As Newt Gingrich Is Promised Role in Trump Administration, a Look Back at His Greatest Hits
Newt Gingrich is back in the political spotlight after emerging as a finalist in the search for Donald Trump‘s vice presidential pick. Even if the Georgia lawmaker doesn’t make the cut as Trump’s running mate, the presumptive GOP nominee has promised Gingrich some sort of role in a Trump administration.
“In one form or another, Newt Gingrich will be part of our government,” Trump said during a joint appearance with Gingrich in Ohio on Wednesday.
Gingrich’s growing involvement in Trump’s campaign has peaked the interest of media outlets, with CNN exploring “How Newt Gingrich became Donald Trump’s inside man” and the Los Angeles Times pondering what a Trump-Gingrich ticket would look like.
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It’s hardly Gingrich’s first time making headlines. Here’s a look back at his most buzzworthy moments over the years.
1. Gingrich’s Contract with America.
While he was House minority whip, Gingrich co-wrote the famed Contract with America. The document, released by the Republican Party in 1994 and signed by more than 350 Republican Congressional candidates, pledged to bring all 10 items in its staunchly conservative agenda to a vote in the House within the first 100 days of the session. The Washington Post at the time called it “one of the most ambitious 100-day agendas ever undertaken by a political party.” Nine of the 10 pieces of legislation passed and the campaign won Republicans control of the House for the first time in 40 years. The following year, Gingrich was elected House speaker – and named TIME magazine’s “Man of the Year.”
2. ‘Petty,’ Admittedly. But a Cry Baby, Too?
In 1995, Gingrich notoriously forced a shutdown of the federal government after being snubbed by then-President Bill Clinton aboard Air Force One. Just as notoriously, Gingrich admitted as much two days later – at a breakfast with reporters.
As the story goes, Gingrich, House speaker at the time, was invited to be part of the official U.S. delegation accompanying Clinton to the Middle East for the funeral of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. At the time, the Republican-led Congress and the Clinton White House stood at a budget impasse and Gingrich expected to talk with Clinton during the flight about possible solutions. Instead, Clinton stayed in his front cabin with former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George Bush. Worse, Gingrich and other Republican leaders were asked to deplane by the rear door of Air Force One – the same as is used by Secret Service agents and the press corps.
Gingrich recounted the indignity a week later, over a press breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, and earned himself a memorable New York Post cover depicting him in diapers and throwing a temper tantrum.
“This is petty,” Gingrich admitted over that 1995 breakfast. “I’m going to say upfront it’s petty, but I think it’s human. When you land at Andrews and you’ve been on the plane for 25 hours and nobody has talked to you and they ask you to get off by the back ramp . . . you just wonder, where is their sense of manners, where is their sense of courtesy?”
Gingrich explained that, after that fateful exit through the rear of the plane, he sent the president two financing and spending bills he knew that Clinton would veto, thus sparking a full-blown budget crisis and shutting down the federal government.
3. Three Marriages and One ‘Widely Known’ Affair.
Gingrich has been married three times. He was married to Jacqueline Battley, his former geometry teacher, from 1962 to 1981. The couple split as Battley was recovering from cancer surgery, but there are conflicting accounts about exactly how and when the divorce was initiated. In 1985, Battley told The Washington Post that the divorce came as a “complete surprise” to her. She said Gingrich and their two daughters visited her in the hospital in September 1980 after Battley had undergone surgery to remove a tumor, and that Gingrich wanted to discuss the terms of their divorce. Gingrich has disputed that account, claiming as recently as 2011 that it was his wife who requested the divorce. But court documents obtained by CNN in 2011, amid Gingrich’s failed campaign for president, showed that the former House speaker filed a divorce complaint in July 1980 and Battley responded by asking a judge to block the process.
In 1981, six months after his divorce from his first wife was finalized, Gingrich married Marianne Ginther. In 1993, while still married to Ginther, Gingrich began an affair with House of Representatives staffer Callista Bisek, who is 23 years his junior. One former colleague of Bisek described the affair as “fairly common knowledge on the Hill certainly in Republican circles it was widely known about.” Gingrich and his second wife divorced in 2000 and he married Bisek four months later.
4. Clinton Impeachment, Ethics Charges and Resignation.
In 2007, Gingrich publicly admitted for the first time that he had cheated on both his first and second wives – and that he had cheated on Ginther while leading the 1998 impeachment proceedings against President Clinton for allegations of perjury connected to the Paula Jones sexual harassment case and his affair with Monica Lewinsky. According to ABC News, Gingrich argued that the Clinton case was different from his own infidelities. “The president of the United States got in trouble for committing a felony in front of a sitting federal judge,” Gingrich said in 2007, arguing that Clinton had “deliberately committed perjury.”
Meanwhile, Gingrich’s four-year speakership was plagued by accusations of ethics violations, with Democrats filing a total of 84 ethics charges against him. In 1997, Gingrich became the first House speaker in history to be disciplined for an ethics violation. The House reprimanded Gingrich for claiming tax-exempt status on a college course he’d led that had “substantial partisan, political purposes.” He was then fined $300,000 “to reimburse the House for some of the costs of the investigation.”
Later that year, top House Republicans plotted a coup to replace Gingrich as speaker, claiming his image had become a liability. It didn’t pan out but Gingrich resigned from his speakership in 1998 amid growing pressure from his fellow Republicans.
5. Gingrich’s Love for Zoo Animals.
Gingrich is a lifelong, self-professed “zoo lover” who claims to have visited at least 95 zoos in the U.S. He even launched his own animal-themed website, Pets with Newt, in 2012.
During a 1995 visit with Jack Hanna, former director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Gingrich confessed that his boyhood dream was to be a zoo director.
“One of the great sad moments of my life was when I was 12 years old and I wrote to Raymond Ditmar, curator of reptiles at the Bronx Zoo,” Gingrich said at the time. “I wanted advice on how to become a zoo director and got a very nice letter back saying he had died the same year I was born.”
Unfortunately for Gingrich, sometimes the animals don’t love him back. During a 2012 visit to the St. Louis Zoo, a Magellanic penguin bit the former House speaker’s finger. The zoo said a small bandage was all it took to patch Gingrich up.