Clearing the Record on the Infamous ‘Hospital Visit’


My father, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, has been in politics as long as I can remember.

And as long as I can remember, media coverage about him has contained misstatements of facts. The vast majority are simple mistakes that are easily corrected, understood and rewoven into an ongoing storyline.

But one of them seems to have taken on a life of its own, and simple corrections have not sufficed to set the record straight. Why does this happen? I can’t be sure, but I suspect that the narrative created by these untruths proves to be so much more compelling and more dramatic than what actually happened that it proves irresistible.

I’m talking about the story of my father’s visit to my mother while she was in the hospital in 1980.

For years, I have thought about trying to correct the untrue accounts of this hospital visit. After all, I was at the hospital with them, and saw and heard what happened. But I have always hesitated, as it was a private family matter and my mother is a very private person. In addition, for the four people involved, it was one of a million interactions and was not considered a defining event by any of us.

My mother and I have both recently run into quite a few people who hold an inaccurate understanding of this hospital visit. Many think my mother is dead.

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.

As have many families, we have healed; we have moved on.

We are not a perfect family, but we are knit together through common bonds, commitment and love.

My mother and father are alive and well, and my sister and I are blessed to have a close relationship with them both.

My sister and I feel that it is time to move on, close the book on this event and focus on building a great future. We will not answer additional questions or make additional comments regarding this meaningless incident, which occurred more than three decades ago.

As I said, my mother is a private person. She will not give media interviews. She deserves respect and should be allowed to live in peace.




Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a nationally syndicated columnist and the author of

  • Fascinating how the falsehood won out all these years.

  • Carl

    Before Truthers, birthers, deathers, water boarders, interrogators, wire-tappers, we had divorcers.

    The two big differences here are that the divorcers, as this piece points out, never had the support or proof from the supposed victim(s). And most importantly the matter was a private issue between family members. If the family members aren’t talking about it, then neither should we.

    Of all the charges against Newt, a list that approaches 100 accusations—only two stuck: This lie about asking for a divorce in a hospital when his wife was on her death bed and his not paying taxes on proceeds from teaching a college class. Who wants there taxes reviewed by the IRS for perfection? And compared to some members of Obama’s administration Newt was a boy scout on the tax issue.

    While the other “ers” did have some level of legitimacy for the voter to concern himself with most are confounded-liberal-American-hysterical-hyperbole.

    For example, who hasn’t had to present their birth certificate as proof for employment or for a security check? Why did the current president spend millions to fight its intial release? The common thread between all these “ers” in an attempt to silence, ridicule, and embarrass conservatives into submission—and it has worked more than not.

  • Cord Hamrick

    For policy and electability reasons, I would prefer that Gingrich not turn out to be the next Republican nominee.

    (For policy and attitude reasons at least, I think I prefer nearly any combination of Herman Cain, Bobby Jindal, Allen West, Chris Christie, and Paul Ryan.)

    But another reason I’ve been uncomfortable with Gingrich is my suspicions that he’s a man of shaky character, who thinks (as so many politicians seem to think) that the rules don’t apply to him.

    Now, I am glad to hear that the story about the hospital-bed divorce is false. I always suspected it was; it seemed too egregious, even for a politician. (At least, for one interested in having a future career.)

    But this particular myth is not (for “the religious right” or “values voters”) the sole source of concern about Gingrich’s character.

    Here’s the Wikipedia section on the man’s marriages:

    Gingrich has been married three times. In 1962, he married Jackie Battley, his former high school geometry teacher, when he was 19 years old and she was 26. In the spring of 1980, Gingrich left Battley after having an affair with Marianne Ginther….Six months after the divorce from Battley was final, Gingrich wed Marianne Ginther in 1981.

    In the mid-1990s, Gingrich began an affair with House of Representatives staffer Callista Bisek…. In 2000, Gingrich married Bisek shortly after his divorce from second wife Ginther.

    So, we have two affairs, leading to two abandoned (civil marriage) spouses. One, I could see: All make mistakes. Two is pushing it; some mistakes, if they must be made at all, should be made exactly once.

    Does Gingrich think he’s above the rules? I’d hate to have a president with an existing predisposition to see himself above the law. (Admittedly, politicians show a remarkable ability sometimes to compartmentalize between man’s law and God’s, and to consider the latter less important.)

    There is also the question of annulments, since he has become Catholic. Have his earlier marriages been declared to have never been valid?

