Posts Tagged ‘Marianne Gingrich’
January 25th, 2012 at 6:51 pm
What ABC Left on the Cutting Room Floor

Conservatives have been up in arms about ABC’s airing last week of the interview in which Marianne Gingrich said her ex-husband asked her for an open marriage. But their anger is misplaced. The problem wasn’t in airing the interview; the problem was in what ABC left out.

ABC filmed well over an hour of footage with Ms. Gingrich. They aired — what was it, maybe seven minutes of that footage?

The question is, what did the network leave out, and why?

Here’s what I’m told by people familiar with the interview: first, that in much of the rest of the interview she was complimentary towards her former husband, and second, that she was trying to give a full, contextual picture of his character — a context left on the cutting room floor when ABC concentrated only on the sex/adultery/betrayal angle. “They left out the essence of her,” said one of my sources. What they left out is that she, a dedicated conservative, is proud of what she and her husband accomplished together for causes such as balanced budgets and welfare reform.

By leaving out so much, ABC did Ms. Gingrich a disservice, because the “open marriage” segment, by general agreement, made her appear somewhat bitter — whereas, in fuller context, it would have made her look more baffled than bitter. Asked on camera if she resented Callista Gingrich being with Newt when he is rich and running large accounts at Tiffany’s while she, Marianne, endured the long, lean financial years and the vitriol from the Left during his Speakership, Marianne Gingrich reportedly smiled and said, “No, I think I had Newt’s best years.”

None of that came across. Ms. Gingrich deserved better.

Granted, any TV news magazine is going to run only part of its footage. But to take out all context is absurd. Oddly enough, taking out the context ended up helping Newt Gingrich. Because viewers couldn’t see Ms. Gingrich speaking thoughtfully and with decency toward her husband, they couldn’t see just how bad a betrayal it was for her husband to treat her so shabbily. Because they concentrated on the sex, they made the interview seem like it was prurient, and thus like an unseemly attack, rather than like a reasonable examination of Gingrich’s past. It thus engendered sympathy for him … and of course played into his hands by allowing him to attack the establishment media, which is always (and usually justifiably) red meat for conservatives.

Of course Gingrich knew how to take advantage of this. He just followed Bill Clinton’s playbook. Turn the issue away from substance; make the issue about the prurience of the questioner. Express indignation. Raise your voice with just the right amount of anger. Make yourself the victim rather than the perp. Clinton did it to Gingrich during the Lewinsky scandal. When Gingrich personally ordered several last-minute commercials in the 1998 campaign attacking Clinton about Lewinsky — at least one of which clearly aimed at Clinton’s morality rather than, or far more than, at his lying under oath (which at least somewhat puts the lie to Gingrich’s claim on Wednesday that he was only criticizing Clinton’s perjury, not his sexual behavior) — it backfired on Gingrich and Republicans, big-time. Gingrich learned his lesson: A sexual sinner can win politically by playing the victim.

Conservatives also have reason to wonder what else remains in ABC’s vault. ABC has shown that its editing is suspect. Imagine what could happen, though, if Gingrich wins the nomination. One can easily see ABC saying, “Hey, remember that interview with Marianne Gingrich? Well, there was more to it than that. Here’s something else she said!”

Then, again out of context, they find some other snippet from Ms. Gingrich, this time on the substance of her ex-husband’s leadership or his beliefs, and they air it in a way that could do the absolute most damage to him in the general election. One can easily imagine that if 95 percent of the rest of what Ms. Gingrich said was complimentary, an editor still could cull some random 5% and use it in a way the ex-Speaker can’t parry anywhere near so easily. It’s harder to make yourself look good when your leadership qualities or your principles are being directly challenged — especially because, unlike with private, marital conversations, any testimony from Ms. Gingrich about Newt Gingrich’s actions related to public policy can actually be checked out by, yes, what actually happened in the public realm. In other words, if it’s true, then it’s more easily verifiable.

Again, Marianne Gingrich — by all accounts I have ever heard, a very nice lady — deserved better from ABC. So did the voters of this country.