Open Marriage: Newt Gingrich's Ex-Wife Says He Proposed Extramarital Arrangement

Despite expectations that the GOP debate in South Carolina on Thursday might turn into "open marriage night," Newt Gingrich was "appalled" when CNN's John King started off with a question about allegations from his ex-wife, Marianne.

King asked Gingrich if he would like to respond to Marianne's recent charges that he once sought an open marriage with her in order to continue his affair with Callista Bisek, now his third wife. Newt told King that he would respond even though he would rather not.

"I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that," Newt said as the audience gave him a standing ovation. "Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things."

Newt claimed that Marianne is lying in hopes of hurting his chances in the South Carolina primary on Saturday.

"To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary, a significant question in a presidential campaign, is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine," he said.

In a Nightline interview airing Thursday, Marianne tells ABC's Brian Ross that while she was married to Newt, he asked for her blessing in continuing his affair with Callista.

GINGRICH: I said to him, 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: What was he saying to you, do you think?

GINGRICH: He was asking to have an open marriage, and I refused.

ROSS: He wanted an open marriage.

GINGRICH: Yeah, that I accept the fact that he has somebody else in his life.

ROSS: And you said?

GINGRICH: No. No. That is not a marriage.

Open marriage describes as an arrangement in which both partners are free to have sex with others. Communication and honesty -- before engaging in traditional sorts of infidelity -- are generally considered key.

Columnist Dan Savage called Newt out on his retroactive open marriage request.

"Technically you're not asking your wife for an open marriage if you've already been fucking another woman for six years," he wrote on his blog. "You're presenting your wife with an ultimatum. That doesn't make you a proponent of open marriage, Newt, it makes you a CPOS."

According to The Washington Post, Newt's daughters from his first marriage wrote to ABC asking for Marianne's interview to be spiked because they believe the open marriage story is untrue.

"The truth is our father and Marianne had a difficult marriage. They had a difficult divorce," Kathy Lubbers told ABC. "The American people have moved on. Our father has moved on."

Whether or not Marianne's story is true, King told HuffPost it's part of the conversation and needed addressing. After the debate, he defended his decision to cut to the chase on the open marriage questions on the basis that you're "damned if you do, damned if you don't."

"I don't read minds," King said. "I don't want to make a judgment about the Speaker's response. I've been covering politics for 25 years. I understood that if I asked the question he was not going to be happy with it and he was going to turn on me."

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