Ghosts of Gingrich past

I like to say I hate politics, but there was something exciting about Drudge's report on internal squabbling at ABC News. He broke the news that they were debating when to air Marianne Gingrich's latest interview on the implosion of her marriage to Newt Gingrich, now leading in South Carolina polls. I'm not proud of it, but I have always enjoyed Marianne's eagerness in airing the dirty laundry there. She was wronged, and she wants you to know about it, you know? This Esquire interview, as much as any other, should prep you for what to expect in tonight's broadcast. So what are the big journalism questions as they relate to religion? It's turning out that all those early-in-the-cycle profiles about Gingrich's moral failings and his conversion to Catholicism were pretty helpful. We have reviewed many of them in the last year.

Now, it's entirely possible that Marianne's interview will destroy Gingrich's campaign, particularly if primary voters are unfamiliar with all the other interviews she's given over the years (none of which were ever broadcast, only in print). But if it doesn't, will there be confusion as to why? I keep seeing journalists I follow on Twitter say "social conservatives don't approve of [insert thing that Newt Gingrich did in his previous marriages]." And they're undoubtedly right about that. But will they miss a critical component about forgiveness?

When I was listening to Texas Gov. Rick Perry's speech earlier today, where he announced he was dropping out and endorsing Gingrich, I thought the religion angle to his speech was one of the most interesting. I wondered how the media would handle that. Turns out they handled it surprisingly well: they quoted him. Here, for example, is the New York Times piece:

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Gov. Rick Perry of Texas dropped out of the Republican presidential race here on Thursday and announced his endorsement of Newt Gingrich, a man he called a “conservative visionary.”

“I’ve never believed that the cause of conservatism is embodied by one individual,” Mr. Perry said at a news conference here. “Our party and our conservative philosophy transcends any one individual.”

“I have come to the conclusion that there is no viable path forward for me,” Mr. Perry said. “I am suspending my campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich.”

“Newt is not perfect, but who among us is,” Mr. Perry said, in an apparent allusion to his three marriages. “The fact is, there is forgiveness for those who seek god. And I believe in the power of redemption for it is a central tenant of my Christian faith.”

A GetReligion reader wonders if he really said "tenant" or if he instead said "tenet." Christian Science Monitor messed this up, too. I'm sure it was a simple mistake that led the New York Times to lowercase "God." I hope it was a simple mistake. It's certainly interesting how much more we're seeing this error.

Anyway, this Houston Chronicle blog post also seemed to get that sin is not a permanent disqualification when Christian voters consider a candidate, although certainly a concern. Not a bad balance.

The Associated Press report on the interview notes:

The explosive interview was airing just two days before the presidential primary in South Carolina, a state with a strong Christian conservative bent, and as Gingrich tries to present himself as the strongest alternative to GOP front-runner Mitt Romney. ...

Gingrich has worked in recent years to present himself as changed man, offering himself in this campaign as a 68-year-old grandfather who has settled down with wife No. 3 and embraced God through Catholicism.

Last year, he said it would be up to voters to decide whether to hold his past against him.

"I think people have to look at me, ask tough questions, then render judgment," he said then.

Setting aside personal political views for or against Gingrich or other candidates, what do you think of the journalism involved here?

Image of haunting woman via Shutterstock.

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