NEW YORK — ABC News interviewed Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s second wife — with whom he’s said he has no relationship — and is likely to air the segment Thursday on “Nightline,” an ABC News executive told The Associated Press.
That’s two days before the South Carolina primary, where the former House speaker is trying to topple GOP front-runner Mitt Romney by casting himself as the more conservative option.
The ABC News executive did not indicate what the ex-wife, Marianne Gingrich, said in the interview. The executive spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plans for airing the interview were tentative.
The interview, should it air before Saturday’s primary, would shine a spotlight on a part of Gingrich’s past that could turn off Republican voters in a state filled with religious and cultural conservatives who may cringe at Gingrich’s two divorces and acknowledged infidelity.
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Marianne Gingrich has said Gingrich proposed to her before the divorce from his first wife was final in 1981, and they were married six months later. Marianne’s marriage to Gingrich ended in divorce in 2000, and Gingrich admitted he’d already taken up with Callista Bisek, a former congressional aide who would become his third wife. The speaker who pilloried President Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky was himself having an affair at the time.
As tentative plans to air the interview were disclosed, Gingrich’s campaign released a statement from his two daughters from his first marriage — Kathy Lubbers and Jackie Cushman — suggesting that Marianne Gingrich’s comments may be suspect given emotional toll divorce takes on everyone involved.
“Anyone who has had that experience understands it is a personal tragedy filled with regrets, and sometimes differing memories of events.
“We will not say anything negative about our father’s ex-wife,” they said. “He has said before, privately and publicly, that he regrets any pain he may have caused in the past to people he loves.”
A message seeking comment from Marianne Gingrich was not immediately returned.