Now that Newt Gingrich has been left in the dust by the Doritos Spicy Asbestos Flavor-dusted coattails of Donald Trump, let’s take a moment to revisit one of the more amazing moments of the contentious mid 1990s. Specifically, when Newt’s mama told reporter Connie Chung that Newt thought Hillary Clinton was a bitch.
That is not a paraphrase. Here is how the conversation went down on the CBS program Eye to Eye With Connie Chung, January 1995:
Chung: “Mrs. Gingrich, what has Newt told you about President Clinton?”
Gingrich: “Nothin. And I can’t tell you what he said about Hillary.”
Chung: “You can’t?”
Gingrich: “I can’t.”
Chung: “Why don’t you just whisper it to me, just between you and me?”
At which point, Kathleen Gingrich leaned in and whispered: “She’s a bitch.”
The interview made headlines before it had even aired, as the transcript came out early. Mrs. Gingrich also revealed that, “The only thing he ever told me [about Bill Clinton] is that he’s smart. That he’s an intelligent man. That he’s not very practical, but he’s intelligent.” Continuing on the subject of Hillary, she added, “I think they had some meeting, you know, and she takes over . . . but with Newty there, she can’t.”
According to The New York Times, just the transcript had Gingrich—who had just taken over as Speaker of the House—furious.
Mr. Gingrich was visibly angry this morning when he was asked about the remark in interviews before he was sworn in as House Speaker.
“I think it’s despicable that Connie Chung would ask that question of my mother, or anybody else’s mother,” said Mr. Gingrich, a 51-year-old Georgia Republican. “She owes an apology to my mother, the President and the country.”
He told CBS This Morning, “I think it is unprofessional and frankly pretty despicable to go to a mother, who is not a politician, not in public life, and say ‘whisper to me’ and then share it with the country.”
And that’s how the narrative played out: Not whether Newt Gingrich thought Hillary Clinton was a bitch and what that might perhaps say about his attitudes toward women, or why exactly Mrs. Gingrich hadn’t been media trained just a little bit better, but whether Connie Chung had manipulated somebody’s elderly mother.
Witness the inevitable Saturday Night Live parody, which frames Chung as a manipulative villain and Newt as bewildered and comically ineffectual. Special turn by Janeane Garofalo as Mrs. Gingrich!
Amid the hubbub, what was Hillary Clinton’s reaction? She relayed Newt and his mama both an invitation to the White House. She had them over and fed them petit fours. Mrs. Gingrich reported back, according to People magazine:
As for the Chung flap, Kit insists the subject never came up and adds that she and the First Lady got along just fine. “She knows what she’s talking about. She can do the job—like with the health bill,” says Kit, adding that Hillary is “learning not to put herself forward. It’s a man’s world; she should have come in slower, with a smaller job [than health care].” As for the future: “We [women] are learning,” says the Speaker’s mom. “We’re taking it slower. We’re gonna let the men make all the mistakes.”
Hillary Clinton got called a bitch on national television and then invited Newt and his mama over for petit fours and a tour of the White House. The story of her political career, really.