Gingrich Had Affair During Clinton Probe

The AP reports that Newt Gingrich was cheating on his wife while leading the impeachment against Bill Clinton for lying under oath about adultery. I had presumed everyone knew that several years ago but, judging by the attention it’s getting around the blogosphere, apparently not.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich acknowledged he was having an extramarital affair even as he led the charge against President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair, he acknowledged in an interview with a conservative Christian group. “The honest answer is yes,” Gingrich, a potential 2008 Republican presidential candidate, said in an interview with Focus on the Family founder James Dobson to be aired Friday, according to a transcript provided to The Associated Press. “There are times that I have fallen short of my own standards. There’s certainly times when I’ve fallen short of God’s standards.”

Gingrich argued in the interview, however, that he should not be viewed as a hypocrite for pursuing Clinton’s infidelity. “The president of the United States got in trouble for committing a felony in front of a sitting federal judge,” the former Georgia congressman said of Clinton’s 1998 House impeachment on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. “I drew a line in my mind that said, ‘Even though I run the risk of being deeply embarrassed, and even though at a purely personal level I am not rendering judgment on another human being, as a leader of the government trying to uphold the rule of law, I have no choice except to move forward and say that you cannot accept … perjury in your highest officials.”

While ironic, I’ve never thought the coincidence of the affair and the impeachment particularly hypocritical for precisely that reason. What I continue to believe hypocritical is for a guy to be running as a “family values” guy while so clearly willing to abandon said values. Repeatedly.

Gingrich, who frequently campaigned on family values issues, divorced his second wife, Marianne, in 2000 after his attorneys acknowledged Gingrich’s relationship with his current wife, Callista Bisek, a former congressional aide more than 20 years younger than he is.

His first marriage, to his former high school geometry teacher, Jackie Battley, ended in divorce in 1981. Although Gingrich has said he doesn’t remember it, Battley has said Gingrich discussed divorce terms with her while she was recuperating in the hospital from cancer surgery. Gingrich married Marianne months after the divorce.

While Gingrich is perhaps the most innovative conservative thinker and its most effective orator, at least among actual officeholders, since Barry Goldwater, he also happens to be a sleazeball of a man. I’m apparently not alone in this assessment, if a recent Gallup poll is any indication:

Gallup Republican Favorability Ratings

While Rudy Giuliani also has two divorces on his resume, and handled the second one very shabbily, at least he wasn’t running around preaching to people on morality when he was doing it.

UPDATE: More thoughts elsewhere:

  • LaShawn Barber expands on the “we already knew this” angle.
  • Steven Taylor has much more on the sleaze angle, including the “weirdness factor” that may be fatal to both Gingrich and Giuliani.
  • Doug Mataconis downplays this, noting that divorce has long stopped being taboo and that “expecting perfection in the personal lives of politicians is asking for the impossible.”
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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    That Gingrich still thinks he has a shot in 2008 with this kind of baggage speaks to his megalomania. If the GOP faithful excuses this kind of behavior, then it too speaks volume about its own stand on morality.

  2. legion says:

    Indeed, anyone who ever really paid any attention to Gingrich did already know this. It wouldn’t be news at all except for a) his interest in running for President, and b) the GOP’s general inability to stop bringing up the Clinton administration as the source of all that is bad in the world today. The juxtaposition of those two items pegs the ‘ol hypocrisy meter…

  3. Can you kindly point out which article of impeachment was about adultery? The impeachment was about perjury. You first sentence should end with ‘…impeachment against Bill Clinton for lying under oath.’ The subject on which Clinton lied under oath is not the critical item.

    If you can show that Newt also committed perjury (as opposed to lying while not under oath), that would be showing hypocrisy. One of the claims on the left is that Bush lied and thus should be removed. Yet they find no cause for Clinton to be removed for perjury. In both cases the facts alleged have to be proved (and I think Clinton pleaded no contest rather than was convicted of perjury) but the principle should be the same.

    And yes, if it could be proved Bush lied about Iraqi WMD (as opposed to the intelligence estimates he relied on and where in agreement with the previous administrations estimates were wrong), then he should be impeached for the same reason that Clinton should be impeached. Because we do not want to encourage those to which we give so much authority to lie to us.

  4. James Joyner says:

    If you can show that Newt also committed perjury (as opposed to lying while not under oath), that would be showing hypocrisy.

    Right. Read the second paragraph of the post (exclusive of blockquotes).

  5. legion says:

    I agree with you on all counts. Both sides should be held to the same standards.

    The subject on which Clinton lied under oath is not the critical item.

    But could someone please explain this to the yahoos on Fox who keep claiming that various things exonerate Libby for lying under oath/to investigators/to a grand jury just because he’s a “nice guy”?

  6. Hattie Caraway says:

    Now we know the difference between Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton — Gingrich MARRIED his intern!

  7. floyd says:

    Morality today is no longer based on principle,and so real morality has become irrelevant in the politics of a hedonistic unprincipled populous.