COLUMBIA, SC.--Just as GOP White House hopeful Newt Gingrich may be catching up to chief rival and frontrunner Mitt Romney in South Carolina--and Rick Perry dropping out--ABC's Nightline will broadcast Thursday night a stinging interview with former wife Marianne Gingrich. It's a double header tonight: CNN hosts the last debate before the Saturday vote at 8 p.m est.
Marianne, Gingrich's second wife, tells ABC's Rhonda Schwartz and Brian Ross "Gingrich lacks the moral character to serve as President, his second ex-wife Marianne told ABC News, saying his campaign positions on the sanctity of marriage and the importance of family values do not square with what she saw during their 18 years of marriage."
And more, from ABC: "When Gingrich admitted to a six-year affair with a Congressional aide, he asked her if she would share him with the other woman, Callista, who is now married to Gingrich.
"And I just stared at him and he said, 'Callista doesn't care what I do,'" Marianne Gingrich told ABC News. "He wanted an open marriage and I refused."
Marianne described her "shock" at Gingrich's behavior, including how she says she learned he conducted his affair with Callista "in my bedroom in our apartment in Washington."
"He always called me at night," she recalled, "and always ended with 'I love you.' Well, she was listening."
On Wednesday, the Gingrich campaign put out a statement sent to ABC News by Gingrich's daughters by his first wife, defending their father and noting this controversial interview comes out just days before the vote.
Below, statement from the daughters:
To: ABC News Leadership
From: Kathy Lubbers, Jackie Cushman
Date: January 18, 2012
The failure of a marriage is a terrible and emotional experience for everyone involved. Anyone who has had that experience understands it is a personal tragedy filled with regrets, and sometimes differing memories of events.
We will not say anything negative about our father's ex-wife. He has said before, privately and publicly, that he regrets any pain he may have caused in the past to people he loves.
ABC News or other campaigns may want to talk about the past, just days before an important primary election. But Newt is going to talk to the people of South Carolina about the future- about job creation, lower taxes, and about who can defeat Barack Obama by providing the sharpest contrast to his damaging, extreme liberalism. We are confident this is the conversation the people of South Carolina are interested in having.
Our father is running for President because of his grandchildren - so they can inherit the America he loves. To do that, President Obama must be defeated. And as the only candidate in the race, including Obama, who has actually helped balance the national budget, create jobs, reform welfare, and cut taxes and spending, Newt felt compelled to run - to serve his country and safeguard his grandchildren's future.