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January 25, 2012

Column #1587

 The Three Wives of Newt Gingrich

By Mike McManus

            Newt Gingrich’s first wife, Jackie Battley, was his high school geometry teacher.  He pursued the shapely blonde relentlessly, dating her at 16, telling friends he would marry her.  Indeed, he did just that in 1962 at age 19 as a college freshman.  She was 26.

            “He saw a nurturing, mothering kind of person that he needed, and she finished raising him,” a friend told Gail Sheehy for a 1995 article in Vanity Fair.

            Newt’s stepfather was so opposed to the marriage, due to their age difference, that he and his family, including his mother, refused to attend the wedding.

            Nine months later, the Gingrich’s first daughter was born; another followed soon afterward.

            “Jackie put him all the way through school and a Ph.D. He didn’t work,” asserts Dolores Adamson, Gingrich’s district administrator from 1978-1983.  

            As a young history professor at West Georgia College, he lost races for Congress in 1974 and 1976 before winning in 1978.  He took a one-third pay cut to campaign, while she continued to support him. He had affairs during both campaigns.   

            When Newt won a seat in the House in 1978, Jackie moved with him to Washington, but their marriage was already in trouble.  They went to counseling, “It was a very bad period of my life,” Newt told Gail Sheehy. “I ultimately wound up at a point where suicide or going insane or divorce were the last three options.”   

            Why did he want a divorce? “She’s not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of a President. And besides, she has cancer,” reported The New York Times.  

A President?  His ideas as a freshman 32 years ago.

            The divorce was a shock to Jackie.  After a third surgery, he came to the hospital to discuss the terms of the divorce.  Ultimately, she took him to court to get “basic financial necessities met,” because her utilities were about to be cut off.

            Newt’s second wife, Marianne Ginther, dropped out of Kent State after two years, but became an effective community planner in rural Ohio.  At age 28 she went on a camping trip with Newt before his divorce was finalized.  She doubted her romance with the Congressman would be more than a fling,

            Unlike Jackie who was a maternal sparring partner, Marianne was the adoring acolyte. His sister Candace was surprised: “Jackie was his equal. With Marianne, initially, he was the authority, the high power.”

Marianne began showing up at staff meetings, but did not impress staffers who found her naďve, a country bumpkin, who often dissolved in tears.

            She went back to school to earn an undergraduate degree in business administration, and did everything she could to please her man.  As one observer put it, “Newt was indifferent to Marianne right from the beginning.”

            She gave him a book, “Men Who Hate Women & The Women Who Love Them,” which described men who dominate and control, the “Henry Higgins” type who are often “charming and even loving,” but who switch to “cruel, critical, insulting behavior on a moment’s notice.”

            Yet Newt insisted on having her travel with him on campaign trips. They bought a house in exurban Atlanta, where she spent much time alone. He helped her get a job.

 As he became a national celebrity, there were many female admirers, such as Arianna Huffington and Callista Bisek, a blond Congressional staffer a woman 15 years younger, with whom he began having breakfast.  That led into a six-year affair.

He callously called Marianne while she was dining with her 84-year-old mother, saying “I want a divorce.”  She asked, “Is there anyone else?” He was quiet, and she immediately knew.  Two days later he gave a speech on “family values,” surprising her with his hypocrisy.

Asked about it, he replied, “It doesn’t matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say.”

They went to counseling, and he seemed to vacillate.  After one session, he told her, “The problem with you is that you want me all to yourself,” and she replied, “That’s what marriage is.” He countered that Callista “doesn’t care what I do.”  Recently she told reporters, “He wanted an “open marriage,” which he denies.  But he wanted her to tolerate the affair.

He married Callista, a classical pianist and singer who is in the paid choir of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  Newt converted to Catholicism, and together they have made successful films.

Gingrich now asserts, “There are things in my own life that I have gotten on my knees and turned to God and prayed about.”

Floridians: This is a man not to be trusted.

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