    The relevant thread on annulments from Fr. Z’s blog includes a post from Fr. Martin Fox with the following observations:

    > A marriage between two baptized persons, who are not Catholic, is presumed to be sacramental by the Roman Catholic Church, and it doesn’t matter very much how they were married–before a cleric, in church, before a judge, in a park, etc. If you want more on that, consult a canonist.

    > If Mr. Gingrich was baptized, and his first wife was baptized, then that marriage is presumed valid, and therefore he’d have to seek a decree of nullity from the Catholic Church, through the formal process, in order to enter into a valid, sacramental marriage with a subsequent woman–i.e., his current wife.

    > Presuming he did not seek a decree of nullity for his first marriage prior to entering into his second marriage, then the second marriage was null from the start.

    If that’s all correct, I’ll buy that the second marriage was null from the start. But why should the first not have been so? Isn’t the default expectation for a man in Gingrich’s position to either reconcile with his first wife, or remain single and celibate?

    I wish I could find confirmation online that Newt and Callista are, in fact, validly married. This would suggest a slight improvement in following the rules: That even though Callista didn’t bother to wait until Newt was divorced before sleeping with him and assisting in the breakup of his family, at least they bothered to follow the annulment process. That’s a kind of rule-following, however belatedly!

    Some folk may think these questions of mine ungracious. That is not my attitude; I find it distasteful to poke through others’ personal faults in this way. Our God is forgiving, thankfully, of my own faults. Assuming the requisite effort at contrition and amended life, God’s mercy can certainly extend to Callista and Newt if it extends to the rest of us rotters! I hope for the best for and from them.

    So I would not ask such questions were it not for his possible candidacy. That candidacy makes questions about his character pertinent, however distasteful it is to ask them.

    And then there is this…

    In a 2011 interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network Gingrich addressed his past infidelities by saying, “There’s no question at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.”

    Y’know, the presidency is a difficult job, too. I hope, should the man become president, that it won’t lead to more inappropriate things happening in his life.

  • sd

    I guess I’m trying to understand why this is posted on insidecatholic. I think it’s great to give a loving daughter a forum on clearing up misinformation and lies about her father, but is the site going to provide a similar forum to children of other Catholic politicians, Republican AND Democrat, about whom there is misinformation?
    I am an orthodox, devout Catholic who works for a very solid parish in a very solid diocese. However, I don’t think this site serves the Church well by obviously advancing a particular candidate for office–even if he did make a movie about the Pope. This reeks of laying groundwork for more promotion of the candidate.

    • I guess I’m trying to understand why this is posted on insidecatholic.

      It isn’t posted at InsideCatholic; it’s posted at Crisis Magazine. This is a different site, with a different mission.

      This reeks of laying groundwork for more promotion of the candidate.

      We won’t be promoting any candidates, nor would Newt Gingrich be a popular choice around here. However, our Counterpoints section offers a place to respond to false claims made by members of the media, or by prominent political and cultural figures. The distorted account of Gingrich’s hospital visit is so widespread that we were happy to run Jackie Cushman’s correction.

  • Carl

    sd: Where do you see an endorsement?

    Newt’s last weekend call for a federal individual mandate of healthcare and personal swipe at Congressmen Paul Ryan makes his presidential aspirations moot. He just cooked his own goose.

    Two divorces and a third wife is most certainly a questionable character flaw for a politician. Especially leader of the free world.

    Details of these failed relations are unnecassary.

    So long Newt…..

    If you need a job go teach history.

  • Carl

    sd: “guess I’m trying to understand why this is posted on insidecatholic.”

    Why not?

    Newt and Rick Santorum I believe are the only two catholic politicians to anounce an interest in being president.

  • Kathryn

    I must confess I didn’t hear Newt last week, but I heard his “explanation” for the federal mandate on health insurance and Paul Ryans’s budget plans.

    Newt claimed this afternoon on Hannity that he is opposed to a FEDERAL mandate and all of Obamacare, but points out that we can no longer continue to allow people to show up at the ER in need of health care services and then have the tax payer pick up the bill. He is leaving it to the States to figure that one out.

    He also noted that Ryan did not lay down the necessary popular approval for his plans. Ryan is imposing it from the Belt Way and people (not everyone but too many) don’t know how it would all work out. I’ve actually come across this in my own personal life where friends are up in arms about the Evil Paul Ryan Plan, and then when I send them some sources to explain it, they are willing to give positive consideration.

