Aspects of Gingrich divorce story distorted

This legend was posted on a number of threads here, so to help clarify what actually happened, I thought I would post these refutations.

…the persistent tale of how Newt went to see his wife as she lay dying of cancer in her hospital bed and presented her with divorce papers. Ouch. That’s a pretty unpleasant story to float about anyone, and apparently it’s so temptingly salacious that it keeps getting hinted at in the media and I’ve seen it cropping up again on Twitter as recently as last night. Unfortunately for the gossip minded, nearly every aspect of the story is false and has been roundly debunked by what should be considered a pretty reliable source – his own daughter who was in the hospital room at the time.

[quote]So, to correct the record, here is what happened: My mother, Jackie Battley Gingrich, is very much alive, and often spends time with my family. I am lucky to have such a “Miracle Mom,” as I titled her in a column this week.

As for my parents’ divorce, I can remember when they told me.

It was the spring of 1980.

I was 13 years old, and we were about to leave Fairfax, Va., and drive to Carrollton, Ga., for the summer. My parents told my sister and me that they were getting a divorce as our family of four sat around the kitchen table of our ranch home.

Soon afterward, my mom, sister and I got into our light-blue Chevrolet Impala and drove back to Carrollton.

Later that summer, Mom went to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for surgery to remove a tumor. While she was there, Dad took my sister and me to see her.

It is this visit that has turned into the infamous hospital visit about which many untruths have been told. I won’t repeat them. You can look them up online if you are interested in untruths. But here’s what happened:

My mother and father were already in the process of getting a divorce, which she requested.

Dad took my sister and me to the hospital to see our mother.

She had undergone surgery the day before to remove a tumor.

The tumor was benign.

As with many divorces, it was hard and painful for all involved, but life continued.

Yes, Newt is on his third marriage and some conservatives will raise questions about his marital track record, as they are entitled to do. But repeating this old chestnut is hurtful and slanderous. (For the record, I actually believed this story myself for quite a while and I know I made reference to it, so I’d like to apologize once again as well.)

There will be more than enough real material for critics to debate coming from Gingrich’s decades of public (and private) life, but we should focus on what is accurate and verifiable. So if you see anyone repeating this myth, do everyone a favor and point them to his daughter’s account of the story.

UPDATE: From the Credit Where Credit Is Due department. The Washington Post also douses the myth with cold water.

Yet while the thrust of the story about his first divorce is not in dispute — Gingrich’s first wife, Jackie Battley, has said previously that the couple discussed their divorce while she was in the hospital in 1980 — other aspects of it appear to have been distorted through constant retelling.

Most significantly, Battley wasn’t dying at the time of the hospital visit; she is alive today. Nor was the divorce discussion in the hospital “a surprise” to Battley, as many accounts have contended. Battley, not Gingrich, had requested a divorce months earlier, according to Jackie Gingrich Cushman, the couple’s second daughter. Further, Gingrich did not serve his wife with divorce papers on the day of his visit (unlike a subpoena, divorce papers aren’t typically “served”).

Gingrich’s marriage to Battley had been troubled for many years before it dissolved 31 years ago, both parties have said. Battley, who is seven years older than Gingrich, had been Gingrich’s high-school math teacher in Columbus, Ga. They began dating after he graduated and were married in 1962, when Gingrich was 19 and a freshman at Emory University in Atlanta.


Well, it will be interesting to see how he responds in the near future. He’s been known to a little thin-skinned. Thus far he’s been doing OK.

And the NYT will run a full story clarifying the issue, should Gingrich become the GOP presidential nominee?

Prolly not.

So, the teacher married the teenaged student???

Wow, he’s kind of been all over the place…His current wife is 23 years his junior. But then he’s also been a Methodist, a Baptist, and now a Catholic. I don’t know, Newt just makes me wary.


I, too have had a problem with Newt Gingrich. As a candidate in RCIA, having to get an annulment (which I understand and agreed to), with lots of “hoops” to jump through, I was told that Newt was "fast tracked into the CC, because of his wife, Callista. I don’t know if this is true, but if it is, it’s not right…I have seen him and her many times on EWTN receiving Holy Communion, and it kind of gets to me, because of what I am going through, seems unfair. :confused:

It depends on who you previously married, and where. For my wife, her ex husband is a Catholic, but they were not married in the Catholic Church. It can get very detailed, but ultimately it breaks down to whether it was a “Sacramental” marriage, not just a “valid” marriage. I’m not sure if this would apply in your case, but I would guess that Newt was married to a non-Catholic, and outside of the Church.

