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Newt Gingrich's Marriages: Affairs And Divorces Of Past Presidential Candidates Explained (PHOTOS)

Newt Gingrich Divorce

The Huffington Post   Brittany Wong First Posted: 03/16/2012 8:33 am Updated: 03/16/2012 12:49 pm

How much weight should the personal lives of presidential aspirants carry in the voting booth? The question of whether or not candidates' private lives is fair game -- or even relevant -- to campaign coverage has long been debated by pundits, voters and even the candidates themselves.

This campaign season, no GOP presidential hopeful has come under more scrutiny for his marital history than Newt Gingrich. For almost three decades, the thrice-married former speaker of the House has fielded questions about his split from first wife, Jackie Battley -- namely, that he'd served her divorce papers while she was in the hospital undergoing cancer treatment (a story that Gingrich and his daughters have vigorously denied.)

But in January, Gingrich was forced to respond to another personal allegation when second wife Marianne Gingrich appeared on ABC News and accused him of asking her for an open marriage in 1999 in order to be with Callista Bisek -- the woman who is now his third wife. On January 19, the same night the interview was aired, moderator John King opened CNN's GOP debate in South Carolina by asking Gingrich if he wanted to respond to the claims. Gingrich lashed out at the "destructive, vicious, negative nature" of much of the news media.

"Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things," Gingrich said. "To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary, a significant question in a presidential campaign, is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine."

But what was presumed to be an issue for voters in South Carolina ended up having little effect. In the run-up to the vote, the Christian Scientist Monitor reported that Gingrich's lead had actually increased in the wake of his ex-wife's accusations, likely due to skepticism over Marianne Gingrich's claims. At the time, Public Policy Polling data on South Carolina voters showed that only 31 percent of voters said they thought Marianne Gingrich's accusations were true, while 35 percent thought they were false and 34 percent were unsure. Fifty-one percent of voters had "no concerns" about the interview's revelations. Their votes told as much; Gingrich won the South Carolina primary with 40 percent of the vote.

But voters haven't always been so forgiving. From FDR's long-hidden affair with a younger woman to the questionable chronology of John McCain's divorce, click through the slideshow to see how marital infidelities and divorces have played out among voters of yesteryear.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
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It's been well-documented that 32nd president Franklin Delano Roosevelt had an affair Lucy Mercer, the younger woman who served as wife Eleanor's personal secretary beginning in 1913. According to the New York Times, the affair likely started in 1916 and was discovered by Eleanor in September 1918, when she stumbled upon a batch of incriminating letters while unpacking her husband's bag. Though Eleanor offered Franklin a divorce, his strong-willed mother, Sara Delano, urged him against it. It wasn't just her; in Russell Freedman's 1992 biography of FDR, the president's son Elliot is quoted as saying that political adviser Louis Howe tried to convince Roosevelt "that he had no political future if he did this."

In the end, Franklin and Eleanor stayed married and the affair stayed under wraps during the election and after. As the New York Times writes, Roosevelt was one of the many politicians of yesteryear, who "with the help of an obliging press and retinues of discreet enablers," kept their private life private.

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