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January 20th, 2012
01:13 PM ET

Why Gingrich 'open marriage' allegation may not scare off evangelicals

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) -
The ex-wife of a Republican politician alleges her then-husband asked if they could have an open marriage, so evangelical “values voters” rethink their support for him, right?

Not so fast, say some evangelical leaders and experts.

Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s second ex-wife, Marianne, made the “open marriage” allegation in an interview that aired Thursday night on ABC News.

But because of political circumstances and the way Gingrich parried a question about the accusation during Thursday’s CNN debate, the episode may cause relatively little fallout among evangelical voters, who are expected to make up about 60% of the vote in Saturday’s South Carolina primary.

Some say the drama may even help Gingrich among such voters.

“To a degree, it will give [evangelical voters] pause, but there’s a much more insatiable appetite to defeat President Obama,” said David Brody, chief political correspondent at CBN News at the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“Gingrich has never claimed to be a patron saint,” Brody said. “People have known for years about Gingrich’s marriage issues. In a way, his well-known history of troubled marriage works for him here.”

CNN moderator John King opened Thursday’s debate in Charleston, South Carolina, by asking Gingrich about whether he would like to respond to the allegation.

“No,” Gingrich responded to mounting applause, “but I will.”

"To take an ex-wife and make it, two days before the primary, a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine," Gingrich went on, calling the allegation “false” and provoking a standing ovation from the debate audience.

It’s a safe bet that evangelical Republicans were among those clapping.

“The press is so unpopular with Republican voters that his answer helps him in the short term - it was a tactically brilliant answer,” said Richard Land, the public policy chief for the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest evangelical denomination.

“Whether it will work strategically is another question,” Land said.

The Christian Broadcasting Network’s Brody said that Gingrich’s response to the “open marriage” question “took a weakness and turned it into a strength.”

“Evangelicals have been bashed by the media for decades, so this is a common bond he’s able to play up with them,” he said. “He was able to develop a kinship with evangelicals over this last night.”

Brody said that Gingrich has spent lots of time on the campaign trail discussing stances that matter to evangelicals, like opposition to abortion and confronting radical Islam.

Land said the allegation from Gingrich’s ex-wife may hurt the candidate in the long run because it reminds voters that he was seeing his current wife, Callista, while married to his second wife.

Gingrich has admitted to his affair with Callista, whom he married in 2000.

“This reminds people that Callista is the other woman,” Land said, “and that the other woman could become the first lady.”

Gingrich’s evangelical backers have not shied away from discussing his past marital problems. In a conference call with evangelicals last week, Gingrich spoke extensively about his failed marriages.

“We're all quite aware that there was a season in Speaker Gingrich’s life in which his lifestyle was unacceptable,” Jim Garlow, a prominent evangelical pastor who was on last week’s call, said in an e-mail message. “He does not defend it. Nor would any evangelical. Nor do I.”

“He is as flawed as King David in the Old Testament,” wrote Garlow, who helped lead the campaign to ban gay marriage in California in 2008. “However, that did not keep God from restoring King David and using him after his moral failures, for the benefit of the entire nation.”

Still, even before this week’s allegation from his ex-wife, Gingrich’s personal baggage had given many evangelicals pause.

“Forgiveness is not the issue here, trust is the issue,” Land said. “Redemption is something that’s in our code as evangelicals, but trusting someone with the presidency is something entirely different.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Newt Gingrich • Politics

soundoff (1,224 Responses)
  1. Zina Sharon

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    August 6, 2013 at 5:20 am |
  2. Jody

    A whole lot of you folks need to start doing a whole lot of homework. Start with researching the Bilderberg Group and all that it stands for, its members and its intentions. See where it takes you ..... should be an interesting trip, within and without.

    March 8, 2012 at 2:36 am |
  3. GeorgeH

    It's very odd that so many so-called Christians want to defeat Obama, whose political agenda is much more similar to Christ's teachings than the Republican agendas are. Obama works to assist the poor and afflicted - as imperfect as his efforts might be - while Republicans use code language to justify their own greed and the privileged positions of their corporate pals. Considering the corporate nature of CBN and Big Religion in general, perhaps the anti-Obama fanaticism is understandable after all, but it's sad to witness and at times the hypocrisy is really hard to stomach.

    January 25, 2012 at 12:45 am |
  4. Ressurrection

    Booooo

    January 24, 2012 at 12:47 am |
  5. tom-ay

    i cannot wait until we bring back prayer to school so my daugher can do her voodo skull dance during the pledge of alliegience as she summons satan.

    January 23, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • One one

      LMAO !!!

      January 23, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • GeorgeH

      Yes, the so-called Christians want to bring back prayer into public schools, but I'll bet they would change their tunes quickly enough if they had to be fair about it and allow Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan and Satanic prayers and atheist statements to be read in rotation with the Christian prayers. What they really want is to impose their own beliefs onto helpless children. How about it, all you Christian ministers who might read this post? Would you be willing to allow other beliefs to have an equal part in any religious observance in public schools? In not, please explain why - and I'll bet that your explanation will be pretty amusing.

