12:00 PM EST, January 19, 2012
It's the interview with Newt Gingrich's ex-wife that has him doing major damage control.
Marianne Gingrich says he actually suggested they have an open marriage so he could carry on an affair with Callista, who he later married.
In the exclusive interview with ABC's Brian Ross, Marianne said, "I said to him, 'Newt, we've been married a long time.' And he said, 'Yes, but you want me all to yourself. Callista doesn't care what I do.' "
Ross asked, "What was he saying to you, do you think?"
"He was asking to have an open marriage, and I refused," said Marianne.
Ross asked, "He wanted an open marriage?"
"Yeah, that I accept the fact that he has somebody else in his life," replied Marianne.
"And you said?" asked Ross.
"No. No. That is not a marriage," said Marianne.
Marianne, who was married to Gingrich for 18 years, once boasted that she could end his career with a single interview.
Now the question everyone is asking, will the shocking interview do just that?
Brian Ross said on The View , "She spoke in measured tones, but she does say—because this is why we talked to her—that she does not think her ex-husband has the moral character to serve as president....She said he used to call her at night when he was giving a speech somewhere, and tell her how much he loved her, and later admitted he was in bed next to Callista as he made the phone call."
The bombshell interview airs Thursday on Nightline, right after Gingrich takes the stage for the last debate in South Carolina before Saturday's primary. The latest polls find Gingrich surging to a two point lead over Romney.
Appearing on the Today show, Gingrich refused to trash his ex.
Gingrich said, "I'm not going to say anything bad about Marianne. My two daughters, Kathy and Jackie have sent a letter to the President of ABC News saying from a family perspective they think this is totally wrong. They think ABC should not air anything like this."
The letter sent by Gingrich's daughters from his first marriage to Jackie Gingrich, his former high school math teacher, states: "The failure of a marriage is a terrible and emotional experience for everyone involved. He has said before, privately and publicly, that he regrets any pain he may have caused in the past to people he loves."
A senior Gingrich advisor is using tougher talk, stating: "That was a very bitter divorce, and you're talking about somebody who is still, probably, very bitter."
Gingrich tried his best to appear the perfect family man in South Carolina today, introducing his 10-year-old grandson, Robert Cushman.