Gingrich First Divorce Account Disputed

January 21, 2012 by staff 

Gingrich First Divorce Account Disputed, Newt Gingrich, who hoped to put his personal past behind him by saying he’d made mistakes, has revived the issue with questionable claims about the details of his first divorce.

The Republican presidential candidate insists that it was his then-wife, Jackie Battley, who sought a divorce in 1980. After court records showed he filed the action, the Gingrich campaign said he’d done so at her request. Court documents, Gingrich’s own previous explanations and the recollections of two former Gingrich aides refute his current claim.

“It’s totally untrue that she wanted the divorce, and Newt knows that,” Dot Crews, who worked in the former Georgia congressman’s office from 1979 to 1984, said in a telephone interview today. Crews, 80, recalled Gingrich confiding during a car ride in his home district that he’d decided to file for divorce.

“He talks about redemption, and then he lies like this?” Crews said.

Gingrich, 68, has largely sidestepped specific questions about his two divorces as he campaigns for president, focusing on his current marriage to Callista Gingrich. An online column in May by daughter Jackie Gingrich Cushman, referenced on his campaign website, asserted her mother had asked for the divorce. The elder Jackie, 75, couldn’t be reached for comment.

’30 Years Old’

Reporters today asked Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker, to square the description of the divorce as her idea with divorce papers indicating it was his.

“It’s 30 years old,” Gingrich said during a stop in Dubuque, Iowa. “You can read my younger daughter’s column and talk to her. She’s covered it, I think, more than adequately, and that’s all I’m going to say on that.”

R.C. Hammond, Gingrich’s campaign spokesman, also referred to the daughter’s column as the definitive account of the divorce. “You can’t get much closer to the source than that,” he said in a telephone interview today. “The family has put this behind them.”

Hammond questioned whether aides interviewed by Bloomberg News were real Gingirch employees; House records show they were.

After a CNN reporter showed the Gingrich campaign divorce documents, also obtained by Bloomberg, that indicate Newt Gingrich filed for divorce, Hammond said Gingrich had done so at Jackie Ginrgich’s request.

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