      January 25, 2012 at 1:20 am |
  6. BoldGeorge

    TR6....I guess you misread, misunderstood and rewrote my comment two pages ago (pg 24), cutting a couple of words and pasting it to the end of my first paragraph. It is of no wonder you think I'm going to hell. Sorry to see you feel that way.

    This is of no surprise, the twisting of words. People have been doing this for centuries with the Bible. In my first paragraph of that comment, I was specifically stating that sacrificial service is most definitely no longer needed in our times because of Christ's ultimate sacrifice. He paid our sins in full. Secondly, you made an incorrect biblical statement and spun it out of context. Actually, because of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, we are NO LONGER bound by the law, if you feel you are bound, may I say you are not saved. Please read the following:

    Romans 7:6 – But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.

    We no longer have to sacrifice any animal (or anything for that matter) just to appease God because we have broken the ten commandments. Christ did that for us and in return, what we can do is live a life honoring and glorifying His name, in other words, live a righteous life, the only righteousness imputed in us by God through Jesus Christ....all in the name of thankfulness. You seriously need to do some deep bible studying, and I don't mean this in a sarcastic way. I do this myself. May God bless you with His truth.

    January 23, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • HawaiiGuest

      LOL this always gives me a good chuckle. God in all his awesomness and love gave his only son. And all we have to do now to get into heaven is not live a life of good works and love for our fellow man....NOPE the way into heaven is to glorify this supposed almighty omniescent being that "loves" us enough to only give one way into "paradise". And my family wonders why I denounced the church, and the bible.

      January 23, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Bizarre

      HawaiiGuest,

      Here's another chuckle for you:

      A man was killed in a car crash. Upon waking, he found his grandfather standing over him offering to take his hand. His grandfather looked just like he had remembered him from his youngest days.
      "Where are we Grandfather?"

      "This is heaven."

      As the man looked around he saw all manner of people, they walked past a smiling Buddhist monk, he saw a Shi-ite holy man laughing and talking with a Hassidic Rabbi. Over in the trees he saw a Wiccan and a Navajo Medicine man engaging in loving conversation. But something inescapable seemed odd.

      Finally, they came to a high wall; he could hear singing from the other side. "Grandfather," he asked, "what is this?"

      "Shhh not so loud, it's the Christians... they think they are the only ones here."

      January 23, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Oh man Bizzare I almost LOLd right at work. You almost got me in trouble man lol.

      January 23, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • One one

      So, what exactly is god "saving" us from. From the curse of his wrath that he put on all mankind because in the beginning two people wanted knowledge. So, he changes his mind and decides to lift his curse. How does he do this? By killing his son. Now, god is all powerful and could have easily lifted his curse by waving his magic wand. But no. He apparently prefers the drama of a bloody sacrifice of his son. Now, all we have to do is believe all that and we get to go to heaven. But if we don't, we are sent to hell to burn forever, because Jesus loves us. Does this make any sense?

      January 23, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  7. Reality

    How much money and aggravation would the following save the US taxpayers ?:

    Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
    There never were and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror like 9/11.

    – One trillion dollars over the next several years as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.

    – Eighteen billion dollars/yr to Pakistan will stop.

    – Four billion dollars/yr to Egypt will end.

    Saving 2 billion lost Christians including the Mormons:
    There were never any bodily resurrections and there will never be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity!!!

    – The Mormon empire will now become taxable as will all Christian "religions" and evangelical non-profits since there is no longer any claim to being a tax-exempt religion.

    – Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
    Abraham and Moses never existed.

    – Four billion dollars/yr to Israel saved.

    – All Jewish sects and non-profits will no longer be tax exempt.

    Now all we need to do is convince these 3.5+ billion global and local citizens that they have been conned all these centuries Time for a YouTube,Twitter and FaceBook campaign!!!!

    January 23, 2012 at 8:46 am |
  8. ms

    Uh, seriously, reading your blogs makes me think some of you should seek professional help...and since this is religion blogs, God bless :)

    January 23, 2012 at 6:28 am |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Take time with God in the morning

    January 23, 2012 at 4:52 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Stop wasting your time troll!!! Taking time for imaginary friends is only something children do!

      January 23, 2012 at 5:05 am |
    • bringoutyourdead

      demons ridicule prayer demons fear prayer

      January 23, 2012 at 5:55 am |
    • TR6

      Prayer is searching in a dark room
      For a black cat that isn’t there
      And yelling “I’ve found it”

      January 23, 2012 at 5:57 am |
    • bringoutyourdead

      demons ridicule prayer demons fear prayer prayer reveals God

      January 23, 2012 at 5:58 am |
    • Mirosal

      I'll bet that "bringoutyourdead" thinks that the tv show "Ghost Hunters" is really a true-life docu'mentary.

