There’s nothing about this story I like. Nothing. First, let me state the obvious: Marianne Gingrich can feel any way she wants about her former husband. I don’t know if she’s telling the truth, or not. And frankly, I don’t care. What I find offensive (something the media have completely ignored) is her willingness – make that, her eagerness – to reveal personal conversations that supposedly took place inside the privacy of their marriage. If she wants to tell a close friend or two what she thinks of Newt, that’s one thing; but telling her sordid story to total strangers on national television is something else. In my view, it’s low class.
Then there’s Brian Ross, the ABC News reporter who did the interview for Nightline. Ross is a very good reporter. But this was not his finest moment. During an interview with Ross, Bill O’Reilly said he would not have done the interview. Neither would I. When a reporter gets involved with tawdry material, it has a way of rubbing off on the reporter. Besides, Ross went on a Washington D.C. radio station to plug the interview and 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.”
If you want your viewers to take the interview with “a grain of salt” why put it on the air in the first place? Sorry I asked, because that answer is easy: RATINGS.
There’s an easy formula to follow in such matters: sex = ratings. That’s why the story was on the air. The official reason, of course, was that Marianne Gingrich’s story tells us something about Newt’s character. Then why should we take it “with a grain of salt’?
Finally, there was CNN’s John King, who hosted the South Carolina GOP debate, and hit Gingrich with this right out of the box:
King: “Mr. Speaker, I want to start with that this evening. As you know, your ex-wife gave an interview to ABC News and another interview with The Washington Post. And this story has now gone viral on the Internet.
In it, she says that you came to her in 1999, at a time when you were having an affair. She says you asked her, sir, to enter into an open marriage.
Would you like to take some time to respond to that?
GINGRICH: No, but I will.
GINGRICH: I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.
KING: Is that all you want to say, sir?
GINGRICH: Let me finish.
GINGRICH: Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question for a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.
My – my two daughters – my two daughters wrote the head of ABC and made the point that it was wrong, that they should pull it, and I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate.
KING: As you noted, Mr. Speaker, this story did not come from our network. As you also know, it is a subject of conversation on the campaign. I’m not – I get your point. I take your point.
GINGRICH: John, John, it was repeated by your network. You chose to start the debate with it. Don’t try to blame somebody else. You and your staff chose to start this debate with it.
Let me be quite clear. Let me be quite clear. The story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period said the story was false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They weren’t interested because they would like to attack any Republican. They’re attacking the governor. They’re attacking me. I’m sure they’ll presently get around to Senator Santorum and Congressman Paul.
I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans.
Whatever the backlash against Newt Gingrich, the backlash against the media – from conservatives for sure and from moderates, too, I think – will be greater. And for good reason.