    Now, did Newt flip flop? Can’t say. I didn’t hear the original interview. I do know the media is not friendly to anyone even moderately conservative. I am willing to take a wait and see approach.

    I will say that I am glad Cord brought up his misgivings about Newt. I don’t feel so alone. Two adulterous affairs, a broken family, three marriages. We all sin, but this would indicate a fairly significant character flaw. Yes, I suppose the rest of the world would laugh at us about being irriated by this kind of thing, but as the rest of the world is not in such great shape, I don’t give it much credibility.

  • Cord Hamrick

    I think that the mission of Crisis Magazine makes it pertinent to comment on the Speaker Gingrich and his candidacy for a variety of reasons:

    1. His wife is Catholic and he’s a prominent Catholic convert…according to that peculiar Catholic usage of the term “convert” needn’t involve a change from a non-Christian religion but can be applied to an already-baptized “separated brother” who is received through confirmation;

    2. The questions related to his prior marriages and affairs touch on issues of faithfulness of prominent Catholics to sex/marriage/gender-related Church teachings;

    3. As a candidate for the Presidency, he will opine on what he perceives to be good policy in the short term and on what constitutes a good philosophy of government in the long term. His opinion will (a.) either be portrayed as “Catholic”, or not; (b.) either be in fact within the range of opinion permitted to Catholics, or not; (c.) either fall within the subset of that range of policy/governance opinion which is championed by this website, or not.

    Two other things need be said:

    First, I don’t think mentioning him here qualifies as an endorsement. I write for IC/CM on occasion and am a pretty regular participant in the ongoing conversations here, and I’m sure my last post can’t be mistaken for a hearty endorsement.

    Second, were a Catholic Democrat to campaign for the presidency, I am confident that both the consistency of his moral conduct with Catholic teaching and his philosophy of governance would be discussed here.

    In fact, the consistency of any Democrat or Republicans moral conduct and governing philosophy with Catholic teaching would be discussed, whether the candidate was himself a Catholic or not.

    This has certainly been the case in the past, under the InsideCatholic banner; I see no reason for that to change under the CrisisMagazine banner.

  • sd

    “It isn’t posted at InsideCatholic; it’s posted at Crisis Magazine. This is a different site, with a different mission.”
    Fair enough–I haven’t really paid attention to the evolution. However, when I type in insidecatholic, I seem to go directly to Crisis–I’ll try to figure out what I’m doing wrong.

  • Cord Hamrick


    You’re not doing anything wrong; I think you just “missed the memo,” so to speak.

    Within the last several days InsideCatholic has become Crisis Magazine.

    This is not a change to a new thing, so much as a return to the old thing. Inside Catholic came from a “Crisis Magazine background,” so to speak, had gotten a little bit unfocused in its mission, and is returning to deal with apologetics and analysis focused on specific aspects of the faith, especially pertaining to how the Catholic faith interacts with the “public sphere.”

    The change of the site “brand name” back to “Crisis Magazine” is to reflect this refocusing.

  • Cord Hamrick

    In reply to Kathryn:

    No, you’re not alone. I can live with a sketchy character in the White House if forced to do so, but I really prefer not to be ashamed of my country. Inasmuch as the president represents the country, I prefer him to represent us with sufficient humility, dignity, and decency to come across as an admirable man.

    I don’t think Newt quite has that in him.

    Would I vote for him over Obama? Oh, well, yes, I probably would, like I did with McCain…after swearing up and down that I wouldn’t.

    But I’d hate it all the way to the polls.

    (That McCain vote was a very close thing for me: The “elect a black man” benefit, in combination with McCain’s execrable tendency to open fire on conservatives, sorely tempted me. Had Obama looked likely to have been as moderate as Bill Clinton, and had I not been deeply concerned about SCOTUS, I might have just left the presidential part of the ballot blank.)

    Anyhow, lack of character isn’t Newt’s only problem.

    Most of the conservative comments on Newt have been uniformly negative since he unthinkingly slammed Paul Ryan’s (extremely moderate and perhaps insufficient) plan as “right-wing social engineering.”

    (Nice move, Newt: Give the leftists a campaign-commercial sound bite they can ride all the way to re-election, and contribute to our financial collapse, at the same time.)

    I’m not sure what Newt thought he was doing. He seemed to be positioning himself as a “third way candidate” between the Tea Party emphasis on strong fiscal discipline and rollback of government overreach and the Democrats’ drunken-sailor spending spree and aristocracy of pull. Perhaps he was trying to appeal to independents?

