On Friday, Newt Gingrich’s phoenix of a presidential campaign unveiled a new area of its website dedicated to countering the areas of the former U.S. House speaker’s life – personal and professional – likely to become fodder for his rivals.
His criticism of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, one-time support for mandated health insurance, statements on climate change, the 1995 government shutdown, and his extramarital affair during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton are all topics.
Perhaps the oldest piece of unwanted luggage in Gingrich’s career has been the story of his conduct during the dissolution of his first marriage with Jackie Battley.
The campaign includes a link to a column written last May by Gingrich’s daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman:
It was the spring of 1980. I was 13 years old, and we were about to leave Fairfax, Va., and drive to Carrollton, Ga., for the summer. My parents told my sister and me that they were getting a divorce as our family of four sat around the kitchen table of our ranch home.
Soon afterward, my mom, sister and I got into our light-blue Chevrolet Impala and drove back to Carrollton.
Later that summer, Mom went to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for surgery to remove a tumor. While she was there, Dad took my sister and me to see her.
Cushman states what didn’t happen, but – perhaps naturally enough — doesn’t say much about what did. The Washington Post this morning expounds on both the myth and the facts:
Most significantly, Battley wasn’t dying at the time of the hospital visit; she is alive today. Nor was the divorce discussion in the hospital “a surprise” to Battley, as many accounts have contended.
Battley, not Gingrich, had requested a divorce months earlier, according to Jackie Gingrich Cushman, the couple’s second daughter. Further, Gingrich did not serve his wife with divorce papers on the day of his visit (unlike a subpoena, divorce papers aren’t typically “served”).
According to the first published account of the visit — a story by David Osborne in Mother Jones magazine in November 1984 — Gingrich went to Battley’s room with a yellow legal pad on which he had written a list of items related to the handling of the divorce.
Osborne attributed this anecdote to Lee Howell, Gingrich’s former press secretary, whom he quoted as saying, “He wanted her to sign [the list]. She was still recovering from surgery, still sort of out of it, and he comes in with a yellow sheet of paper, handwritten, and wants her to sign it.”
Here’s a link to that 1984 piece in Mother Jones.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider