Marianne Gingrich: Newt wanted "open marriage" with me

Marianne Gingrich, in 1995 AP Photo

Updated 1:36 p.m. Eastern Time

Newt Gingrich's second wife, Marianne, says the GOP presidential candidate asked her for an "open marriage" after he became involved with the woman who became his third and current wife.

Marianne Gingrich told ABC News that Gingrich wanted the then-Callista Bisek, his current wife, as his mistress while keeping Marianne Gingrich as his wife. She said he admitted at the time to a six-year affair with Callista.

Marianne Gingrich, who says she refused the request for an open marriage, said Newt told her that "Callista doesn't care what I do." She said he complained that "you want me all to yourself."

Marianne Gingrich said she eventually learned that Callista was often listening when Newt called her at night from Washington to say goodnight and tell her he loved her. The calls were taking place, she said, while Gingrich was leading the charge to impeach President Bill Clinton for misleading Congress about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

Marianne Gingrich, a conservative Republican, told ABC News she is coming forward now so that voters have a fuller picture of the GOP presidential candidate. Her interview is set to air in full this evening, just two days before the January 21 South Carolina primary that could rejuvenate or sink Gingrich's presidential bid.

Marianne Gingrich also said in the interview that Newt divorced her within months of her diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis, after he had heard a doctor advise her to avoid stress. She said that Newt, who divorced his first wife after a cancer diagnosis, became involved with her before his first divorce was final.

In a separate interview with the Washington Post, Marianne Gingrich said that when Gingrich asked for the divorce in 1999, she asked if there was anyone else.

"He was quiet. Within two seconds, when he didn't immediately answer, I knew," she said. Gingrich would go on to give a speech the next day in which he posed rhetorical questions concerning when liberals talk about values.

"How could he ask me for a divorce on Monday and within 48 hours give a speech on family values and talk about how people treat people?" she told the Post. She said Gingrich has not spoken to her since they divorced. 

Gingrich, who told NBC before details of the interview emerged that "Intruding into family things that are more than a decade old is simply wrong," told reported Thursday, "I'm not going to say anything about Marianne."

"My two daughters have already written a letter to ABC complaining about this as tawdry and inappropriate," he said. "Both of my daughters are prepared to speak on the record to any of you who would like to talk to them and several other people who knew the situation are prepared to speak on the record. I'm not getting involved."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who suspended his campaign and endorsed Gingrich Thursday, said at a debate in December that marital fidelity is "important" to the presidential race, saying "he's always kind of been of the opinion that if you cheat on your wife, you'll cheat on your business partner." 

Perry said Thursday that while Gingrich, like everyone, is imperfect, "The fact is, there is forgiveness for those who seek God and I believe in the power of redemption, for it is a central tenet of my own Christian faith."

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