On December 13 we posted a 6,400 word story about a FBI probe into Newt Gingrich when he was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and his second wife, Marianne. It was a serious effort to report on a serious matter. My naïve hope was that my colleagues would follow our course and advance this story by expending more resources and pursuing the leads.
We had success getting a number of key people to go on the record and lay out the story. We got key FBI documents from a second Bureau source so we knew what we had was real. We tried to put a complex story into a coherent and verifiable narrative. We contacted three major news organizations about the story before it ran on our website. We offered each of the organizations contact information for our sources, the FBI documents and other information including taped interviews. All three news organizations said they would do the story – yet none of them did.
If you have followed the story then you know most of the details. What you do not know is the story first came to the National Security News Service in 1996 when Sarkis Soghanalian told us about the FBI investigation and Marianne Gingrich’s role. By 2002 I had been in contact with the three major media outlets and had provided them with information confirming the FBI investigation. I was assured they would pursue the story. For almost a decade I got promises but no story until James Grimaldi, who does not work for any of the three organizations, wrote about it in The Washington Post and Nightline ran an interview with Marianne Gingrich.
Though our story had run several weeks earlier, no serious effort was made to hold either Gingrich accountable. Ross mentioned the trip by Mrs. Gingrich to Paris to meet the arms dealer but never mentioned the fact that she had managed to deliver her husband to a fundraiser in Miami in July 1997 at the request of the arms dealer. Jack Abramoff associate Ben Waldman had promised the arms dealer, Sarkis Soghanalian – on FBI tape recordings – that Speaker Gingrich could get the Iraq embargoes lifted in exchange for large amounts of money. When the arms dealer, under FBI instructions, demanded to meet with the Gingriches as proof Waldman could deliver on his promises, on cue, the Gingriches showed up in Miami for the event. But the FBI sting was called off at the last minute by Washington, and Soghanalian was prevented from attending the fundraiser and meeting with the Speaker and his wife.
Ross let Marianne Gingrich off the hook in his interview and allowed her to offer a denial that contradicted what she had told me in several hours of conversations. At no time did Ross ask for our interviews to compare what she had told me to what she had told him. Instead, Marianne Gingrich turned attention away from her involvement in the FBI investigation when she spoke about her husband’s alleged request for an open marriage. Like lemmings, the rest of the media followed the open marriage angle.
Had CNN’s John King asked Gingrich why he and his wife had attended a Miami fundraiser at the behest of a notorious arms dealer, Gingrich might have actually felt compelled to explain his presence.
Perhaps the response to John King’s question would have been different if King had asked Gingrich to call on the FBI to release the wiretaps so the public could judge for themselves whether or not the former Speaker had used his position of trust to solicit a bribe from the arms dealer.