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Newt Gingrich is making his spokesman, R.C. Hammond, work really hard for his salary. Hammond, who stood by Gingrich even as most of his top staff quit this summer, had to explain that while it might look at first like the GOP hopeful is saying now about Romneycare and his first divorce contradicts what he -- or court documents -- said in the past, there is, in fact, no contradiction whatsoever. Tuesday's mission for Hammond: Explain how Gingrich's for-profit company's endorsement of Mitt Romney's Massachusetts health care law is not an endorsement, and that Gingrich's first wife still requested their divorce, even though court documents show otherwise.
Gingrich has been bashing Mitt Romney's Massachusetts health care law as vast government overreach -- "one more big-government, bureaucratic high-cost system," Gingrich said
in an October debate -- but when Romney signed it into law in 2006, Gingrich thought it was pretty nifty. "We agree entirely with Governor Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal should be 100% insurance coverage for all Americans," said a "Newt Note," analysis issued by Gingrich's for-profit company the Center for Health Transformation, in April 2006, The Wall Street Journal
's Brody Mullins and Janet Adamy
report. As for the plan's mandate that everyone buy insurance -- the feature conservatives hate most in President Obama's health care law? The Newt Note says, "We agree strongly with this principle..." but that the details could be tricky. It has been deleted from the Center's website. Gingrich's campaign site insists "Newt believes mandates to buy health insurance are wrong on principle
How does Hammond explain that away? The Journal reports:
R.C. Hammond, a spokesman for Mr. Gingrich, said the April 2006 essay shouldn't be read as an endorsement of Mr. Romney's health plan. He noted that it raised several questions about the Massachusetts effort, including whether the plan would work in the state. "Being critical…isn't endorsing it," he said.
Mr. Hammond said the Newt Notes essay wasn't written by Mr. Gingrich himself.
Next up: The first of Gingrich's three marriages. The page on Gingrich's campaign site dedicated to fighting attacks says Gingrich's first wife, Jackie Battley Gingrich, asked for their divorce, contra the persistent story
that he served her divorce papers while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery. Gingrich's daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman
, wrote an essay for Townhall saying her mom asked for the divorce. But that's not what court documents show, CNN's Alan Duke
reports. Gingrich filed the divorce complaint on July 14, 1980 in Carroll County, Georgia. It said, "the marriage of the parties is irretriebably [sic] broken." His wife asked the judge to reject the filing because while "she has adequate and ample grounds for divorce... she does not desire one at this time," her petition said. It continues: "Although defendant does not admit that this marriage is irretrievably broken, defendant has been hopeful that an arrangement for temporary support of defendant and the two minor daughters of the parties could be mutually agreed upon without the intervention of this court... All efforts to date have been unsuccessful."
How does Hammond explain that?
"Carroll County Georgia court documents accurately show Newt Gingrich filed for a divorce from his wife Jackie Battley, but it was Jackie Battley who requested the divorce," spokesman R.C. Hammond said in an e-mail to CNN Saturday. "Gingrich, her husband, obtained legal counsel and filed the divorce papers initiating the legal proceedings."
"It was the same legal proceedings that determined and set the amounts of payments Gingrich would provide to support his two daughters," Hammond said.
Hammond has also had to explain why Gingrich said congressmen with ties to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae should be thrown in jail for not stopping the financial crisis, even though the company paid him $1.6 million to be their "historian." Hammond told the Bloomberg
, "As to whether Newt now advocates a more aggressive overhaul of Fannie and Freddie than he previously did--of course he does... The total collapse of the global financial system has a tendency to make one look at a situation with a fresh set of eyes."
So will a presidential campaign.
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is the former politics editor for The Wire