ABC Lets Newt’s Ex Unload… Then Advises Us to Take Her ‘With a Grain of Salt’

Thursday morning, it was announced that ABC News’ Brian Ross conducted an interview last week with Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife, Marianne Gingrich. Marianne was the second wife of the former Speaker of the House. The two had a well-publicized, messy divorce after Newt began an affair with his current wife, Callista, in the mid 1990s. Marianne has been reported to still hold bitter resentment toward Newt, and her self-described reasoning for agreeing to the interview was to warn voters that her ex-husband lacks the “moral character” to be president.

The timing of the interview has been called into question by media critics because the planned airing will be less than 48 hours before the South Carolina Republican Primary. Gingrich is currently the leader in that state, if current public opinion polls are correct. ABC News’ decision certainly raises questions about journalistic ethics and whether it’s appropriate to air that type of interview so soon before a crucial vote that will most likely decide the political future of the affected candidate.

Now, I’ll go ahead and lay my cards out on the table: I’m not an expert in journalistic ethics. My background is in software technology, not Journalism. While I feel that I have a generally firm grasp of whether or not the media is being fair when it comes to the reporting of certain stories, this timing issue is above my paygrade. I would defer to the expertise of the owner of this site for a more substantive analysis. I’m sure Mr. Goldberg will weigh in on this topic sometime in the near future.

However, what struck me were some comments that Brian Ross, the interviewer, made this morning when speaking with a radio station. In prefacing his interview with Marianne Gingrich, he said, “I think we start by knowing that what an ex-wife has to say we all take with a grain of salt, I hope, because that’s what ex-wives can be known for.” I found that remark fascinating. Ross certainly brings up a strong point about the reliability of a bitter ex-spouse’s account of a failed marriage.

So… If that’s the overture Ross feels is appropriate for the interview, why was it appropriate for ABC News to pursue an interview with Marianne Gingrich for which the news organization had reportedly been courting her since November? If a news outlet doesn’t believe a story to be newsworthy or doesn’t believe the source to be credible, why would they offer a national platform to that source? It’s not as if Marianne came forward and contacted Gloria Allred for a joint press conference in hopes of derailing her ex-husband’s presidential campaign. She was actively pursued by a major news organization for the precise purpose of getting her to air out the negative feelings she has for her ex-husband, which by Brian Ross’ own admission, should be taken “with a grain of salt.”

Again, as someone outside of the journalistic profession, that just doesn’t seem ethical to me. It seems much more like tabloid journalism than anything else. Am I wrong?

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration (Computer Information Systems), and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. He is the author of the Sean Coleman Thriller series, which is available through all major retailers. John lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
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  • Mike Jackson

    Since when do ethics matter to a journalist, beyond those which will keep him or her out of legal trouble?
    Credibility in the main stream media? I don’t see that happening. At least not in this lifetime.
    That said, I don’t see Newt’s response (“No. But I will.”) as deflecting the issue, but giving a blunt and straight reply to a minefield of a question. Then addressing the motive of Brian King asking it, and his holding his feet to the fire as he tried to hide behind it not being his network that aired the hit-piece.
    Gingrich knocked one out of the park with the remainder of his response and others that followed on other questions.
    Once again, Gingrich put the media on notice that he will call them out as appropriate.
    Yes, Gingrich has taken a lot of media hits. Some deservedly, some self inflicted, and others simply because of his conservatism. He is accustomed to being in their collective cross hair and it seems to be his comfort zone.
    So, when the vetting of Romney become as vitriolic against him as those of Gingrich have been, I don’t know if Romney will want to stand up to that. If he does, will his responses be made as quickly and effectively as those of Gingrich have been?
    As an aside, I don’t care about Romney’s tax returns and how much he’s earned over the years. But it should not have taken the guy over a week to decide to release them. He should have known the matter would come up since his prior campaign with an immediate response.
    What I see in Romney is a guy who wants to be president and would do a decent job, but he seems to lack passion.

  • DOOM161

    My hope is that eventually every American will learn to not listen to what ABC “News” has to say at all.

    And if Gingrich has such a problem with Gingrich, why does she still keep his last name?

  • Glen Stambaugh

    ABC News has responded to criticism by claiming their interest in the interview was to cover his censure by congress. Right, of course!

    • John Daly

      At the time I wrote this column, I hadn’t yet seen the actual clips of the Brian Ross interview. After doing so, I have to concur with Bill O’Reilly who pointed out that Ross seemed to really be having a good time with the interview, which was very telling as to the motivations for conducting it.

  • cmacrider

    John: Excellent article. I practised law for 30 years and it is an implicit maxim of Family Law that you never believe your client’s version of the facts. The ascertainment of fault in a divorce case is almost impossible which is why many jurisdictions have “no fault divorce” systems. That being the case, it would seem that an ethical journalist would not be publishing this hearsay when. by their own admission, they did not learn the other spouses version of the facts.

  • RecknHavic

    I think they’ve only helped Newt by airing this. And i agree w/ Shirl, the Fox Suits For Romney will get some blow back for backing a liberal.

    • John Daly

      If Newt hadn’t reacted so strongly to this topic in tonight’s debate, I think the story absolutely would have hurt him. But Newt may have just done something amazing tonight in deflecting the charges in his favor.

  • Shirl

    If Brian Ross was such a good reporter at digging up dirt on Republicans and was not bias; why is it that Obama was born 2008 with a ready made family. We know nothing about our own president because the lame stream media is not credible. Give me a break! No one with any common sense believes any reporting by them any longer. You could tell by the standing ovations of America loving citizens of South Carolina. Newt took it away again! And by the way, I think FOX is going to get a blow back from trying to cram Romney down everyone’s throat.

    • Glen Stambaugh

      I was favoring Newt myself, but was turned off by his leftist attacks on Bain. I still like much of what he says, but don’t see him as the strongest candidate. He keeps hurting his own cause. His response to John King though, was brilliant and genuine.

    • Nancye

      Shirl said:

      You could tell by the standing ovations of America loving citizens of South Carolina. Newt took it away again! And by the way, I think FOX is going to get a blow back from trying to cram Romney down everyone’s throat.


      I couldn’t agree more!!!

      • John Daly

        I must say… I’ve read this claim a few times now that FOX News is cramming Romney down our throats, and I just don’t see it… And I watch a good amount of FOX News. I see people advocating for and criticizing every one of the candidates… including Ron Paul.

        • Nancye

          I do. What “Fox News” are YOU watching?

          • John Daly

            Well, as Bernie himself read from a report on the O’Reilly Factor last night, only 37% of the stories on Mitt have been positive on FOX News. CBS News has actually ran a higher percentage of positive Mitt stories.

            Honestly, I watch FOX News a lot and see a fair amount of positive and negative stories on all of the Republican candidates. Same with the analysis.

            I think we tend to get defensive when we don’t think the candidate of our preference is getting their due, but I think FOX has done fine on this.

          • Dimple

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        • Francis

          I think Jon Stewart said it best on this, How could a selcuar atheist country be dominated by religious extremists . what are they gonna do pray five times a day to a god they don’t believe in

      • Ali

        Cette xieme demonstration de l’efficacite du lobby dvieent fatiguante .L’on arrive a esperer que les Iraniens leur fassent gouter a cookie of their own dough