Assume the position, Newt

Former House Speaker Gingrich faces embarrassing questions about his sex life and marital fidelity.

By David Corn
September 8, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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Sometime in the next few weeks, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich may find himself in a position remarkably similar to the one that led to President Clinton's impeachment.

In divorce proceedings Gingrich initiated against his second wife, Marianne, the onetime champion of "family values" could be forced to sit through a legal deposition in which he is asked a series of probing questions about his personal life, queries that will likely cover allegations that he has engaged in a long-term extramarital affair with Callista Bisek, a 33-year-old House staffer.


Already, Marianne's legal team has won permission from a superior court judge in Georgia to take a videotaped deposition from Bisek on Sept. 29. If that deposition proceeds, Marianne's attorneys certainly will grill Bisek on whether Gingrich was an adulterer when he was successfully leading the so-called Republican Revolution, and when he was pushing for Clinton's impeachment.

Assuming that Gingrich eventually will have to appear for his own deposition, Salon has composed a partial list of questions that the former House speaker is likely to face.

  • When the GOP, led by you, won the House with the support of the religious right, were you engaging in adultery? (For the sake of this question, let's assume a wide definition of adultery: any physical contact of a romantic or lustful nature between you and a person not your wife.)

  • Were you concerned that anyone who knew of this alleged affair could blackmail or pressure you? Did any legislator, lobbyist, aide or anyone else ever attempt to leverage information about you and Bisek into favorable treatment?

  • Were you involved in any way with Bisek's promotion to her $55,000-a-year job on the House Agriculture Committee?

  • Were you aware that when she received the position with the Agriculture Committee the rumors of a relationship between you and Bisek were prevalent on Capitol Hill? Did you suspect that some might think she had received preferential treatment because of her relationship with you?

  • Your divorce lawyer recently told reporters that you and Marianne were estranged for six years starting in 1987, but that you reconciled in late 1993 or early 1994. But when you filed ethics charges against House Speaker Jim Wright in 1988 -- the "loneliest day of my career," you called it -- Marianne and you walked hand in hand to the ethics committee office. "She stood by me when it seemed no one else would," you later wrote. Since by your own admission the two of you were estranged at that time, were you therefore using her as a political prop in that instance?

  • How long after your 1993/1994 reconciliation did you manage to stay faithful to your wife?

  • When you became speaker in January 1995 and appeared often in public with Marianne, were you in fact maintaining a sham marriage with her?

  • When you became speaker, you declared Marianne to be your "best friend and closest adviser." Were you telling the truth when you said that?

  • When Vanity Fair in 1995 floated gossip about you and Bisek, did that cause you to cease that relationship or to maintain distance from Bisek? If not, do you believe you were acting recklessly?

  • Did you ever give gifts to Bisek? Did you ever receive gifts from Bisek? If so, please provide a list for each category.

  • Did you ever socialize with Bisek in the speaker's office? Were you ever alone with her in that office? Did you ever engage in any sexual activity there or elsewhere on government property with her or with any other person?

  • Did you spend any time with Bisek during the government shutdown in 1995? Did she ever bring you pizza, for example?

  • A volunteer for your 1976 congressional campaign told Vanity Fair that oral sex was your "modus operandi," because then you could say, "I never slept with her." Is this an accurate portrayal of your position?

  • During the congressional debates on welfare reform, you asserted there was a need for more individual responsibility. If you engaged in sexual activity with Bisek, did you practice safe sex?

  • When you reportedly began your relationship with Bisek, she worked for Rep. Steve Gunderson, an openly gay Republican from Wisconsin. At the time, there was talk among some within the GOP of ostracizing gay Republicans like Gunderson. But according to House aides you maintained a cordial relationship with him. Did he know of the relationship between you and Bisek, and if so, was this a factor in how you dealt with Gunderson?

  • Was anyone on your staff aware of the relationship between you and Bisek? Was Tony Blankley, your press secretary, aware of this relationship?

  • Was anyone in the Republican leadership aware of any relationship between you and Bisek?

  • Did any Republican ever ask you about the widespread rumors regarding you and Bisek? If so, what did you say in response?

  • In 1998, you wrote, "temptation is something ever lurking, waiting to exploit human weakness, especially in times of sorrow and difficulty. What we [conservatives] have to offer people instead is strength and adventure." Is your relationship with Bisek an example of such "strength and adventure"?

  • Were you romantically or sexually involved with Bisek when you dedicated your 1998 book, "Lessons Learned the Hard Way," to Marianne?

  • In that book, in a chapter titled "Know the Difference Between Right and Wrong," you wrote that Marianne, at critical moments in your life, told you "to do what was right. Whether we succeeded or failed was up to God, she said; whether we tried was up to us." In your personal life, and specifically in the case of your relationship with Bisek, have you heeded her advice?

  • You also wrote, "Not only is Marianne the woman I love, she is also my best friend and closest advisor." When you wrote those words, were you conducting a secret liaison with Bisek?

  • Did you ever inform your "best friend and closest advisor" about your friendship with Bisek? Did Bisek ever provide you political advice?

  • In "Lessons Learned the Hard Way," there is a chapter describing how you handled the $300,000 fine you had to pay for providing false information to the ethics committee. In that chapter, you noted that when it came to household finances, "Our money belonged to Marianne as much as it did to me." How does that square with your attempt to use a 10-year-old separation agreement that was never filed -- which would have provided Marianne $2,000 a month for six months -- now to settle your divorce?

  • Given what you wrote in your book, do not the millions of dollars you have collected this year giving speeches -- for up to $50,000 a speech -- belong to Marianne as much as to you?

  • When you and Marianne were deliberating on how to pay the $300,000 fine, you told her that you believed you should pay the fine with your household funds, rather than using campaign funds or a legal defense fund. Marianne agreed, saying, "If you are determined to stay in this business, then you should do the right thing. There is no point in staying here [in Congress] if you lose moral authority." As you later noted, "She placed virtually every penny we own in the world on the line. I was amazed -- and I still am -- at her calm and strength." At the time she placed "every penny ... on the line," were you pursuing an extramarital relationship with Bisek?

  • When Bob Dole provided a line of credit so you could pay the $300,000 fine, did you inform him that many people on the Hill believed you were engaged in an extramarital affair -- a revelation that might have caused him to reconsider the guarantee he provided?

  • Were the rumors -- true or false -- about you and Bisek a factor in your abrupt resignation from office last year?

  • Did any Republican approach you with information about your relationship with Bisek in an attempt to force you to resign? If so, who?

  • Did you ever talk to Bisek about Larry Flynt's $1 million offer for information on the extramarital activities of Republican members of Congress?

  • When you left the House, you said, "Marianne and I have lots of things to do." What "things" did you have in mind then? When you said that, were you also making plans for the future with Bisek?

  • You recently described Marianne as possessing a "solid, unswerving integrity." Would you apply the same description to yourself? And if she is such a person, shouldn't the court give credence to her assertion that you transferred "substantial portions of certain valuable assets" before filing for divorce?

  • You have written, "It is fascinating to me how you can learn lessons -- really learn them, I mean -- and yet fail to apply them in changed circumstances." Given that this is the second time you are divorcing a wife, what, if anything, have you learned about applying family values in your own life?

  • David Corn

    David Corn is the Washington editor of the Nation, a columnist for the New York Press and author of a political suspense novel, "Deep Background" (St.Martin's Press).

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