The U.S. Senate voted Thursday 75-20 to advance the nomination of Callista Gingrich to be the United States ambassador to the Holy See, the independent sovereign entity in Rome encompassing the Vatican. Five senators could not bring themselves to cast a vote.
Callista Gingrich is the third wife of Newt Gingrich, the Republican speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999. Newt Gingrich vociferously attacked then-President Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky, even as he was simultaneously cheating on his second wife Marianne with then-Callista Bisek, a former Republican congressional aide. Gingrich led the impeachment effort against Clinton.
The Senate vote in favor of Gingrich came roughly at the same time that Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., announced his resignation. After it was revealed this week that Murphy pressured a woman to have an abortion, he voted to support a ban on abortion after 20 weeks.
In addition to her marriage to Newt Gingrich, Callista Gingrich has numerous qualifications for her new position, such as her Catholicism and the fact that she’s Catholic. Callista Gingrich has experience lobbying the church, as she and her husband appear to have persuaded the institution to annul Newt Gingrich’s prior marriages. Newt Gingrich argued to the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta that his second marriage should be annulled because his wife had been previously married. He had divorced his first wife Jackie while she was being treated for cancer.
The U.S. Capitol has long been known as a hothouse for illicit affairs, filled with people who spent their adolescence consumed with debate club and Model U.N., and were desperate to make up for lost time.
Until the 1990s, however, this nonstop, sweaty infidelity rarely led to any political fallout. Both Republicans and Democrats realized their own side was just as guilty and hence, found themselves unable to make cheating a campaign issue because they possessed the most basic sense of shame.
Newt Gingrich was supported in his all-out war on Clinton’s morality by his top lieutenants Bob Livingston and Dennis Hastert, an adulterer and a child molester, respectively.
After the Republican attempt to remove Clinton from office failed, Gingrich himself was forced to resign. He later explained that he had engaged in his affair with Callista because of “how passionately I felt about this country.”
The Intercept was met with mixed reactions when approaching members of Congress on Thursday for their thoughts on Ambassador Gingrich. “Oh my Lord,” was all Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Catholic Democrat from Arizona, could muster. “My Lord,” he added.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., a former seminarian, said it wasn’t all fun and games.
“It’s a serious post that should be taken seriously. And hopefully Callista will bring her own credentials to the post,” Connolly said. “The asset she’s got is she and her husband have a direct line to Trump.”
But in general, Connolly said, it was an “infelicitous” appointment. “I don’t know how well she’ll be received at the Vatican given all that history,” he said. “It’s infelicitous, given all that checkered background, which obviously is going to raise real sensitivities in the Vatican, given the doctrine of the church with respect to marriage and remarriage and divorce. But maybe more importantly, you’re sending a very prominent, strident conservative to represent the United States during the papacy of a much more progressive pope. And those are, at best, mixed messages to the Catholic Church and to the Vatican. I think it presents at the start some real obstacles to success. We’ll see.”
Correction: October 6, 2017
This story originally reported that Gingrich had been confirmed, but the vote was the final procedural step before her confirmation vote scheduled for Monday evening, where she is expected to be confirmed easily.