Turning the other cheek to being called “a bitch,” first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton Friday hosted House Speaker Newt Gingrich, his indiscreet mom, his wife and a sister for a private tour of the White House.
Kathleen Gingrich, 68, wouldn’t even whisper to reporters what everybody talked about during the onehour visit, but from all indications gentility reigned.
Bidden goodbye at the North Portico by a graciously waving Hillary Clinton, the speaker’s mother smiled and waved at questioners, while her son gave them a thumbs-up gesture.
Hillary Clinton extended the invitation Jan. 5, amid the uproar provoked when CBS aired an interview in which Kathleen Gingrich told Connie Chung that her “Newtie” had used the B-word to characterize President Clinton’s wife. Without denying he’d said that, Gingrich, a Georgia Republican, exploded over Chung’s tactics in coaxing his mother to “just whisper” what her son had told her.
The visit proved to be a matchless opportunity for the first lady to soften her image while one-upping a political foe.
Kathleen Gingrich murmured “no comment” when she and her son, accompanied by his wife, Marianne, his sister Susan Gingrich Shurskis, and two bodyguards arrived at the White House east gate Friday afternoon in a nine-passenger Chevy Suburban.
Asked what he and the first lady would discuss, Gingrich responded, “A lot,” amending this to say, “Not much … just chat.” He ignored a question on whether an apology would be offered for the epithet.
White House curator Rex Scouten greeted the party, walking them through the first lady’s sculpture garden in springlike weather before showing off the ground-floor public rooms. They walked one flight up to the state floor, where Hillary Clinton met them, a White House spokeswoman said.
And what happened then? Tea? Biscotti? The family quarters upstairs? Agreement on the need for civil public discourse? Full details were not immediately available. “For us it was a private visit,” the spokeswoman said.
The president was on a trip to Cleveland.