January 22nd, 2012
11:28 AM ET
3 years ago

Ross defends Gingrich ex-wife interview

(CNN) – The chief investigative correspondent at ABC News on Sunday defended the timing of an interview with Newt Gingrich's ex-wife and denied the presidential candidate's allegation that the network was biased against conservatives.

Brian Ross told CNN's "Reliable Sources" host, Howard Kurtz, that he had been trying to secure the interview with Marianne Gingrich since last November.

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The interview was broadcast on Thursday night, meaning there was "one news cycle to allow Mr. Gingrich to respond, and respond he did," Ross said.

Gingrich's angry response to a question about the interview from CNN moderator John King to start Thursday night's debate has been widely credited with helping turn Saturday's South Carolina primary vote in his favor.

Appearing on the CBS program "Face the Nation" later Sunday, Gingrich said the ABC report, and questions about his ex-wife, didn't play well with South Carolina voters.

"I think you saw the people of South Carolina agreed it was totally inappropriate," Gingrich said, later adding: "I was amazed at how intense the feeling was that night, that people just repudiated that kind of trash in the campaign."

Gingrich also said the timing of the ABC report revealed a possible bias in favor of rival candidate Mitt Romney.

"The way they did it, it was almost as if ABC was an arm of the Romney campaign," Gingrich said.

Ross pointed out in his interview, which was conducted before Gingrich's comments to CBS, that the story on Gingrich's ex-wife ran the day after another report by Ross about how Romney had millions of dollars in funds held offshore in the Cayman Islands.

Later in the interview, Ross denied an allegation made by Gingrich in Thursday night's debate that his campaign had offered several friends to ABC to prove that Marianne Gingrich's story was false.

"That simply is not true," Ross said, adding the Gingrich camp only offered his two daughters, who were featured in the "Nightline" report. "Nobody else was offered to us at all and our request to talk with the speaker himself was also denied by the campaign."

On the claim that ABC has an anti-conservative agenda, Ross noted that he faced similar charges from Barack Obama's supporters in 2008 when he reported on Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the then-candidate's former pastor.

"We're not out to get anybody. We're out to cover the news and to frame what's going on in this campaign," Ross said.

Ross said Gingrich's past marital infidelities were a viable topic for discussion.

"I think moral character is a relevant factor for every candidate running for president, and he [Gingrich] has campaigned on a platform involving policies that are family values and the sanctity of marriage. So I think, yes, it is an issue," he said.

Ross also stood by his report on Romney's offshore holdings. He pointed to a Wall Street Journal report that contradicted the Romney campaign's assertion that no tax advantages came from holding money offshore.

"We can't really know without seeing Romney's tax returns, which to this point he has not released or made public," Ross said.

Romney committed Sunday to releasing his tax records on Tuesday.

Also see:

South Carolina insiders dissect Gingrich win

Santorum stresses his own staying power in three-way race

Ethics penalty 'reimbursement,' says Gingrich

Gingrich plans major speeches, including one on space


Filed under: Newt Gingrich • Reliable Sources
soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    I blame the media for forcing Newt to have three wives. It is his love for his country that caused him to violate his marriage vows.

    January 22, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  2. H. (Bart) Vincelette

    The reaction of Mr. Gingrich to the question posed; was deplorable, as conservatives consistently claim to stand at the forefront of morality. What should be even more unsettling; however, was the audience reaction to his outburst of defensive anger. It was reminiscent of the audience members in Florida a few months back; when they booed an active duty serviceman overseas, who had posed a question to candidates about their opinion regarding gay military personnel. John King of CNN can hold his head high. He did nothing wrong. It would have been derelict NOT to inquire about the ex-wife's claims.

    January 22, 2012 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  3. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Ethics rules were made to be violated. These violations are considered a badge of honor.

    January 22, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  4. vic , nashville ,tn

    I will say
    The story came out on right time
    John King asked the good question on right time and right place
    we seen again and again the debate crowds are tough but people watch the debate in front of their TV knows this story and the question is matter before they cast the votes in November

    January 22, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  5. Cityguy1

    I was shocked watching Reliable Sources (???) interview with Howard Kurtz and Brian Ross.
    Neither of them were wearing their Obama t-shirts.

    January 22, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  6. Larry Linn

    It is ironic that conservative Republicans consider that to allow committed gays to marry, is a threat to marriage, but they will vote for New Gingrich.

    January 22, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  7. Bushy

    Oh please, each candidate is a direct reflection of some part of America including Newt.

    January 22, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  8. Ann

    I hope ABC News will follow up the story. It's the character, stupid! I wouldn't trust Newt with the economy anyway.

    January 22, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  9. Annie, Atlanta

    I think the interview was a good idea. This is political season, and everyone is open game, including ex-wives. She was going to be a sitting duck. I certainly would have wanted to be the person to get the information out there on myself, before someone got paid to share it. There were probably a lot of people in her life who knew exactly what went down, and maybe a few of them who would glady take money for that information.

    January 22, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  10. Annie, Atlanta

    Cityguy1 – Howart Kurtz and Brian Ross Obama supporters? Seriously? Do you have facts to back that up. Howard Kurtz has done his share of bashing the President and honestly I don't know what side of the aisle Brian Ross resides, one of the few jouralists out there who actually do their job without any indication of which way they lean.

