Though former Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA) has been floating the theory that, contrary to previous news reports that he served her with divorce papers as she was recovering from ovarian cancer surgery, his first wife Jackie Battley Gingrich initiated their divorce, CNN recently recovered the files from that divorce — and they tell a very different story.
Battley Gingrich herself isn’t talking anymore, but previous news reports, combined with the new documents in the divorce, provide a timeline that doesn’t square with Gingrich’s recent attempts to rehabilitate his image by claiming the divorce was mutual and not the result of his affair.
June 14, 1962: Gingrich married Jackie Battley, when he was 19 and she was 26. She was also his then-former high school geometry teacher. Gingrich’s second wife, Marianne Ginther Gingrich, told Esquire last year that, despite what Battley and Gingrich told their families at the time, the two had been involved while Gingrich was still in high school. They had two children, and several former aides, friends and neighbors told Vanity Fair in the 1990s that Gingrich was profligately unfaithful throughout the 1970s.
January 1980: Marianne Ginther met Gingrich at a fundraiser, while Jackie and Newt were still married, and began an affair shortly thereafter.
April 1980: Gingrich approached Jackie about a divorce in April 1980, while she was recovering from the first of three surgeries for cancer. In her only interview, with the Washington Post, she recounted that he left in “spring 1980” and presented her with divorce terms after her third surgery while at the hospital that September. “He can say that we had been talking about it for 10 years, but the truth is that it came as a complete surprise,” she told the Post.
June 14, 1980: The divorce filings, unearthed by CNN, show that Newt Gingrich left Jackie for good, 5 days before their wedding anniversary.
July 14, 1980: Newt Gingrich filed for divorce.
August 14, 1980: Jackie Battley Gingrich acknowledged receipt of the divorce filing.
September 12, 1980: Jackie Battley Gingrich’s lawyers responded to Newt’s divorce petition, contesting the divorce. Specifically, her filing read:
Defendant shows that she has ample and adequate grounds for divorce, but that she does not desire one at this time.
She additionally requested alimony and child support, as Newt left her with two children to care for, a reasonable split of the marital property were the divorce to be granted, and lawyers fees.
September 25, 1980: Jackie Battley Gingrich’s attorneys filed documents demanding Newt Gingrich’s financial records.
October 7, 1980: Jackie Battley Gingrich’s lawyers filed their notice to depose Newt Gingrich in the divorce case on October 20, 1980.
October 13, 1980: Jackie Battley Gringrich’s attorneys filed a motion for a jury trial in the divorce case. They also filed documents demanding that the court become involved in the financial aspects of the case, as Newt Gingrich had refused to release his financial information or provide any means to Jackie to support their children or maintain her residence. That hearing was scheduled for October 21, 1980.
October 17, 1980: Newt Gingrich’s attorneys filed a successful motion to reschedule his deposition October 20 to November 10, 1980.
October 21, 1980: Jackie Battley Gingrich filed out paperwork asking for $2036 in itemized monthly expenses for herself and their two daughters:
$514 for housing
$340 for food
$200 for clothing
$19 for water
$40 for electricity
$40 for gas
$50 for telephone service
$149 for medical care
$50 for dental care
$90 for medicine
$25 for child care
$60 for school expenses
$65 for the car payment
$26 for health insurance
$100 for taxes
$100 for recreation
$40 to their church
$10 for their exterminator
$10 for gifts
$15 for “beauty parlor subscriptions”
Attached was an estimate of Gingrich’s gross monthly income from Congress ($5,015.21), which, after taxes and insurance payments, was an estimated net of $3.341.24. He claimed to be spending money on houses in Fairfax and Arlington, the utilities on a Virginia house, $407 a month on food, $75 on an orthodontist and $477 a month on his various bank debts unrelated to any mortgages. He also had $120 — due in 4 remaining payments — to Cole’s jewelry store. (Marianne Ginther Gingrich told Esquire that he’d already asked her to marry him at that point.)
December 17, 1980: After the October 21, 1980 hearing, Newt Gingrich was ordered to pay $300 a month in child support and $400 in alimony for the foreseeable future, in addition to the mortgage on the Georgia home, Jackie and their children’s medical bills, all the outstanding utility bills on the Georgia home, payments on the car Jackie was driving and $750 to Jackie’s attorney.
January 9, 1981: Newt Gingrich was ordered to appear at a deposition for Jackie’s attorneys on January 14, 1981.
January 31, 1981: Jackie and Newt Gingrich agreed to the terms of their divorce.
February 2, 1981: Newt Gingrich petitioned for a final decree in his divorce from Jackie, and the divorce is finalized. Newt agreed to pay $200 a month in child support for each daughter until they turned 18 or, if they attended college, until they completed a 4-year degree program or turned 23; as well as all the children’s medical and dental bills and for their insurance. He was also ordered to keep Jackie on his insurance policy until she could qualify for individual insurance without a medical examination, due to her cancer diagnosis (a pre-existing condition); and to pay $1,000 per month in alimony with increases up to $1,300/month as Gingrich’s income increased up to $100,000. They split the title on the Georgia house, with Gingrich assuming the second mortgage, and she ceded the Virginia home to him, and each got the possessions in the house at the time. Jackie kept the car she was driving and Newt continued to make the payments on it.
August 1981: Marianne Ginther and Newt Gingrich married. By 1997, rumors were already swirling about Newt’s next series of extramarital affairs.
1993: As was later revealed in the course of Newt’s second set of divorce proceedings, Newt began a long-term affair with Callista Bisek, a Republican Congressional staffer 23 years his junior.
May 1999: Newt told Marianne of his ongoing affair with Callista Bisek on Mother’s Day — shortly after Marianne was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She was visiting her mother in Ohio, and told Esquire in 2010 that Newt had invited Callista to their house for the weekend she was away. Initially, he asked Marianne to simply tolerate his affair.
June 29, 1999: Newt filed for divorce.
April 2000: Marianne and Newt Gingrich finalized their divorce.
August 18, 2000: Callista Bisek and Newt Gingrich married.
2002: Newt Gingrich asked the Catholic Archdiocese Atlanta to annul his marriage to Marianne Ginther Gingrich on the grounds that Ginther Gingrich had been married prior to their wedding. Callista Bisek Gingrich is a practicing Catholic, and Newt completed his conversion to the religion in 2009.
[Image via Gage Skidmore on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed]