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. dave

    I take the ex wife's comments with a humongous grain of salt. However, there is no question he broke up a familiy twice through infidelity. Breaking up a family (leaving for another woman) is even worse than just the adultery. Anyone can fall if you are not totally vigilant, but to leave for that person and break up a family is even insult to injury. That is a cold calculated decision which shows dishonesty, selfishness, disregard for promises. He has done that twice. I am sure he can be forgiven by God and hopefully by all of us, but trust is different than forgiveness. Trust is built on behavior and is earned. Newt has unfortunately lost all credibility.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Donald Shimoda

      He is free to do whatever makes him happy just as you are.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Yes .. I thought the same thing. The last person on earth you'd ask for an objective view is a wife .. especially a jilted ex-wife. (no fury like the wrath of). If you have ever gotten a divorce you know the Oscar performance they can do in court (of a simple woman and a mom) (and not the knife wielding wench the police had to subdue). They know how to make it look. (and 100% of the judges go for it ..)

      January 20, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  2. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Prayer illuminates the Holy Bible
    Prayer finds God at home
    Prayer Brings joy to life
    Prayer changes things

    January 20, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • IntravenousDemilo

      Oh, stop it. You know perfectly well that's not true.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Donald Shimoda

      You are led through your lifetime by the inner learning creature, the playful spiritual being that is your real self. Don't turn away from possible futures before you are certain you don't have anything to learn from them. You're always free to change your mind and choose a different future, or a different past.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer makes you hoard cats.
      Prayer wastes time.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Prayer upsets demons

      January 20, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • TR6

      1.Ask a believer to pray for something concrete that is impossible. According to the Bible God should be answering impossible prayers all the time. However, what we will find is that every impossible prayer goes unanswered:
      o This explains why God ignores the prayers of amputees.
      o This explains why no one can move a mountain.

      January 21, 2012 at 4:54 am |
    • Mirosal

      Prayer changes nothing, and there are no such things as demons.

      January 21, 2012 at 4:56 am |
  3. RightTurnClyde

    It is interesting how selective the morals of the left can be. The do not believe in God, so if they think something is wrong (it is not actually for moral reasons). They can be livid about the Roman Catholic (pedophiles) and corporate Lear Jets .. but completely indifferent to r.a.p.e. in the Congo and b.e.h.e.a.d.i.n.g.s in Islam (1/3rd of the world). They don't even remember Locker-bee or the WTC (9-11-01) but can recall with clarity events 50 and 70 years ago (and see it s current history). They see ONLY what they want to see (a kid in NJ who commits sui.c.i.d.e.) and overlook front page headlines. So I never give much moral weight to their complaining (but see it mostly as politics). That is how they are.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • sharoom

      Um no. How in the world did you get the idea that the left is indifferent to Congo and beheadings? Even CNN has reported these stories and I've read the comments. Doesn't matter if you're democrat or republican. It was condemned from both sides.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Donald Shimoda

      There are no morals. No sin. No heaven or hell. Unless that is what you want.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • An inconvenient truth

      rarely is someone so wrong so often,donald misses on every asumption

      January 20, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Donald Shimoda

      If you learn what this world is, how it works, you automatically start getting miracles, what will be called miracles. But of course nothing is miraculous. Learn what the magician knows and it's not magic anymore. Assumptions exist if you want to believe they do and that is what makes you happy. Or you can find other roads, but they are all illusions. Assume what you wish.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  4. Alex

    Newt gets busted for ethical violations and gets fined $300,000, also cheats on sick wives and currently has a mistress that is old enough to be his daughter and that is morally just for Evangelicals. But Mit Romney is wrong because he is a Mormon, OMG

    January 20, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Donald Shimoda

      Newt, Mitt and Alex are all doing exactly what they want to do. And that is ok.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  5. Todd Pollard

    There is no proof that Gringrich did this. The Liberal Media is simply trying to smear him so Obongo will get relected. Is this women even really his exwife?? She could of been anyone.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • SafeJourney

      Todd, are you really that **** stupid? Do you know anything about Newt?