    January 22, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  11. Dan

    Why bring it up again Ross? Why not let it fade away?Could it be because you have an agenda?

    January 22, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  12. Dan

    How about YOUR moral character Ross?

    January 22, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  13. c'mon america

    The liar always thinks everyone is lying , those that are biased see bias in everything , the cheater is always suspicious of being cheated , the burgler has the best locks on their doors , etc . etc . .....

    January 22, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  14. FedUp

    And I believe anyone in the media....why????? I trust them as much as I trust any politician. They have to reach up to scratch a snake's belly as far as I'm concerned.

    January 22, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  15. Jerry

    Newt said that the network was biased against conservatives. Ah yes, and what about FoxNews, unbiased?

    January 22, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    Two take-a-ways from last night.

    Mitt thinks hundreds of millions of struggling Americans are envious of him and his millions (much in the same way we are all envious of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and their hate spewing "we pulled ourselves up by the bootstrap" wealth laden - i.e: multi-million dollar employment contracts - talking points) and Newt thinks hundreds of millions of American men envy his "female" magnetism?

    America loves a success story. No doubt about it. These two candidates represent the very sleazy way in which one can obtain wealth and power in America.

    Americans "get it" Mr. Romney and Mr. Gingrich. It's the two you whom seem most confused.

    January 22, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  17. LenGrady75

    The fact that there are allegations means that they are true. When have they turned out to be wrong? Herman Cain? John Edwards? Bill Clinton? Im sure the list could go on.

    Only speaker ever to be unseated due to ethics charges?

    January 22, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  18. pietro

    Newt's victory was largely a response to the explosive response to John's question, and his criticism to the elite media. I think this will fade in the coming days and I think this is a very temporal thing. If He really wants to take it far beyond SC then he must play the conservative card really genuinely.

    January 22, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  19. chrystal055

    CNN is Bias,who without Sin,throw the First Stone!Newt can Win,his Intelligence far Supiorior than his Opponents!

    January 22, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  20. Mauri

    Do you people realize that there are folks who remember multitudinous actions by Newt Gingrich that were all but treasonous. I recall very vividly Clinton getting run through the gauntlet over his Lewinsky affair. The main person behind the Clinton impeachment was Newt Gingrich, who was carrying on his own lewd affair with his present wife. Ever hear the meaning of the word hypocrit? Think of it every time Gingrich opens his mouth, and believe me, you do NOT want this person as the president.

    January 22, 2012 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  21. Darla (Edmonton, Canada)

    Mr. Gingrich's response claiming that the question was inappropriate for a "presidential debate" ... it's only a Presidential Debate if the president is in it! The CNN debate on Thursday night was a GOP primary candidate debate, Mr. Gingrich - get your facts straight! The interview was a legitimate attempt to gain a fuller understanding of the GOP primary candidate by a member of the media. I was disappointed that Mr. King did not prepare a better follow-up to Mr. Gingrich's tirade. It is hard to believe that CNN and Mr. King didn't suspect what kind of response they would get to the question.

    Lastly, Mr. Gingrich - most of the divorced people I know, who have resolved their differences with their ex-spouse, do not feel the need to air their grievances years after the divorce. It strikes me that you and Marianne have some unfinished business and that the forgiveness you think you have has clearly not been gifted you by her.

    January 22, 2012 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  22. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I would like to see the proof that the Gingrich campaign had sent the information to Ross at ABC. At this point, it is on Gingrich and his campaign to prove that he sent it. I am sure that Ross and his staff would verify what they have received in the past month. If Gingrich and his campaign sent something like this, did they use something that can be tracted? I hope so because without it, they said something that can't be proven.

    January 22, 2012 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  23. mjbrin

    Gingrich to South Carolina voters is "fool you once shame on me, fool you twice shame on you" ;)

    January 22, 2012 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  24. Rick McDaniel

    Not really defensible.

    It was too known about, too old, and too personal.

    According to what I have seen, the claim is also highly unlikely to be true, in the first place.

    Brian Ross was playing into the hands of his network corporation owners, who are trying to influence the election, to the benefit of the Democratic Party.

    That's the bottom line.

    These news people need to take a hard look at who they work for, and how those corporations are aligned politically. Many of them are doing "dirty tricks" for their corporations, without realizing what they are being asked to do, and without looking at what they being asked to do, with an objective viewpoint. In other words.......they are being suckered. ABC is owned by Disney, and Disney is a major Obama supporter. ABC is by no means, reliable, for objective political news. Quite the opposite. They support the Democratic Party agenda.

    January 22, 2012 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  25. Howard

    Sacred Democratic Cows, President John F. Kennedy, and President Bill Clinton, both had extra-marital affairs while they were sitting Presidents. In fact, Clinton actually soiled Monica's dress, in the White House, and then continually lied about it. And yet, the Democrats, and the Liberal media now have the gall and audacity to demonize Newt Gringrich for similar behavior. The only question is ... can an extremely experienced former speaker of the house, who wrote 13 books,and worked with Reagan, and Clinton, to achieve enormous bipartisan gains, return American to its former greatness ... or, can a former community organizer, and failed President, who has spent the past 3 years running this country into the ground, return this country into its former greatness ... No Brainer ... Elect New Gringrich in 2012 !!!

    January 22, 2012 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
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