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Kathleen Gingrich, 77; Mother of House Speaker Made News

September 25, 2003|Mary Rourke | Times Staff Writer

Kathleen "Kit" Gingrich, who made news with a startling television interview the day that her son Newt was sworn in as speaker of the House, has died. She was 77.

In failing health for several years, Gingrich died Tuesday in the Homeland Center rest home in Harrisburg, Pa.

In an interview on "Eye to Eye With Connie Chung" on CBS, Gingrich said her son Newt told her that Hillary Rodham Clinton, then first lady, was a "bitch." Chung was criticized for airing the comment because she promised Gingrich she would keep it "just between you and me."

Gingrich held the spotlight for several weeks afterward because Hillary Rodham Clinton responded to the insult by inviting the speaker of the House of Representatives and his mother to tea at the White House.

"It was very nice, very informal," Gingrich later told Time magazine. She said she and Clinton got along well. She also said she had some advice for the first lady, who had been promoting a national health-care program that was rejected by Congress. "It's a man's world; she should have come in slower, with a smaller job," Gingrich told Time in January 1995.

The flap over Kathleen Gingrich's interview with Chung continued to irritate her family. In an interview this week with the Harrisburg Patriot-News, the former House speaker called the incident "one of the most unprofessional and dishonest acts I have ever seen."

Gingrich, a Republican representative from Georgia, resigned from Congress in 1997 after being reprimanded for ethical lapses related to federal tax laws.

In addition to her son, Kathleen Gingrich had two daughters. One of them, Candace, became a well-known gay rights activist while her brother served in Congress.

Born in Enola, Pa., in 1925, Kathleen married Robert Gingrich, a career Army officer, after an early marriage that ended in divorce when she was 16. Newt, later adopted by Robert Gingrich, was her only child from the earlier marriage.

In addition to her three children, she is survived by several grandchildren.

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