      January 23, 2012 at 6:35 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Mirosal: Apparently this person thinks that spewing the word demon and the word prayer mean anything to people who obviously don't believe in either. What a horribly sad delusional life they lead. btw: Steve and I have some news for you...I'll inbox you on fb when I get home tonight.

      January 23, 2012 at 7:06 am |
    • Mirosal

      Should I be cringing in fear of your news? lol These "people" (for lack of a better word) think talking to imaginary things is ok .. and it would be, if you're only 4 years old.

      January 23, 2012 at 7:13 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Mirosal: No cringing involved...this is actually very cool news.

      January 23, 2012 at 8:00 am |
    • bringoutyourdead

      demons think they have answers when they really don't know the questions. demons move in were dead souls are mouldering

      January 23, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Mirosal

      @ Bringout .. you're the one who needs to supply answers. It's your claim. Your burden .. show us .. time to lay your cards on the table, you've been 'called'

      January 23, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Nope

      We've been praying you stop posting this crap, yet it continues, proving prayer doesn't work.

      January 24, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  10. Tom, Tom, the Piper's son

    But it's rude to steal someone's handle.

    January 22, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Then why are you doing it, herbie?

      January 22, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • herbie

      See above handle for correct spelling of herbie. it is spelled h-e-r-b-i-e not t-o-m-t-o-m-t-h-e-p-i-p-e-r-s-s-o-n take a spelling class you witless moron.

      January 23, 2012 at 4:49 am |
  11. bringoutyourdead

    demons oppose prayer

    January 22, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • Answer

      Only desperate people pray.

      January 23, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • bringoutyourdead

      demons try to discourage prayer desperate is a word demons like to use

      January 23, 2012 at 4:56 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Prayer only benefits the one speaking the prayer.

      January 23, 2012 at 5:23 am |
    • bringoutyourdead

      demons try to marginalize prayer

      January 23, 2012 at 6:00 am |
    • EMP

      Is that in the Bible? I guess I thought I'd remember the term "marginalize" if it had been in the Bible.

      The only difference between praying and wishing is that people kill over what they're praying to. Nobody every killed over the first star they saw at night or a dandelion. I think that says a lot about religion in general, really.

      January 23, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  12. Robert Yarush

    I would venture to say that Gingrich's approach to marriage is probably more in tune with most Americans than not. When the majority of Americans are experiencing divorce... why is it so incredibly hard to imagine Americans giving Gingrich a pass on this particular subject... Democrat.. Republican... Black... white.... Most Americans do not hold the secret to marriage.... why?? because it goes against all human nature. I do believe that Americans are begining to realize that marriage isnt quite a sacred as they had been trained to believe. I do believe this issue of Open Marriage will not be a show stopper for Gingrich.... so Americans will just have to wait out the next stint of stupiity to take him out.

    January 22, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It's not divorce that most Americans find distasteful. It's not even the cheating. It's the bald-faced hypocrisy Newtie exhibits, nay, flaunts, in preaching about family values after having committed adultery twice over.

      January 22, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Enjoy time with God in the evenings

    January 22, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nah. I enjoy my time with a good book or movie and cuddling with my husband.

      January 22, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • JC

      Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son: Do not throw pearls before.....

      January 22, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You wouldn't know a pearl if one jumped up into your an us.

      January 22, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And you couldn't afford one if your salary doubled.

      January 22, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • curious

      I'm agog with surprise, Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son. Are you really cuddly?

      January 22, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'm sure there are many things that render you agog.

      January 22, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • curious

      Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son, I believe you and your ways could surpass anything that I've ever heard of. I salute you.

      January 22, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Then you have little imagination. I am sorry for you.

      January 22, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • bringoutyourdead

      demons hide behind characters in nursery rhymes

      January 22, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Is that what you're doing, herbie the gerbil stuffer?

      January 22, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's son

      In case I'm not clear, you shove a plastic tube up your an*us and encourage the little fellow to crawl on up. Quite a thrill.

      January 22, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • herbie

      It's truly exciting to feel it wriggling!

      January 22, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's son

      You know, there is a way we can share, herbie.

      January 22, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • herbie

      it is more of a pig thief thing.

      January 23, 2012 at 4:50 am |
    • TR6

      Prayer changes things in exactly the same way as neutrinos do

      January 23, 2012 at 6:00 am |
    • Nope

      We keep praying you'll stop posting this drivel and you just keep on trolling.

      January 23, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Keith

      I find it hard to believe someone who is so obviously filled to overflowing with hate could cuddle with anyone. Then again, Hitler loved dogs.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Ljudmila

      Verizon will show the charge of for the full seven year peirod as that is factual. Look under the collection items and make sure the collection company has reported paid collection or a zero balance as owed. If not then dispute that to the credit reporting companies. as to your last question not all companies report to all three reporting agencies as there is a cost to do so monthly and they may just subscribe to 1 of the three. So you cannot get that part fixed

      July 29, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.