Gingrich Denies Asking Ex-Wife for ‘Open Marriage’

Republican White House hopeful Newt Gingrich Thursday angrily denied he asked his ex-wife for an “open marriage” and slammed the US media for airing an interview with her.

“Let me be quite clear. The story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period says the story was false,” Gingrich said, raising his voice as he went on the attack in the opening minutes of a key debate here.

The former House speaker said his campaign had offered ABC television -- which interviewed his former wife, Marianne -- proof her claims were wrong, but “they weren’t interested.”

Shouting at CNN moderator John King, he lashed out at the media for its wide coverage of the interview calling it “despicable” and proof of the “elite media attacking” Republicans to shore up Democratic President Barack Obama.

“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,” Gingrich said.

Just hours before Thursday’s final debate ahead of South Carolina’s key primary vote, Marianne Gingrich told ABC that her then husband had asked for an “open marriage” after carrying on a six-year affair with an aide.

Her explosive revelation comes just two days before the critically important primary in South Carolina, in America’s Bible Belt, and could dent Gingrich’s surge as he seeks to close the gap with frontrunner Mitt Romney in the race for the party’s nomination to take on Obama in November.

“He wanted an open marriage and I refused,” Marianne Gingrich told ABC News’s Nightline program, in a video clip airing in advance of Thursday’s full broadcast.

She said Gingrich admitted to a six-year affair with congressional aide Callista Bisek -- now Callista Gingrich -- whom he wed after her marriage to the Georgia lawmaker fell apart.

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