One week ago today, CNN’s John King asked Newt Gingrich if it was true that in 1999 he asked his then-wife Marianne Gingrich for an open marriage so that he could continue having an affair with his girlfriend Callista. On national TV, in front of a huge audience, here was his answer:
Now, let me be quite clear. Let me be quite clear. The story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period says the story was false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They [i.e., ABC] weren’t interested, because they would like to attack any Republican.
This, it turns out, was a lie. Today, after a full week of badgering, Gingrich’s campaign has finally admitted what ABC knew perfectly well all along: Gingrich hadn’t suggested any personal friends to them at all. Nor, obviously, had they refused to interview any of these personal friends. They didn’t exist.
There’s an odd de facto standard for political lying: you can mislead people to almost any degree and it doesn’t really count against you. It’s he-said-she-said. But if there’s a clear, smoking gun fact that you plainly misrepresent, no matter how trivial, then it’s a scandal. By that standard, Newt ought to be in trouble. His dealings with ABC News may not be all that important in the cosmic scheme of things, but by DC standards this is a flat-out, premeditated fabrication and therefore a scandal. Gingrich told a bald-faced lied and he knew he was lying when he did it.
This all fits Newt’s personality. He’s always been more brazen than even your usual hardened politico because he knows that nobody really cares about fact checking. But he went over the line this time. I wonder if he’ll pay a price?