Court files show Gingrich lying about first divorce
He's been saying for years that it was his first wife Jackie was the one who wanted a divorce, and has repeated that claim during the campaign.
But court files, and contemporary eyewitness accounts, contradict that assertion.
On the "Answering the attacks" page of his campaign website, Newt.org, which "(Sets) the Record Straight: Newt's Positions on the Issues and His Record," the campaign discusses Gingrich's first divorce.
"It was (Jackie Gingrich) that requested the divorce, not Newt," the campaign website said, referring readers to an online column written by Gingrich's youngest daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman, last May.
After initially being told that the divorce documents were sealed, CNN on Thursday obtained the folder containing the filings in the divorce, which had been stashed away for years in a Carroll County, Georgia, court clerk's drawer. Retired clerk Kenneth Skinner told CNN his deputy took Gingrich's file out of the public records room around 1994, "when he (Gingrich) became the center of attention," because Skinner feared tampering and theft.
Newt Gingrich filed a divorce complaint on July 14, 1980, in Carroll County, saying that "the marriage of the parties is irretriebably (sic) broken."
Jackie Battley Gingrich, the congressman's wife and the mother of Jackie Gingrich Cushman, responded by asking the judge to reject her husband's filing.
"Defendant shows that she has adequate and ample grounds for divorce, but that she does not desire one at this time," her petition said.
"Although defendant does not admit that this marriage is irretrievably broken, defendant has been hopeful that an arrangement for temporary support of defendant and the two minor daughters of the parties could be mutually agreed upon without the intervention of this court," her petition said. "All efforts to date have been unsuccessful."
Gingrich also told friends at the time that it wasn't Jackie who wanted the divorce:
"He (Gingrich) said, 'You know and I know that she's not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of a president,' " Carter, who now lives in South Carolina, told CNN recently, relating the conversation he had with Gingrich the day Gingrich revealed he was filing for divorce. Carter served as treasurer of Gingrich's first congressional campaigns.
The statement about Jackie "not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of a president" was made in 1980. This buttresses the recollection of several ex-Gingrich friends who said the former congressman wanted to be president the day he arrived in congress.
Another friend of Gingrich laughs at the notion that the divorce was Jackie's idea:
Gerald Johnson, a Georgia state legislator at the time who also was in Gingrich's Sunday school class, said it was his memory that Jackie Gingrich did not want a divorce. Johnson laughed when told the presidential campaign is now saying she requested the divorce, calling that "surprising."
I don't understand why Gingrich continues to lie about this issue. The facts are clear; he left his first wife for a younger, prettier woman, and left his second wife for the same reason. We are supposed to believe that since his conversion to Catholicism, he is a different man. I hope for Calista's sake that is true.
But how can he be forgiven - or trusted - until he comes clean about his past?