In the dead heat of the South Carolina primary race, Newt Gingrich’s resurgence is seeing the sort of dirty-tricks response that the Palmetto State is famous for. A second phony email surfaced Friday that claimed Gingrich forced his second wife Marianne to undergo an abortion.
An earlier email, distributed widely in South Carolina, appeared to come from CNN. The second one masqueraded as a message from the Gingrich presidential campaign itself.
“Newt Gingrich released the following statement regarding reports that he forced ex-wife Marianne Gingrich to terminate a pregnancy,” the phony email read, followed by a false statement from Gingrich:
I have said many times, including on the debate stage last night, that I am not a perfect human being and I have made mistakes in my life. This was one of them. I have had to apologize to God and to seek reconciliation. The fact is, I am not proud of some decisions I have made or actions I have taken, but I believe in the power of redemption and I trust the voters of South Carolina do as well.
Although Marianne Gingrich publicly claimed Thursday that Gingrich asked her to participate in an “open marriage,” she made no statement about having had an abortion.
Included in the email was the correct contact information of Gingrich press secretary R. C. Hammond.
The email’s graphics included a message claiming that it was “paid for by Newt 2012.” The sender substituted the number “1” in “2012” with a lowercase letter L.
The email originated from the phony Internet domain “newt20l2.org,” which uses the same letter-for-number substitution. The domain was registered shortly after 11 a.m. eastern time on Friday morning, according to records available online. The owner used Domains By Proxy, a division of the Internet registrar GoDaddy that allows anonymous registration and guarantees its customers’ privacy.
The fake email was sent roughly four hours later.
Todd Kincannon, a South Carolina lawyer and former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party, received the email at 3:11 p.m. Kincannon told The Daily Caller that he firmly believes the email is a concentrated effort from the campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to squelch Gingrich’s surge.
“If I were on a jury, there would be no doubt in my mind that Romney did it,” he said. “I mean, the circumstantial evidence is there. Romney’s the person who’s trying to stop Newt.”
“Ron Paul wouldn’t do it,” Kincannon told TheDC. “Paul wants Newt to win. Paul thinks he’s got a shot at a brokered convention. I don’t think the Santorum people would do it. It’s just not their style. But it is definitely the Romney people’s style.”
At least one media outlet was fooled by the email masquerading as an official campaign message. WBTW News 13 in Myrtle Beach, S.C. filed a brief story about the email Friday afternoon, treating it as serious news. Both the article and a tweet referring to it were deleted within an hour, after the Gingrich campaign staff tweeted, “@WBTWNews13 That statement is categorically false and did not come from our campaign.”
A phony CNN “breaking news” alert about the fake forced-abortion story came earlier in the day, and claimed to rely on “A source close to Marianne Gingrich.”
The latest South Carolina GOP presidential poll, from Clemson University, has Gingrich leading Romney by 6 percentage points, 32–26.
Hammond, the Gingrich spokesperson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.