Palin v. McGinniss: There ain’t enough popcorn in the world

Numerous RW blogs are cock-a-hoop at the moment over the news that Sarah Palin’s lawyers have sent a stiff letter to Random House, publishers of Joe McGinniss’s recent exposé The Rogue

I’ll happily go on record right now as saying that among the things I don’t give a damn about when it comes to Palin is who she’s allegedly slept with in the distant past. I barely give a damn about the “babygate” stuff that’s been doing the rounds of certain blogs since 2008, (a) because I have no way of establishing the truth of any allegations myself, (b) I’ve grown more and more impatient with the way it’s been trundling on and on and on for so long and has taken up a lot of people’s time who might be better employed elsewhere, and especially (c) even if she’s ever proven an outright liar about any of this, it probably won’t change that many people’s minds one way or another about her fitness for office or her role as a pundit anyway. Her words and public conduct have done that in spades, and if they don’t convince you, I doubt anything else will.

I’ve no idea what the grand strategy is behind this formal warning letter, beyond providing cover in the face of the challenge from some quarters that if the allegations were untrue, Palin would sue. There’s no injunction in the pipeline as far as I know, and through my work I’m familiar with how excruciatingly careful publishers’ legal departments are over potential libel, especially with predictably explosive subjects like Palin. I’ve actually read more allegations from the book about Palin on Breitbart’s site than I have anywhere else. I haven’t read detailed excerpts of McGinniss’s book, and I probably won’t bother as a lot of it’s beyond snark by this stage, much of it has already been around as rumor over the past three years or so, and my tolerance for things Palin beyond marveling at her continuing status as a punchline for the follies of fame and fandom in politics has steadily dwindled.

But if it does ever go to court, hold onto your hat because there’ll be a daily stream of allegations and revelations, happily broadcast by the media of every political stripe.

I’ll note before I go any further after the fold that Palin’s living in a glass house (suspiciously similar to a certain public building in Wasilla built around that time, but that’s by the by ...), given, among other things, her attempts to smear McGinniss as a peeping tom and pedophile during his time as her next door neighbor. Now that’s what I call slander and libel, but she gets a free pass for that every time she does something similar.

How did this fuss come about anyway? Well, as so often, the trail starts with Andrew Breitbart, who mysteriously managed to obtain a private email between McGinniss and Alaska blogger Gryphen of The Immoral Minority. (How exactly Breitbart came by this may be one of the more interesting sidelights that’ll be explored if this ever does get to court, but I digress.)

After a week of universally scathing pans from the reflexively anti-Palin establishment media, McGinniss now faces the fight of his literary life: the accusation that he seems to have knowingly submitted a book to his publisher, Crown/Random House, that was filled with unproved “tawdry gossip” and rumors that lacked “factual evidence.”

In the email below, sent in January of 2011, McGinniss reveals that his manuscript, then under legal review at Crown/Random House, could not prove its most headline-grabbing allegations. And yet, many of these “salacious stories” that lacked “proof” (in McGinniss’s own words) ended up in the book, and on televisions everywhere during the author’s current media tour … without proper sourcing, and without any apparent new evidence to support them.


From: Joe McGinniss
To: Jesse Griffin
Sent: Thursday, January 27, 2011 6:15 PM
Subject: I have to ask you for help


Legal review of my manuscript is underway and here’s my problem: no one has ever offered documentation of any of the lurid stories about the Palins. Shailey Tripp is the latest example.

APD and Sarah have denied that Todd had any involvement with her. To my knowledge, no one has provided any evidence that he did. TheEnquirer cites AlaskaWTF, which in turn cites the Enquirer: what good is that? I’m also told that the Enquirer is preparing to back off this story and save face by denouncing Ms. Tripp as an unreliable source who promised documentation she couldn’t provide.

She may be mentally unstable and prone to fabrication, delusion, or both. Her joint may be called Blue Hands Massage (brrrrr!), but she’s no Monica Lewinsky with a blue dress with a semen stain, that’s for sure.

Do you believe that Todd paid her for sex? If so, why do you believe that, other than that you wish it were true?

