In response to the Drudge Report’s scoop about Marianne Gingrich’s interview with ABC News, Bob Walker, a senior Gingrich adviser, tells National Review Online that the campaign will fight back. “It is pretty nasty to use personal tragedy for political exploitation,” he says. “That was a very bitter divorce, and you’re talking about somebody who is still, probably, very bitter.”
Beyond Walker, several sources close to the Gingrich campaign agree on the merits, but predict that Gingrich will likely ignore the story. They tell NRO that the interview is a “retread” of an Esquire magazine article published in 2010, and that Gingrich will not respond to the broadcast, at least in any official capacity.
“He’ll answer questions from voters, he’s not running away from anything, but these are old issues from the divorce,” says one source. “He has addressed these issues before, and there is nothing new here.”
Other sources familiar with ABC’s editorial direction on the segment shrug off the newsflashes, guessing that Matt Drudge, the site’s editor, was playing up a leaked scoop, nothing more. “Marianne Gingrich’s unhappiness with how things ended is something people close to Newt have known for a long time,” says a second source. “The real response from people who know him is disappointment with Marianne for doing this, and sadness about the whole situation.”
A prolonged battle with her over quotes, or with ABC News, is likely not on the horizon. There may be concerns voiced about how certain anecdotes are presented, and about specific claims, but “Gingrich has addressed this time and time again,” says a third source. “He is out there all of the time, in all of these forums, acknowledging that he has made mistakes.”
ABC News wanted Gingrich to come on Nightline to offer a rebuttal of sorts but Gingrich’s advisers declined. “This is a sideshow, a distraction,” the third source says. “Is it helpful? No. But is it a game-changer? No.”
EDITOR’s NOTE: This post has been updated to include new reporting.
Below, Gingrich’s daughters issue a memo to ABC News:
To: ABC News Leadership
From: Kathy Lubbers, Jackie Cushman
Date: January 18, 2012
The failure of a marriage is a terrible and emotional experience for everyone involved. Anyone who has had that experience understands it is a personal tragedy filled with regrets, and sometimes differing memories of events.
We will not say anything negative about our father’s ex-wife. He has said before, privately and publicly, that he regrets any pain he may have caused in the past to people he loves.
ABC News or other campaigns may want to talk about the past, just days before an important primary election. But Newt is going to talk to the people of South Carolina about the future– about job creation, lower taxes, and about who can defeat Barack Obama by providing the sharpest contrast to his damaging, extreme liberalism. We are confident this is the conversation the people of South Carolina are interested in having.
Our father is running for President because of his grandchildren – so they can inherit the America he loves. To do that, President Obama must be defeated. And as the only candidate in the race, including Obama, who has actually helped balance the national budget, create jobs, reform welfare, and cut taxes and spending, Newt felt compelled to run – to serve his country and safeguard his grandchildren’s future.