That being said, it has become MUCH easier to obtain an annullment. My mother tried unsuccessfully for over 20 years. My wife (Tiber swim team 2007) had to send a letter to the bishop with a small fee, and it was done.

The time it takes, and the amount of “hoops” one has to jump through would vary, but I imagine it would be easy for a person who wasn’t Catholic at the time, was married to a non-Catholic, and in a non-Cathlic Church, it would not be much.

Sorry for your difficulties, and welcome to the faith! May God grant you strength and peace on your journey!

I too believed the common version of Newt’s divorce - that he served his wife with the papers while she was “dying of cancer in the hospital.” I simply didn’t question it. Now, he has other problems even if the truth about the circumstances of his divorce are accepted. My main concern is that if he gets the nomination the election will be about Newt and not Obama’s failed policies.


Thanks for your thoughts. I’m doing ok, I love the journey, just sometimes hard to understand the “bumps” in the road. A lot of prayer and faith are my standards.
God Bless:)

The election will be about everything except the lack of accomplishments by Obama. The only place the Dems really have to go is to trash whoever is the GOP nominee. They have started in the preliminaries. Look at who they and the MSM have trashed: Palin, Bachman, Perry, Santorum, and now Newt. I suppose in a childish way the aim is to put Obama out as a better person that whoever the Republicans finally give the nod to. I think any of the nine would be better than a man who sat in the liberation theology church for twenty years and whose wife thinks that America is a mean country.

I agree that the Democrats will try and smear whoever is the GOP nominee. But they will be more or less successful depending on who the GOP nominee is. With Newt, they will have an easier time of the smearing even if much of the “baggage” he carries is based on exaggerations or even lies. We have an election to win, a president to throw out of office. There is too much at stake to nominate someone who will help the Dems take attention away from Obama’s failures. The question is, which nominee would accomplish that? Right now I’m leaning toward Romney, but like many others, I would say that I am undecided.


I remember on Raymond Arroyo’s show The World Over, one of his guests said that Newt Gingrich was the best candidate. He said that he was the most conservative, and he was the best on life-issues. I care little about his past. I suppose I’ve gone to confession so many times this year (More than I have in my entire life, probably) that I’m quick to forgive when someone shows sorrow. I don’t care what he did, but what he does. And what he does is make great statements, plans, and deafening applause. Everyone seems to forgive the current president for doing drugs and never having an actual job in his life (Therefore making him incapable of doing his job properly), but when Newt Gingrich makes some bad decisions in his past, he deserves to be crucified. He’s a good guy, he’s great on all of the issues, and. most importantly, his tax plan isn’t near as high as 9-9-9. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t be offended or disappointed in the least of Herman Cain flipped those numbers upside-down.

I honestly don’t know if he will hold up as the nominee or not. Right now the “not-Romney” vote is over 60% of Republicans and there is no real indication that they have settled on a candidate. This is Newt’s chance to sell himself. We will see how he does. If he doesn’t make the sale, we should know in the next few weeks.


Newt was a 19-year-old when his teacher married him.

That would be a fabulous campaign. Obama would look stupid(er) if he focused on Newt’s personality, foibles, etc. while Newt focused on Obama’s failed policies. I’m pretty certain the voters would vote in favor of turning the country into a direction opposite of failure.

That is certainly the million dollar question. I hope you’re right if Newt gets the nomination. The media has a tendency to contribute to a circus like environment such that it would be a challenge to get the message across, imo. For Romney, if his main baggage is his Mormon religion and his Romney care then I think the media will have a harder time making it a circus because its not about divorce/sex scandals, etc.


I think Romney might do a good job, but unfortunately for him there is an “anybody but Romney” contingent that carries weight. I have even heard some on this forum say that they could never vote for a Mormon (a position I reject myself). It is going to be an interesting few weeks.

Newt Gingrich’s new website: I’m no Bill Clinton


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Yes we have an election to win, but then that new President MUST find a way to stop Obamacare from being fully enacted, and Newt was FOR the mandate, and Romney’s state plan was the MODEL for Obamacare. Romney has defended his plan again and again although it has nearly bankrupted his state. Both of them are on the wrong side of many issues including global warming. We can’t get one progressive out only to have to then deal with another one for 4 years.

While winning the Senate and holding onto the House will mean that the Congress will be more conservative and even if Obama is re-elected, he will have a lame-duck 2nd term, I think we can do better than Romney or Gingrich.

The question comes up concerning the integrity of the Catholic teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and whether or not the annulment process is being used as a way of getting around that teaching.

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