    He tried to “walk back” and “clarify” his comments, but frankly, I think the explanations weren’t remotely credible, and the comments too damning in the eyes of the Republican base.

    Unless I miss my guess, only a few days after its official launch, Newt just steered his candidacy into unofficial “also-ran” status, occupying a role somewhere between Pat Buchanan and (for the Democrats) Mike Gravel.

  • GW

    Ms Cushman is doing what any loving daughter would do – standing up for her father. On the other hand, my first thought upon reading this is best summed up by U.S. Grant after the Civil War.
    Grant was describing his considerable respect for the Confederate Army and it’s soldiers’ commitment to their “Cause,” when he added, “although that Cause is by far the worst for which men ever fought.”

  • Kathryn

    @ Cord:

    But that is just it, Cord. From what heard on Hannity, Newt did not “unthinkingly slam” Ryan’s ideas. And did he actually use the term “Right Wing Social Engineering” and/or was it taken out of context? (I could not, alas, get to a transcript of hannity’s show with Newt and hope Hannity makes it available to non-subscribers of his site.)

    The media is vicious and you can’t even necessarily trust the “right wing” media either since they are also dependent on ratings for advertising dollars, etc.

    Do you remember Newt’s “wither on the vine” comment?” That was many years back and the subject was on Medicare and some bureaucracy part of Medicare that Newt wished to end due to the costs involved. The media took a very tiny portion of his talk on the issue, totally took it out of context and blew it up. I think that was the issue that ended his career in the House. So if his main beef with Ryan is that Ryan didn’t package his ideas properly, I can appreciate that.

    Newt is correct, packaging is important. Now, whether or not Newt is capable of packing a nice fiscally responsible agenda and implementing it, that I question.

  • Cord Hamrick


    Well, I suppose the thing to do is to judge for yourself. The “right wing social engineering” remark was from NBC’s “Meet The Press”; if you want to see some relevant clips, google Hot Air Gingrich Krauthammer to find the post on in which the clips are included.

    (You know, the funny thing about that “wither on the vine” comment was that I entirely supported it in- or out- of context. A smooth way for private alternatives to take the place of a government operated disaster is simply to put them in place and then allow the government operated disaster to get worse and worse until nobody has the time of day for it any more and they all voluntarily opt for the private alternatives.)

    Newt’s correct; packaging is important, whether it’s wrapped around new ideas or sound governing philosophy or the character of the person himself. Newt seems to have the new ideas, though I’m queasy about whether he has a sound governing philosophy or good character. But, oddly for the person making that remark, seems distinctly tone-deaf when it comes to the “packaging” of any of the above (pardon the mixed metaphors)!

    You’re correct, the media is vicious. In this case, however, I think media bias is not to blame for the eruption. In my experience it takes the media a little while to develop a fixed “narrative” and to begin to filter the facts to support it. I think Gingrich’s surprising remarks caught everyone off-guard, such that it came through more or less unfiltered.

  • Kathryn

    @ Cord:

    Limbaugh had an interesting theory on Newt’s odd (as it were) behavior today: Newt realizes his campaign is over before it ever really got off the ground, and he is now positioning himself for a prestigous think tank or professorship job or somesuch.

    His remarks can be found here:

  • Cord Hamrick


    Huh! Well, if Newt didn’t end up our next president — and I never thought that was likely, but I think it impossible now — then clearly a professorship or think tank position is right up his alley.

    And certainly being a discomfiting gadfly to conservatives would endear him to academics.

    I dunno, though. I’d wager Newt has far too much desire for respect to intentionally make himself look like an ass, in so prominent a way, just to position himself for the kind of jobs he’s already held before without immolating himself in public!

  • Confederate Papist

    I know I’m late to this party, but I do find it ironic how the “Newt haters” in the media and the left excoriate him about his divorces but are strong advocates for divorce itself.

  • Chris in Maryland

    To Confederate Papist:

    Here’s the answer – from Mary Ann Glendon: “In The Catholic Church, much is impermissable, but everything is forgivable. In the secular society, everythng is permissable, but NOTHING IS FORGIVABLE.”

    As to Newt – I think he defeated himself as Brit Hume indicated – “a provocative thinker, but a promiscuous talker.” And I think his excuse for his infidelity showed persistent weakness (“I was working too hard.”). That’s baloney, and that’s a real problem.

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