‘That one brief moment doesn’t define our lives.”
Jackie Cushman, Newt Gingrich’s second daughter, tells National Review Online that her parents’ divorce, though painful, should not loom over her father as he pursues the presidency.
But Cushman acknowledges that the story of the divorce, and her father’s 1980 visit to Emory University Hospital to see her mother, Jackie Battley, has become political lore.
Cushman sighs when I mention the November 1984 issue of Mother Jones
For more than a quarter century, the magazine’s profile of her father has haunted Gingrich’s reputation. In the piece, her father’s associates claim that he approached his first wife, then battling cancer, with a “yellow legal pad” scribbled with a “list of things on how the divorce was going to be handled.”
Ever since the article was published, Gingrich has been accused, to various extents, of coolly and abruptly leaving his cancer-stricken wife for a much younger woman.
Cushman, who was 13 when her parents split, says she and her older sister, Kathy Lubbers, have for the most part moved on from their initial frustration with the Mother Jones story.
But as Gingrich continues to rise, Cushman hopes that “inaccurate” retelling — which she says skews and politicizes her parents’ conversations — will not define her father’s character.
“A lot of times, people have the wrong impression, repeating what they have heard,” Cushman says. “It’s very important that people understand what the truth is, and then they can decide.”
“This is a very private matter,” Cushman says. “Divorce is always painful; it’s never an easy thing. And that was a hard time for my family.” Yes, her parents argued, but to call her father a monster, she says, is a disservice to the “four people actually involved.”
Rather than walking out of his family’s life, Cushman says, Gingrich worked diligently to keep his daughters close after his marriage’s collapse. Three decades later, the episode has become a healed wound, she tells me, remembered but rarely discussed.
Gingrich, for his part, is a loving father and doting grandfather, Cushman says, inviting her two children, Maggie and Robert, to debates and playfully winking at them on live television.
Gingrich and his third wife, Callista, she adds, always send flowers to Maggie before recitals, a tradition Gingrich started with his own daughters. And though he is busy on the campaign trail, Gingrich, she says, takes care to visit the Cushman home near Atlanta “as often as he can.”