CHARLESTON, S.C. -- The Drudge Report began teasing political reporters Wednesday that a network's holding a "bombshell campaign interview." And soon, Drudge revealed that the network in question, ABC, had conducted a two-hour interview with Marianne Gingrich, ex-wife of Newt Gingrich, that may not run until after the South Carolina primary. The decision, Drudge reported, sparked a "civil war" at the network.
ABC staffers were caught by surprise at the news, telling The Huffington Post that if there was a "civil war," they hadn't heard about it. That doesn't mean there wasn't any debate among ABC executives over when to air the interview, but simply that the war certainly wasn't raging through the newsroom.
It also looks like the interview will air before Saturday's South Carolina primary after all. One ABC insider said that the Gingrich interview, conducted with Brian Ross, will likely air on Thursday's "Nightline."
Marianne Gingrich, the former Speaker's second wife, of 18 years, hasn't been shy about her feelings toward her ex-husband's presidential ambitions, telling Esquire in 2010 that there's "no way."
"He could have been president," she said. "But when you try and change your history too much, and try and recolor it because you don't like the way it was or you want it to be different to prove something new ... you lose touch with who you really are. You lose your way."
"He believes that what he says in public and how he lives don't have to be connected," Gingrich added, in the Esquire interview. "If you believe that, then yeah, you can run for president."
In the Esquire interview, Marianne also dismisses the conversion to Catholicism during his current, and third, marriage. She said it "has no meaning."
It's unclear who leaked the story to Drudge -- perhaps an ABC staffer who didn't want the interview to possibly get held until next week or rival campaign operative hoping to get Gingrich's baggage front-and-center on the influential conservative aggregator. Whoever the source, they got the political tongues wagging just 72 hours before the primary.
Gingrich's two daughters from his first marriage pushed back Wednesday, writing in a letter to the network's leadership that "ABC News or other campaigns may want to talk about the past, just days before an important primary election [but] Newt is going to talk to the people of South Carolina about the future."
The Gingrich daughters' letter, provided to The Huffington Post, is below:
To: ABC News Leadership
From: Kathy Lubbers, Jackie Cushman
Date: January 18, 2012
The failure of a marriage is a terrible and emotional experience for everyone involved. Anyone who has had that experience understands it is a personal tragedy filled with regrets, and sometimes differing memories of events.
We will not say anything negative about our father’s ex-wife. He has said before, privately and publicly, that he regrets any pain he may have caused in the past to people he loves.
ABC News or other campaigns may want to talk about the past, just days before an important primary election. But Newt is going to talk to the people of South Carolina about the future -- about job creation, lower taxes, and about who can defeat Barack Obama by providing the sharpest contrast to his damaging, extreme liberalism. We are confident this is the conversation the people of South Carolina are interested in having.
Our father is running for President because of his grandchildren -- so they can inherit the America he loves. To do that, President Obama must be defeated. And as the only candidate in the race, including Obama, who has actually helped balance the national budget, create jobs, reform welfare, and cut taxes and spending, Newt felt compelled to run -- to serve his country and safeguard his grandchildren's future.