      January 20, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      What's more they had no concern whatever about Jonathan Edwards who was moral p.u.k.e. with a w.i.f.e. in her death bed. They cannot even recall Teddy Kennedy (many indiscretions) or the Kennedy's in general, the Senator from Nevada, the governor of New York (call girl patron), the fraud against the IMF chief ... or that Obama "never knew" the governor of Illinois. They cannot remember Monica under the desk ... Rev. Wright's outburst, Bill Ayers vivid history and his wife's. But then they cannot account for what they did with $170 trillion dollars either.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  6. TheMovieFan

    Hypocrisy is great for the GOP.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • howudothat

      That's one of my points. I don't care if he asked his wife for open marriage, I do care he went after Clinton. What bothers me more, GOP ok with this. What bothers me even more, is his disrespect when someone challenges him. He has this track record. Americans, do you want a President to negotiate to the world with his arrogance? He's a riot monger – meaning you either support him to your last breath or you want to strangle the man. Not a good quality......

      January 20, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  7. Canadian

    No, no, I'm not okay with him either. I don't really have an opinion on him. Just heard funny things about his wife so looked her up myself, and christ.... What has been seen cannot be unseen.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  8. Wesley Lanier

    I don't think that his marriage is that important in a presidential debate, and frankly I don't believe anything the vengeful X has to say. Why don't we investigate what she has done in her marriage/relationships. I am sure she is far from perfect. The fact is, is she got bitten, and now she's trying to bite back by trying to sabotage Gringrichs campaign. She needs to find something better to do with her time. Period.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Snow

      Spoken like a true sycophant.. keep it up, my friend.. maybe one day Newt will give you the time

      January 20, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  9. Sirned

    We Republicans don't care what our leaders personal lives are like. We just want them to tell us the best way to live our personal lives because we don't know how. The Republicans do not see this as hypocrisy. We just believe our leaders are to busy working and loving this country that they need to have a different set of morals than everybody else .

    January 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • little boy

      i liek turtles

      January 20, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  10. SafeJourney

    Evangelicals is Newt and his mistress/wife the examples of Americans you want in the White House. Newt is morally and ethicly bankrupt and he is definately corrupt. Dont let Newt and his mistress/wife anywhere near the White House

    January 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Prayer is a personal conference with God
    Prayer can be worship
    Prayer elevates the soul and strengthens the mind
    Prayer renews creation
    Prayer changes things

    January 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • SafeJourney


      January 20, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer causes small kids to get hit by buses when they aren't paying attention.
      Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
      Prayer wears out your clothes prematurely.
      Prayer contributes to global warming through excess CO2 emissions.
      Prayer fucks up your knees and your back.
      Prayer can cause heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
      Prayer exposes your backside to pervert priests.
      Prayer prevents you from getting badly needed exercise.
      Prayer makes you hoard cats.
      Prayer wastes time

      January 20, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • sharoom

      hoard cats LOL

      January 20, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • Donald Shimoda

      Would you step in front of that bus? Are you solving your problems? Why did you make them? Because you wanted to. You have something to learn from them. Would you walk rather than ride? Do you waste time? If prayer made you happy would you do it?

      January 20, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • sharoom

      Oh goody Donald Shimoda is trying to preach utilitarianism today.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Donald Shimoda

      Incorrect. The happiniess of others or the consequences of your actions is of no concern. We all do what makes us happy. Or unhappy. No exceptions.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • TR6

      2. Ask a believer to pray for something that is possible, and then simply count both the successes AND the failures of the prayer. As soon as we count both sides, we can statistically analyze the situation and see that "answered prayers" are nothing but coincidences. The statistics prove it every time:
      o This explains why non-believers win lotteries just as often as believers do.
      o This explains why believers die of cancer as often as non-believers do.
      o This explains why believers need health insurance just like non-believers do.
      o And so on...
      Even if you are a devout believer, you should be starting to see a pattern here. God does not answer the prayers of amputees. If he did, we would see amputees regenerating their severed limbs on a daily basis. God does not answer medical prayers. If he did, you would not need health insurance. God does not answer impossible prayers. If he did, people could actually move mountains like Jesus promises.

