WASHINGTON (AP) — Dredging up a past that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has worked hard to bury, the GOP presidential candidate's ex-wife says Mr. Gingrich asked for an "open marriage" in which he could have both a wife and a mistress.
In an interview with ABC News' "Nightline" scheduled to air Thursday night, Marianne Gingrich said she refused to go along with the proposal that she share her husband with Callista Bisek, who later would become his third wife.
The explosive interview was airing just two days before the presidential primary in South Carolina, a state known for its strong Christian conservative bent, and as Mr. Gingrich was trying to present himself as the strongest alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the GOP front-runner.
In excerpts of the interview released by ABC, Marianne Gingrich said Mr. Gingrich conducted his affair with Callista Bisek "in my bedroom in our apartment in Washington."
"He always called me at night and always ended with 'I love you,'" she said. "Well, she was listening."
Marianne Gingrich, who was Mr. Gingrich's second wife, told the network that Mr. Gingrich told her, "Callista doesn't care what I do."
"He was asking to have an open marriage, and I refused," she said. "That is not a marriage."
Mr. Gingrich was asked Thursday on NBC's "Today" show about his ex-wife's interview in advance of its airing. He said that he wouldn't "say anything bad" about her and that he preferred not to address his personal life in detailed fashion. But he did say that members of his family had written ABC to protest the airing of the interview, saying they complained about the network "intruding into family things that are more than a decade old."
Marianne Gingrich has said that Mr. Gingrich proposed to her before the divorce from his first wife was final in 1981; they were married six months later. Her marriage to Mr. Gingrich ended in divorce in 2000, and Mr. Gingrich has admitted he already had taken up with Ms. Bisek, a former congressional aide.
The speaker, who pilloried President Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky, was himself having an affair at the time.
As plans to air the interview were disclosed, Mr. Gingrich's campaign released a statement from his two daughters from his first marriage, Kathy Lubbers and Jackie Cushman, suggesting that Marianne Gingrich's comments may be suspect, given the emotional toll that divorce takes on 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," they said. "He has said before, privately and publicly, that he regrets any pain he may have caused in the past to people he loves."
Mr. Gingrich has worked in recent years to present himself as a changed man who has embraced Catholicism.
A message seeking comment from Marianne Gingrich was not immediately returned.
In the NBC appearance, Mr. Gingrich said he planned to discuss "real stories" and said he would have to leave questions about his character up to voters. He called his daughters "credible" character witnesses.