Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has maintained that his divorce from his first wife, Jackie Battley Gingrich, was amicable and requested by his wife. Divorce papers recently uncovered by CNN suggest that is not true.
Gingrich's daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman, wrote a May 8, 2011 article for Townhall.com in which she defended her father against accusations that he divorced Jackie Battley Gingrich because she had cancer and delivered the divorce papers while she was lying in a hospital bed.
Jackie Gingrich Cushman was 13 at the time and present at the hospital visit. In her article, she says that her parents did not divorce because her mom had cancer. Her parents had already agreed to the divorce. Her mom was recovering in the hospital from the removal of a benign tumor. Newt Gingrich went to visit her in the hospital and the visit happened to coincide with when he had the divorce papers.
“As with many divorces, it was hard and painful for all involved, but life continued. As have many families, we have healed; we have moved on. We are not a perfect family, but we are knit together through common bonds, commitment and love,” Jackie Gingrich Cushman wrote.
A section of Newt Gingrich's campaign website devoted to debunking common criticisms refers the reader to his daughter's article and Gingrich often refers to that article when asked about it in interviews.
While most of Jackie Gingrich Cushman's defense of her father is not in doubt, there is one detail that the new documents appear to contradict – that her mother requested the divorce.
“My mother and father were already in the process of getting a divorce, which she requested,” she wrote.
Newt.org repeats this claim. “It was her mother that requested the divorce, not Newt, and it was months before the hospital visit in question.”
Court documents reveal, however, Newt Gingrich filed for divorce from Jackie Battley Gingrich. In a counterclaim, Jackie Battley Gingrich denied that the marriage was irretrievably broken and that she wanted a divorce. “Defendant shows that she has adequate and ample grounds for divorce, but that she does not desire one at this time,” the counterclaim states.
Additional court documents show that the former wife took Newt Gingrich back to court after the divorce because he was not making alimony payments.
In an interview with CNN, Leonard H. “Kip” Carter, a former close friend of Newt Gingrich, confirmed that Newt Gingrich asked for the divorce. He also told CNN that Jackie Battley Gingrich and her two daughters were living without food or utilities because of the lack of alimony payments. He recalled that their Baptist church held a food drive to help care for the family. When the pastor asked Newt Gingrich to give to the fund, he donated $100.
Newt Gingrich reportedly told Carter why he wanted a divorce. “You know and I know that she's not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of a president.”
Carter broke off his friendship with Newt Gingrich as a result of the way he treated his first wife.
Newt Gingrich was already dating Marianne Ginther, who would become his second wife, at the time the divorce proceedings were taking place. In the mid-1990s, Newt Gingrich had an affair with Callista Biseck, who would become his third wife shortly after divorcing Marianne Ginther Gingrich in 2000.
When asked about the court documents, a Gingrich campaign spokesman said that while Newt Gingrich did file the divorce papers, he did so at Jackie Battley Gingrich's request.
Regarding Gingrich's two divorces, his campaign website states, “Newt has been honest and forthright about the fact that he has had moments in his life that he regrets, that he has had to seek reconciliation, and go to God for forgiveness.
“Newt believes that by continuing to be honest and forthright about his past failings, voters will come to understand the man that he is now and conclude they can trust him to represent the American people in the White House.”
“Furthermore,” the campaign states, “Newt welcomes the opportunity to clear up the many lies and misconceptions that persist about his past.”