Newt Gingrich huffed and puffed Wednesday about the journalistic ethics involved, but he never denied his mother’s whispered remark to a TV interviewer: The new Republican speaker called First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton “a bitch.”
Gingrich said CBS’ Connie Chung acted in an “unprofessional and, frankly, pretty despicable” manner by coaxing his mother, Kathleen Gingrich, to reveal the unflattering evaluation of the president’s wife and suggesting it would remain a confidence between them.
Instead, the network put out a promotional transcript of the remark, used it in newscasts Wednesday and will air it tonight as part of a profile of Rep. Gingrich, R-Ga., on “Eye to Eye with Connie Chung.”
Gingrich suggested CBS apologize to his mother for taking advantage of her.
“I don’t think that a nationally famous reporter who makes a huge amount of money should take a woman who’s not used to dealing with the national press and say, ‘You can whisper something to me’ and then use it,” Gingrich said on NBC’s “Today” show. “I mean, I think for most normal, everyday Americans, the term ‘whisper something to me’ means it’ll be kept confidential.”
CBS News President Eric Ober, however, strongly defended the network’s action in the interview and its planned use of the remark.
“Approximately midway through the two-hour, uninterrupted interview in front of three CBS News cameras, Mrs. Gingrich volunteered an unsolicited view that she said her son had expressed regarding Hillary Rodham Clinton,” Ober said. “While broadcasting Mrs. Gingrich’s comments may have been perceived by some as unfair, CBS News does not believe withholding those comments would have been appropriate.”
A transcript of the interview provided by CBS includes the following exchange:
Chung: Mrs. Gingrich, what has Newt told you about President Clinton?
Mrs. Gingrich: Nothing, and I can’t tell you what he said about Hillary.
Chung: You can’t?
Mrs. Gingrich: I can’t.
Chung: Why don’t you just whisper it to me, just between you and me.
Mrs. Gingrich: ‘She’s a bitch.’ About the only thing he ever said about her.
Gingrich tried to wave off questions about the interview as he appeared on morning television interviews Wednesday.
“Wait, wait, wait. Wait a minute. Cut off there,” Gingrich insisted as Charles Gibson of ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” began to inquire about early reports of his mother’s comment. Gingrich pictured the incident as one of inhospitable perfidy on the part of Chung and CBS.
“My mother and my father invited Connie Chung into their home,” Gingrich said on the ABC show. “They spent eight hours. My dad baked a cake for them.”
But throughout the interviews and throughout the day, Gingrich did not deny the substance of his mother’s comment.