Before being driven from Congress in disgrace in 1998, ousted by members of his own party, Newt Gingrich had some fairly serious ethics troubles. In fact, Gingrich was found to have violated House ethics rules, and became the first Speaker in American history to face both a reprimand and a substantial financial ethics fine from his own chamber.

Asked about this on Fox News this week, Gingrich said the investigation was “very partisan” and “related more to the politics of the Democratic Party than to ethics.” He added, “[T]his was “a Nancy Pelosi-driven effort.”

This is a line that may satisfy some Republican audiences, but it’s not even close to being true. Kate Conway had a good piece on this, highlighting the history that Gingrich would prefer to forget.

The problem with Gingrich’s attempt to dismiss the ethics episode as nothing more than a partisan attack on a standup Republican leader is that both the Ethics Committee and the subcommittee responsible for the investigation were bipartisan — and chaired by Republicans. Then-Rep. Nancy L. Johnson (R-CT), head of the Ethics Committee at the time, believed strongly that Gingrich’s actions justified the panel’s recommendation. […]

When the GOP-controlled House of Representatives voted to go ahead with the reprimand and fine, it broke down 395 in favor to 28 against. […]

On top of all that, the penalty ultimately recommended for Gingrich was a compromise — some believed there was evidence of far more serious violations than the “intentional” or “reckless” treatment of House rules for which he was condemned. A special counsel to the committee concluded that Gingrich had both broken federal tax law and lied to the Ethics Committee about it.

“Related more to the politics of the Democratic Party than to ethics”? Nice try, Newt.

PolitiFact trashed Gingrich’s claim, too, noting how bipartisan the ethics process really was: “The ethics panel’s case only moved forward with the express consent of Republicans, including the committee’s chairwoman, and it was led by a special counsel who was not a Democratic partisan and who focused on substantive legal matters. Most notably, when it became time to vote, the House — including nearly 90 percent of voting Republicans — voted to support the committee’s recommendation. We rate Gingrich’s statement Pants on Fire.”

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.