Was Callista Yoko Ono to Newt Gingrich's John Lennon? Or something milder, like Kate Hudson to his Chris Robinson? Or--the horror!--Courtney Love to Gingrich's Kurt Cobain? These women with their distinctive hair constantly ruining the world's most beloved geniuses! (They always have statement hair, don't they?)
We're being a bit facetious here, but this is an actual theme we've seen running through some of the debate surrounding the Gingriches. How much can we blame the Gingrich campaign's mass resignations on his ice-blonde wife? In the days since 16 top aides walked out on Gingrich, anonymously-sourced stories have painted Callista as an unreasonable diva who refused to accept the sacrifices necessary for a presidential campaign. But NBC's Michael Isikoff's report for NBC Wednesday went the farthest yet:
Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign was crippled by behind-the-scenes blow-ups over the role of his wife, Callista, including her insistence that the campaign arrange for screenings of the couple’s movies made by their for-profit production company, according to current and former campaign staffers and advisers.
The use of campaign resources to promote the Gingriches' private movie ventures made some senior staffers uncomfortable and led to repeated confrontations over the issue, they said. ... During Gingrich’s campaign trips, Callista Gingrich repeatedly insisted that the campaign carve out time for public screenings of their movies, where the couple answered questions from the audience, and then sold DVD copies, eating up hours of time on the candidate’s schedule, the campaign sources said. . ...
The dispute over the movies wasn’t the only source of conflict within the campaign. Campaign sources say the candidate’s top aides also were upset over Callista Gingrich’s control over the campaign schedule, including her refusal to allow early-morning departures for campaign events because she insisted she needed time to have her hair done, the campaign sources said.
A week's worth of headlines help give a sense of the coverage: Fred Barnes' "The Problem Was the Wife" for the Weekly Standard; the Boston Globe went with "Role of Gingrich’s wife draws scrutiny"; Maureen Dowd's column was called "Newt Loves Callista"; the Telegraph opted for "Wife of presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich accused of undermining campaign."
At the conservative blog American Thinker, Jeannie DeAngelis writes,
Truth is, if a meat-packer's daughter yields the power to convince an influential political power broker to install her as the president of his corporation; abandon a sick wife; convert from Protestantism to Catholicism; and run up a half-million dollar tab at Tiffany's, then wants to take a vacation, it's not likely she'll take "No" for an answer. ...
Same as she did back in the 1990's, according to Barnes, this year "Callista Gingrich gradually emerged as Gingrich's most influential adviser." Like the pied piper of love, on her French horn Callista Louise tooted out a couple of bars of the "Love Boat" theme, pointed toward the gangplank, and like a smitten lapdog Newt followed the blonde in the pricey bling, and in so doing probably sealed his political fate.
Is it fair? Last week, before Isikoff's piece, Slate's Dave Weigel complained that "this spin isn't even new." Jeri Thompson was blamed for husband Fred's failed campaign in 2008, too. More importantly, Gingrich had been losing donors since well before his infamous Greek cruise. At the Daily Beast, Matt Latimer bemoans this blame-the-wife trend, writing, "The Republican Party long has been the one that preaches individual responsibility. Perhaps those seeking to lead it might find a way to make use of that particular virtue. And, it must be said, press outlets might want to think twice before allowing them to do otherwise."
Update: Gingrich says NBC owes him an apology: "NBC this morning in a program that had nobody on camera, nobody quoted by name that quoted a reporters talking anonymously about cowardly people who frankly lied about my wife, and I think NBC owes Callista an apology because the fact is my campaign is my campaign."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.