As Gingrich considers 2012 run, his ex-wife talks about their breakup

Holly Bailey
August 10, 2010

As he considers a possible presidential run, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has worked hard to neutralize what could be a serious liability in his bid to win over social conservatives: His two failed marriages, both of which ended, in part, because of his infidelity.

In 1998, Gingrich left his wife of 18 years, Marianne, after owning up to a six-year affair with Callista Bisek, a congressional aide 23 years younger than him. The two married in 2000, and Bisek is now at the center of most of Gingrich's political efforts. But the image of a happy couple hasn't quieted concern among voters on the right, who have expressed mixed feelings about Gingrich's personal life.

In 2007, Gingrich appeared on Focus on the Family chief James Dobson's radio show, where he was contrite about his "moral failings." He told Dobson he had "gotten on his knees and begged God's forgiveness" for his affair with Bisek and the breakup of his marriage. That confession placated some of his critics — but they're probably not going to be very happy about a new interview in Esquire with Gingrich's ex-wife.

Speaking about the breakup of the marriage for the first time, Marianne Gingrich tells Esquire's John H. Richardson that her former husband lied to the public when he insisted they had an "understanding" about the affair. She says Gingrich tried to convince her to "tolerate" his relationship with Bisek, but she refused.

Just before the pair separated, Gingrich delivered a speech in Pennsylvania about family values. "How do you give that speech and do what you're doing?" she asked him. "It doesn't matter what I do," Gingrich replied, according to his ex-wife. "People need to hear what I have to say. There's no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn't matter what I live."

"He could have been president," Marianne Gingrich tells Esquire. "But when you try and change your history too much, and try and recolor it because you don't like the way it was or you want it to be different to prove something new … you lose touch with who you really are. You lose your way."

Gingrich has yet to comment publicly on the article.

(Photo by AP/Mark Wilson)