ABC News reportedly plans to air a "potentially explosive" interview with Newt Gingrich's second ex-wife Marianne, just two days before the South Carolina primary and hours after tonight's CNN Republican debate. Matt Drudge first reported that the interview with ABC's Brian Ross was "set to rock the trail," but that the decision about when and if to air it had set off an "ethical" debate inside the network, with some execs questioning whether it should be shown so close to the primary.
The AP and The New York Times both report that there was indeed some disagreement, but that ABC has decided to air the interview on Nightline on Thursday night, with excerpts being released earlier in the evening, before the scheduled GOP debate on CNN at 8:00 p.m. ET. However, as of this morning there's no mention of the interview anywhere on ABCNews.com or the Nightline website. (Ironically, there is an AP report republished on the site, but it's not linked from the front pages.)
Howard Kurtz at The Daily Beast concurred with the Drudge and AP stories, but adds that Marianne Gingrich does not say anything in the new interview that she hasn't said in the past. However, her most prominent previous comments were given in this 2010 interview with Esquire magazine, one that we're sure a lot of voters haven't read. Even if they had (and already forgot about it), there's a big difference between a year-old print interview and fresh TV sound bites two days before a big voting day.
While that interview also didn't reveal much in the way of scandal or new revelations, it was certainly unflattering to the candidate, as one of the people closest to the "real Newt" talked in great detail about his affairs and divorces, and his sometimes bizarre and unexplainable behavior. One particularly stinging quote from the interview was, “He believes that what he says in public and how he lives don’t have to be connected." Gingrich divorced Marianne to marry his current wife, Callista, who he was having an affair with at the same time he was leading the impeachment fight against Bill Clinton.
The Gingrich campaign quickly jumped on the defensive, with one advisor calling Marianne "bitter" and adding that “It is pretty nasty to use personal tragedy for political exploitation.” They also pre-emptively released a statement from Gingrich's daughters saying the divorce was "a personal tragedy filled with regrets, and sometimes differing memories of events," but that if ABC wants to talk about the past, "Newt is going to talk to the people of South Carolina about the future."