'The Blingriches': NBC Continues to Hit Gingrich and Wife Over Tiffany's Jewelry Debt

On Thursday's NBC Today, senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers kept up the attack on Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich for having a line of credit with the jeweler Tiffany's five years ago: "Gingrich has always described himself as frugal and fiscally conservative, which is why this story about a huge line of credit at Tiffany's just won't go away."

Myers touted the story as great fodder for late night comics, who "have had a field day," and remarked that Gingrich "and his wife, Calista, have been dubbed the 'Blingriches.'" She noted how "The questions just keep on coming," playing a clip of Gingrich being grilled by CBS host Bob Schieffer on Sunday's Face the Nation.

After citing a statement from Tiffany's explaining that there was nothing unusual about Gingrich's line of credit, Myers maintained: "Still, experts say very few Americans could qualify for the same deal Gingrich got five years ago." She even went so far as to analyze a photograph of Calista Gingrich and suggest a necklace the GOP candidate's wife was wearing in the picture may be one of the Tiffany items: "...the strand of diamonds Calista Gingrich is wearing here looks quite similar to this one in the Tiffany catalogue. Price, $45,000."

Myers went to explain: "Political analysts say that just as John Edwards became defined by his $400 hair cuts, Newt Gingrich risks becoming known for bling, which may make it even harder for the candidate to relate to voters struggling in a fragile economy and working to pay off their own credit line at Sears." In a sound bite, New York Times Washington correspondent Sheryl Gay Stolberg, declared: "Look, most people don't have homes that cost $500,000, let alone jewelry bills of that amount. It's not something that people can relate to."

The day after Gingrich announced his candidacy, correspondent Michael Isikoff appeared on Today and offered a hit piece on the former House Speaker's "messy personal life."

Also on Thursday's broadcast, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd claimed speculation that Sarah Palin may announce her candidacy for 2012 would make "David Plouffe and Jim Macena, the guys running President Obama's re-elect" some of the "happiest" people to hear the news.


Here is a full transcript of Myers's May 26 report:

7:16AM ET

MATT LAUER: Back to politics now and the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by GOP hopeful Newt Gingrich and his wife at the upscale jeweler Tiffany's. NBC's senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers has more on this story. Lisa, good morning to you.

LISA MYERS: Good morning, Matt. Newt Gingrich has always described himself as frugal and fiscally conservative, which is why this story about a huge line of credit at Tiffany's just won't go away. His latest effort at damage control is a statement from Tiffany's explaining how Gingrich managed to buy as much as a half million dollars in jewelry, pay it off over time, and not pay any interest.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: "We're Very Frugal"; Gingrich Defends $500,000 Credit Line at Tiffany's]

Sparkling diamonds and an iconic blue box have worked magic for men for decades, but for Newt Gingrich, not so much. He and his wife, Calista, have been dubbed the 'Blingriches.' Late night hosts have had a field day.

STEPHEN COLBERT: $500,000 at Tiffany's? There's a simple explanation. The guy clearly buys his engagement rings in bulk.

DAVID LETTERMAN: Give me a little key ring from Tiffany's. Half a million dollars?!

MYERS: The questions just keep on coming.

BOB SCHIEFFER: To scrutinize a half million dollars of jewelry on credit?

NEWT GINGRICH: No, it's – go talk to Tiffany's. It's a standard no-interest account. It's a normal way of doing business. We're very frugal. We, in fact, live within our budget. We owe nothing.

MYERS: Tiffany provided NBC News with a statement, basically confirming Gingrich's account, and saying it routinely 'offers interest-free borrowing for up to one year for credit-worthy Tiffany customers.' Still, experts say very few Americans could qualify for the same deal Gingrich got five years ago.

JOHN ULZHEIMER [SMARTCREDIT.COM]: In order to get this type of deal, you have to have great wealth to qualify for a quarter of a million to half a million dollar line of credit at Tiffany's.

MYERS: Though Gingrich has declined to reveal what he bought, the strand of diamonds Calista Gingrich is wearing here looks quite similar to this one in the Tiffany catalogue. Price, $45,000. Political analysts say that just as John Edwards became defined by his $400 hair cuts, Newt Gingrich risks becoming known for bling, which may make it even harder for the candidate to relate to voters struggling in a fragile economy and working to pay off their own credit line at Sears.

SHERYL GAY STOLBERG [WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES]: Look, most people don't have homes that cost $500,000, let alone jewelry bills of that amount. It's not something that people can relate to.

MYERS: Gingrich says he just doesn't get what all the fuss is about.

GINGRICH: I'm totally mystified. I owe no personal debts, none. Calista and I paid off our house, we paid off our cars, we run four small businesses. We happen to be successful.

MYERS: We asked Gingrich's spokesman for a comment about all of this. And he told us, 'The Gingrichs have a right to spend their money the way they want and a right to give the gifts they want to give. It's their money.' Matt.

LAUER: Alright, Lisa Myers in Washington. Lisa, thank you very much.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC