The Republican-led Senate on Monday confirmed Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.
Senators approved her nomination, 70-23, with more than 20 Democrats joining Republicans in backing her for the post. Newt Gingrich is an ally of Trump, who had announced in May that he would nominate the former congressman’s wife.
Callista Gingrich is president of Gingrich Productions and has produced a number of documentaries, including one about Pope John Paul II. She worked for the House Committee on Agriculture as chief clerk until 2007. She was a key figure in her husband’s 2012 bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
She was a congressional aide when she began a six-year affair with Newt Gingrich, then a married Republican lawmaker from Georgia.
In 2012, Gingrich’s second wife, Marianne Gingrich, told ABC News that he had proposed an “open marriage” so he could continue to see Callista without divorcing. The former speaker denied the charge.
He converted to Catholicism in 2009, after years of attending mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., where Callista Gingrich has performed in the choir.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held Callista Gingrich’s confirmation hearing in mid-July. She sought to assure skeptical Democrats on the panel that Trump wanted the United States to be an environmental leader even after pulling out of the international accord aimed at combatting global warming.
Democrats have criticized Trump sharply for withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, a move that left the United States, Syria and Nicaragua as the only sovereign countries to not be part of the agreement.
But Callista Gingrich said Trump is committed to sustaining “our clean air and our clean water.” She said “we aren’t backing off of that” despite Trump’s decision to withdraw from the climate accord.
“We’re all called to be stewards of the land,” she said.
Pope Francis met with Trump in late May at the Vatican, days after the president announced he was nominating Callista Gingrich to the ambassador’s post. Francis, who has framed climate change as an urgent moral crisis and blamed global warming on an unfair, fossil fuel-based industrial model that harms the poor, presented Trump as a gift his 2015 encyclical on the need to protect the environment.
But Trump’s vision for foreign relations and diplomacy has been starkly different from that promoted by the pope. While Francis has spoken of the need for bridges between nations, Trump has advocated building a wall on the Mexican border and restricting travel to the U.S. from six Muslim-majority countries as necessary national security measures.