      January 21, 2012 at 4:59 am |
    • AGuest9

      Prayer causes the earth to open up and swallow small children if they lie.
      Prayer makes the large stone lions come to life and eat children who don't tell ALL of their sins in confession.
      Prayer makes childrens' tongues fall out and they bleed to death after taking communion if they have sin on their souls.
      Prayer makes people fly planes into buildings.

      Isn't religious education great???

      January 21, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  12. Midwestmatt

    Why would Gingrich's multiple affairs and lies scare off evangelicals? Because, at their heart, evangelicals are hypocrites who routinely demand others live up to a standard they will never try to live up to.

    The fact that evangelicals are standing behind Newt only reinforces their extraordinary hypocrisy and utter moral failure. They have no moral force, no right to preach and are as far from being moral as Newt himself.

    Their insistence that Newt is somehow forgiven for his numerous lies and affairs shows that the entire evangelical movement to be corrupt from within and they should no longer be viewed as a standard bearer for anything related to moral or upright behavior.

    Shame on all of you.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • TR6


      January 21, 2012 at 5:00 am |
  13. Joan

    John King/CNN disgusted me with John's 1st question. Do you think I care about what an ex has to say?! I want quality questions. We're in a presidential election year. The presidential election is important to our country. I am an undecided voter. I have decided that I am sick and tired of the media. I think Newt responded perfectly. Even though I have not been a Newt fan, I found myself cheering for him. Let's go John/CNN act respectable, give me quality not dirt.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • SafeJourney

      John Kings question speaks the Newts morality and ethical behavior or LACK there of. It is a valid question. Dont let Newt and his mistress/wife anywhere near the White House.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • sharoom

      The guy runs on a Family Values ticket. Of course King's question is relevant.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Chuck Glisson

      To Joan, I hope your boyfriend or Husband CHEATS ON YOU. I t would serve you right you disgusting stupid hypocrite!

      January 20, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  14. dave

    Evangelicals, please stand up for your beliefs as to character. No one is perfect and there are no perfect candidates, but first and foremost someone should have a moral compass, not be full of dishonesty and hypocrisy. Forgive them as a person but do not elect them to the most powerful position in the world

    January 20, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  15. RI Jim

    I'll bet the Dems are salivating at the prospect of Newt being the GOP nominee. This man's baggage has baggage. He is ethically and morally BANKRUPT. He is a bloviating, arrogant HYPOCRITE. Need I go on...........

    January 20, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  16. alfranken

    Is that fact that he lead the impeachment of President Clinton for the same reasons indicative of his character? Or better yet the Christian religion has a whole?

    January 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  17. Patrish

    Apparently, character means nothing to these so called evangelicals. They are so 2-faced. Gingrich will dump this wife when he's ready for another younger gal – it's his pattern. You really want someone like that leading this country??? Beyond dumb to support him.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  18. Canadian

    I'm not an American, but if I were, I wouldn't vote for Gingrich on the sole basis that I don't want that hideous creature of his wife as my First Lady.

    Sounds immature, sure, but jesus, she looks like something out of a horror movie.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Deej59

      So you're okay with him, but his wife is trash? You're pretty screwed up here. They're both pretty trashy, but so far she's mostly just guilty of one known affair with a marrried man. Enough to deserve some shunning, but it really doesn't compare to the evil, twisted garbage that Newt pulled on wives 1 & 2, and will probably pull on wife 3 now that her looks are going. He's trash.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • captain america

      As a canadian you can not realize how useless your opinion is to US. There's your sign

      January 20, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Chuck Glisson

      To Captain America; BLOW IT OUT YOUR ASS

      January 20, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  19. Marquise

    It is funny that Evangelicas are okay with adultery but not abortion. All the woman has to do is ask for forgiveness like Newt. Evangelicas seem to be okay with greed and not charity so who is going to help all the children born after they outlaw it. It sure won't be the GOP.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  20. HH

    Why do you think his current wife is following him around to every event? His spots won't change, so given the chance he will "work to hard" and stray from his vows AGAIN. He CAN'T be trusted. He SHOULDN'T be trusted, and She doesn't

    January 20, 2012 at 7:50 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.