ABC trotted out the "best of" Newt Gingrich slams on Thursday, finally revealing the results of an exhaustive Brian Ross interview with Marianne Gingrich, the former Speaker's ex-wife. Ross boasted that his scoop could be seen as a "January surprise" to harm Gingrich. Recycling old attacks, Ross eagerly prompted the ex-Mrs. Gingrich: "You know his secrets. You know his skeletons." [UPDATED: See video below. MP3 audio here.]
How bereft of new information was the segment? According to reports that broke on Wednesday, Ross sat down with Marianne Gingrich for two hours. In the eight minute segment, ABC only used two and a half minutes of actual footage from that interview. But Ross breathlessly hyped, "And we begin tonight with a story at the white-hot intersection of presidential politics, private lives and character."
At one point, Ross lectured, "Washington is a place full of two-timing politicians with a long trail of sordid affairs, ugly divorces and hypocrisy."
Of course, no Democratic examples of "two-timing politicians" were mentioned by the journalist. (An onscreen graphic did show a brief glimpse of a newspaper article mentioning John Edwards.)
The comments in the segment were simply a rehash of a September 2010 Esquire piece.
In Ross' piece, Marianne Gingrich recounts, "[I learned about his affair ] on the phone. And he said, 'I want a divorce." I said, 'Is there somebody else?' And it was quiet. And I knew."
The Esquire article by John H. Richardson recalls the same moment:
"There's somebody else, isn't there?"
She kind of guessed it, of course. Women usually do.
Richardson added, "He asked her to just tolerate the affair, an offer she refused." With Ross, she described, "He was asking to have an open marriage."
The tease by anchor Terry Moran previewed the excited tone of the segment: "Tonight on Nightline, breaking her silence. In an exclusive TV interview, one of presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich's ex-wives speaks out, questioning his moral fitness to be president."
Ross continued to hammer his attack on Gingrich, proclaiming, "And now, as a candidate for president, Gingrich regularly expounds on family values and the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman."
Not content to repeat old information on Gingrich's infidelity, Ross somehow forced in unrelated allegations:
ROSS: Marianne herself became the subject of an FBI sting investigation after meeting in Paris with a notorious arms dealer, who was working as an undercover government source. The investigation was ultimately dropped. But a 1997 FBI document, obtained by ABC News says, "Gingrich told the source that she was in a position to get things done in Congress and asked for $500,000 for herself, up front," as part of an alleged $10 million bribe to buy influence with her husband, the Speaker of the House.
MARIANNE GINGRICH: This is all made up, fabricated hogwash. This is a convicted felon talking with people who have nothing to do with me.
ROSS: But you met with him?
MARIANNE GINGRICH: I did meet with him.
ROSS: It would cost $10 million to get the job done. Did you ever try to sell your husband's position?
MARIANNE GINGRICH: [Laughs] Heavens, no.
Notice that Ross used the phrase "undercover government source." It took Marianne Gingrich to highlight that he's a convicted felon. Also, it should be emphasized, the charges were dropped.
Barack Obama certainly had questionable relationships with individuals such as William Ayers and Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Can you imagine ABC dragging out stories in 2012 on them? Most journalists weren't interested in 2008.