Gingrich ‘open marriage’ request reignites hypocrisy charge

Updated
President Clinton is sworn in for his second term by Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist during the 53rd Presidential Inauguration Monday, Jan. 20, 1997, in Washington.  House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his second wife Marianne are in the background (she is directly behind Clinton's head in the photo).
President Clinton is sworn in for his second term by Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist during the 53rd Presidential Inauguration Monday, Jan. 20, 1997, in Washington. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his second wife Marianne are in the background (she is directly behind Clinton's head in the photo).
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

As hard as he tries, Newt Gingrich cannot bury the past. 

In an exclusive interview with ABC News’ “Nightline” scheduled to air tonight,  the GOP presidential candidate’s second ex-wife says 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 will air just two days before the presidential primary in Christian conservative South Carolina, where Gingrich is trying to present himself as the strongest alternative to front-runner Mitt Romney.

It is also a reminder of the monumental hypocrisy Gingrich practiced in the late 1990’s.

While carrying on with Bisek, Gingrich, as House Speaker, was putting the country through the ringer with a consuming, divisive and distracting attempt to impeach President Bill Clinton and remove him from office for his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Here’s a brief chronology:  In 1993, Newt and Marianne Gingrich had been married a dozen years when he began an affair with Callista Bisek, a House staffer who was 23 years his junior.  

At roughly the same time (1995-97), President Clinton conducted an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.  Clinton denied the affair in January 1998 during a deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment civil case, but admitted it in August 1998 when DNA evidence from a stained blue-dress emerged.

The House, with Gingrich as Speaker, wasted little time in trying to remove Clinton from office.  By Dec. 19, 1998, Clinton had become only the second U.S. president to be impeached by the House of Representatives (on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice).  

While Clinton survived a Senate trial and completed his term of office with generally high job-approval ratings, the impeachment process, various ethics violations and historic losses in the 1998 midterms had taken a huge toll on Gingrich’s political career.

Facing a rebellion in the Republican caucus, Gingrich announced that he would step down as Speaker and leave the House (which he did on Jan. 3, 1999).

Five months after that, on May 11, 1999, Marianne Gingrich told The Washington Post that her husband called her mother’s home and requested a divorce.  

The couple saw a counselor for four weeks, during which time Marianne said her husband asked for an “open marriage” so that he could continue to see whoever he wanted.  When Marianne Gingrich refused, the marriage was over.  

The divorce was finalized on April 6, 2000.  Newt Gingrich married Bisek four months later on Aug. 18, 2000.

Gingrich would argue in 2007 that the Clinton case was different from his personal transgressions.

“The president of the United States got in trouble for committing a felony in front of a sitting federal judge,” he said, arguing that Clinton had “deliberately committed perjury.”

But many would argue that the independent counsel had no business questioning a sitting president for  for acts done before taking office and unrelated to the office (remember Clinton v. Jones?).

 And even so, before, during and affair the Clinton impeachment, Gingrich constantly espoused family values and linked his party to wholesome family values.  In fact, he gave a speech with those themes the day after asking Marianne for a divorce! 

Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton

Gingrich 'open marriage' request reignites hypocrisy charge

Updated