recovering from cancer surgery, so he could marry his mistress, whom he later divorced to marry a staffer. But he’s also probably the only politician, who when you’re asked “What’s the worst thing he’s done?” has done a lot of things that rival leaving his cancer-stricken wife for his mistress.

She details some of his strange positions and mistakes in “Newt Gingrich: Even His Baggage Has Baggage” where she points out that there’s even more to the sexually sordid story.  When he was cheating on his second wife with his third, he did this while leading the drive to impeach Clinton over lying about adultery… “when he was himself lying about adultery.”

He’s asked for forgiveness.  This is not only an important, integral part of the story, it is the story… especially as it pertains to Newt’s salvation. We have all benefited from divine mercy, and are thankful for a Savior who went to such great lengths to make forgiveness possible!

However, as wonderful and life-giving as forgiveness is, there are still real-world consequences to sin.  For example, voters might look at him with skepticism as he runs to combat the moral decay of our nation.  Voters might find his claims to protect traditional marriage a little hard to swallow.  They might also find it hard to trust his political promises, considering how easily he broke his personal promises.

I’ve heard many evangelicals mention Newt as a viable alternative to Gov. Romney, and I can’t help but think that it would be quite ironic if social conservatives make a moral statement against the LDS candidate by rallying behind this thrice married lothario.

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  • Daniel

    You make some very good points in your post. It bothers me how people (Republicans) dismiss his private life as having an irrelevant bearing on how he conducts his public business. But to me, if you can’t keep the most important promise that a person makes (twice!), why should I trust you to keep any of the promises you make to me? Repentance does matter, but what troubles me is that even in his current presidential campaign, Newt tried to justify his adultery by attributing it to love for his country:

    “There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.”

    He could have meant, “Working hard brought me to a weak point that made me more susceptible to sin,” but even then, he’s trying to partially justify his actions. This is problematic for me.

  • Juanita

    I enjoyed your comments about Newt. I am really getting upset with conservatives critisizing Romney for flip flopping and many don’t think he is conservative enough. Wake up America. We need someone with the intelligence, the bussiness experience, the faithfullness to his family and many other qualities which Mitt possesses. We missed out last election by not voting Mitt in . We wouldn’t be in this mess we are in now if the American people had paid attention. I don’t feel his faith should play a factor. I am also an “Evangelical for Mitt”. Keep up the good work!

  • Rev. Ton P. Alcantara

    It’s just unfortunate that Newt’s moral failings will haunt him the rest of his life though God can forgive him if he truly is repentant but American voters could not. If he has not been faithful to his wives (which is the most sacred of all covenants man can enter into) how could you expect him to be faithful to the voters that will elect him? He bungled an opportunity of a lifetime to be possibly elected to the highest office of the land. His outspoken criticism of Clinton’s adultery was an act of great hypocricy equal to none. He doesn’t deserve my vote in the primaries nor in the general election.

  • Cora Daniels

    Get real! How many presidents have not commited adultry. Judge you not unless you be judged. Whomever he sleeps with is none of my business as long as he can get our country out of debt and on the road to recovery.

  • gene

    The so-called conservatives (many….not most) are :proving to be the biggest hypocrits in american politics. The liberals are “in your face, everything goes”
    corrupt or not thay are not impeaching because of adultry while doing it…and even if they were it would fit their standardless patterns.
    Didn’t Pat Robertson recently say…Romney is a good christian!?
    Pres. Obarfa is wetting his pampers…thinking of facing Mitt!

  • Scott Evans

    Newt’s relatively young. He still has time to go through a couple more at least.

  • The Other Nancy

    I heard a news person just yesterday say that he had interviewed three dozen people in Iowa and it shocked him that no one seemed concerned about Newt’s infidelities. We seem to live in an age of relevancy without any regard to the laws of God. It is imperative that we get a President that can lead this country who can be a worthy example of loyalty and fidelity. (I’m thinking Mitt Romney fills the bill.) The Old Testament is a story partly of the Israelites failings in which they could not be loyal to their maker and the Lord calls this a type of adultery. We do not want a proven adulterer in the White House for all the reasons you and others have stated and more. Besides, Newt will be barbecued for all the changes in his positions over a 40 year career in politics. He has been prolific in print and it will be extremely hard for him to walk back from all those positions that will be brought up. With Newt facing off against Obama, the only wins will be the debates but he will lose in the court of public opinion when people really start paying attention.

  • Bert Chapman

    Unfortunately this moral relativism about marital fidelity has been bipartisan in recent decades as evidenced by the mainstream media and popular dismissal of the Kennedy’s serial philandering, Anthony Weiner, Bill Clinton, Rudy Giuliani etc. One’s loyalty or lack of loyalty to their spouse has a direct bearing on their reliability in making promises to the American people, domestic political colleague, and international commitments to foreign leaders and alliances the U.S. is involved in.

  • John Haas

    “Bravado,” indeed!

  • Mary

    From what I know fo those who are familiar with Mr. Gringrich’s personal life, he has had a true conversion and I believe that repentance blesses the heart of the Lord who surely forgives. He’s clearly the smartest and most articulate of the current candidates. Romney will not be able to beat Obama, even in this economy, as he lacks something that connects him with people.

  • signalfire

    Newt was charged a $300,000 fine for lying to Congress and other ethics charges. He cheated on wife #1 and then wife #2 after reportedly saying that they weren’t ‘pretty enough to be the wife of the president’. When confronted on his hypocrisy by wife #2, she said that he responded that it didn’t matter what he did, only what he said.

    Meanwhile, now he’s married to a lookalike of the blonde robot from “Mars Attacks!” and wants us to forgive and forget. And to top it all off, Callista is a Catholic who knew he was married when she started an affair with him.

    Just how forgiving IS this god of yours? Cuz it’s looking pretty dicey for the Gingrich’s. Frankly, I’d rather have someone with a lifelong moral compass leading the country, not one who sins on a regular basis and thinks the confessional will take care of everything. He’s a sociopath, plain and simple. Please learn what that is and how to identify it. There seems to be a lot of it going around.

  • teamexcite

    Newt is he wrong candidate. He is someone whose morals and ethics are deplorable. And yet, no one seems to care? I find this hard to comprehend, It is illogical. Does the disdain for Romney and his religious views run so deep that people would actually gravitate towards Newt? Do people really believe he is the best candidate or simply ‘Anyone But Romney’ which in and of itself is foolhardy. At he time of our country’s greatest it’s no time to turn to candidates who are inferior only because of intolerance. I appreciate this site and am encouraged by individuals who recognize Romney is by far the best candidate.