Newt Gingrich asked his second wife, Marianne, for an open marriage so he could continue an affair he carried on while leading the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, Marianne Gingrich said in a bombshell interview set to air tonight.
ABC News considered the interview so potentially damaging that it considered delaying it until closer to, or even after, Saturday's South Carolina primary. Instead it will air tonight on "Nightline."
Marianne Gingrich, a self-described conservative Republican, said Gingrich asked for an open marriage after admitting to a six-year affair with a Congressional aide. That aide, Callista, is now Gingrich's third wife.
Marianne Gingrich said her husband of 18 years told her that Marianne was willing to share him.
"And I just stared at him and he said, 'Callista doesn't care what I do,'" Marianne Gingrich told ABC News. "He wanted an open marriage and I refused."
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The affair and request for permission to continue it would seem to be at odds with Gingrich's social conservatism. Marianne Gingrich said he carried on the affair at the same time he was leading the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, which resulted from his lying about an affair with intern Monica Lewinsky.
Gingrich divorced his first wife, Jackie, as she was being treated for cancer. His relationship with Marianne began while he was divorcing Jackie, Marianne Gingrich said.
Marianne Gingrich said Gingrich sought a divorce from her just months after she had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, with him present.
"He also was advised by the doctor when I was sitting there that I was not to be under stress. He knew," she said.
Gingrich has said he now has "no relationship" with Marianne. His campaign has not commented on her allegations, but his daughters released a statement "regrets any pain he may have caused in the past to people he loves."
But Marianne Gingrich said he had never expressed any regrets to her.
Watch an excerpt from the interview: