The Long March of Newt Gingrich: Part One

Share:

December 19, 2011
This week, FRONTLINE is putting up excerpts from our 1996 biography, The Long March of Newt Gingrich. Watch part two, part three and part four.

“You either love him or you hate him and he’s the kind of person you can’t ignore. So you do, you love him or you hate him. He’s going to be in your face at all times, one way or another.”
Robert Gingrich, Newt’s stepfather

In January 1996, as the country headed into a presidential election year, FRONTLINE aired The Long March of Newt Gingrich, an investigative biography of the outspoken and controversial Speaker of the House.

As Gingrich gained momentum in the current race for the Republican nomination, we re-watched the film and thought it was too good to sit in the archives. Today through Wednesday we’ll be posting excerpts from the film, which examines the people, places and events that have profoundly influenced and shaped his personality and political career.

In the first installment, which features Gingrich family photos and home movies, correspondent Peter J. Boyer — author of Newsweek‘s recent cover story, “The Audacity of Newt” — examines Gingrich’s childhood and talks to his mother Kathleen and stepfather Bob.

“Newtie,” as his mother calls him, was the product of her three-day marriage to “Big Newt” McPherson, a hard-drinking, 19-year-old mechanic, whom she says she walked out on after he hit her. Kathleen would later marry Bob Gingrich, a military man, who adopted her son.

Young Newt grew up as a lonely, precocious Army brat, who loved the movies and animals. Kathleen recalls how at age 10, Newt presented a plan to build a zoo to the local mayor. But at age 15, his life was changed by a family trip to the battle site of Verdun, where nearly 1 million died in World War I. At Verdun, Newt saw that it was politics that truly shaped the world.

Bonus: Vanity Fair‘s Gail Sheehy interviewed Gingrich and his family for “The Inner Life of Newt Gingrich,” a September 1995 profile of Newt’s wars, his women and his contract with himself.

Produced by Steve Talbot, The Long March of Newt Gingrich was a co-production with the Center for Investigative Reporting.


In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

blog comments powered by Disqus

More Stories

New Data on Utah Police Shootings and Race Called ‘Extremely Uncomfortable’, ‘Disappointing’
Racial and ethnic minorities account for a third of the people shot at by Utah police over the past decade — despite these groups making up just a quarter of the population.
September 20, 2021
Most Minneapolis Voters Believe Crime Is on the Rise, New Poll Finds
An overwhelming majority of likely Minneapolis voters say crime is on the rise, a view strongly held by residents of every race, gender and age group across the city, according to a new Minnesota poll, our Local Journalism Initiative partner the Star Tribune reports.
September 18, 2021
Minnesota Poll: Most Minneapolis Voters Want Reform, Not Fewer Cops
A clear majority of Minneapolis voters oppose reducing the size of the city’s police force — a feeling that’s especially strong among Black voters, according to a new poll. At the same time, voters are showing support for replacing the police department with a new agency, our Local Journalism Initiative partner the Star Tribune finds.
September 18, 2021
Get the Backstory on Duterte’s ‘War on Drugs’ as ICC Green Lights Investigation into Philippines Killings
With the International Criminal Court authorizing an official investigation into Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody “war on drugs," these two documentaries and one podcast episode offer context.
September 17, 2021