A lurid, sensational, defamatory story about Todd, based only on the account of a woman charged with prostitution, who is no doubt desperate for money, and who sold her story to the Enquirer, is a gift from heaven for Sarah.

Jesse, you can ridicule Sarah for calling in to the execrable Bob & Mark, but the fact is that as far as this story goes, there’s no there there. And rumors about what might come in weeks ahead are not facts. In fact, they’re garbage.

I’ve neither seen nor heard anything that indicates that Ms. Tripp’s story has any basis in fact. None of the endless crap Patrick posted about her before getting the boot from offers any substantiation.

And even you write frequently that you know things you can’t yet post, but that soon “all will be revealed.” This has been going on since I first became aware of your blog, but as far as I know you haven’t substantiated a single claim or provided verification for a single rumor that you’ve posted about Sarah’s personal life, or the personal lives of any Palin family members. Thus, she gets to denounce what she calls “lies.”

Neither from you, the Enquirer, AlaskaWTF, or anyone else, have I seen a credible, identified source backing any of the salacious stories about the Palin family.

Thus–as Random House lawyers are already pointing out to me–nothing I can cite other than my own reporting rises above the level of tawdry gossip. The proof is always just around the corner, but that’s a corner nobody has been able to turn. Maybe Jeff Dunn has, in which case I’ll be the first to congratulate him. But frankly, at this point, I’m tired of it, and I’ve run out of time.

No one has ever provided factual evidence that:

a) Todd had sex with a hooker, or with anyone else outside his marriage.

b) Sarah had an affair with Brad Hanson, or anyone else.

c) Track was a druggie who enlisted in the army to avoid a jail term. Or that he vandalized Wasilla school buses.

d) Willow was involved in the vandalism of the empty house in Meadow Lakes. Or that Sarah rushed back from Hawaii to put the lid on that.

e) Trig is not Sarah’s natural born child.

f) Bristol was promiscuous as a high schooler and drank and used drugs, or became pregnant again after Tripp’s birth.

Jesse, you were going on and on about Bristol being pregnant while doing Dancing With The Stars. And, if I recall correctly, at the time of her brief glossy-magazine-payday “reunion” with Levi, you surmised that she was pregnant by Ben Barber, or at least by someone who wasn’t Levi. You’ve recently suggested she’s had an abortion, publishing photographs that show her chubby then and thin now. But doesn’t that seem a little “thin” to you, based on nothing besides magazine pictures?

So much has bubbled at the salacious rumor stage for more than two years, but no one has been able to take even one story further.

Jesse, if you can put me in touch with people who are willing and able to substantiate any of the above, now is the time to do so. Otherwise, I hope you won’t complain that there are no startling new revelations in my book. My publisher and I think it’s damning enough without airing the family’s dirty laundry, but because Sarah’s hypocrisy about her family is one of the things that galls me most, I’d like to be able to publish facts in regard to a) through f) above, but I emphasize facts.

Not malicious speculation or third-hand rumors relayed by those who hold a grudge.

For any or all of those who’ve told you they’ll speak out, but not yet, now is the time. My book represents the last best chance to put the truth about Sarah in front of the American people in a documented, verifiable way. But I need facts that I can rely on. I didn’t live this long and work this hard over so many decades to wind up as AlaskaWTF between hard covers.

as always, and looking forward to seeing you in spring or summer,

And as so often, an initially striking Breitbart bombshell looks like being a dud as the story plays out, as Dave Weigel at Slate explains:

The whole e-mail reveals McGinniss explaining to Griffin that he won’t run with some rumors that he can’t confirm. In the book (I summed it up here), McGinnis handles different stories with different gloves. The allegation that Sarah Palin had an affair with Brad Hanson is presented as goosip that several sources believe. The Trig chapter is a rundown of blog posts and articles with theories about what was wrong with the story of Palin’s youngest child; McGinniss ends it by writing that only a sociopath could fake something like this. What he doesn’t say: Palin did it. There is wiggle room, and Crown, the RH subsidiary that published the book, has put out this response:

Joe McGinniss’s book The Rogue is based on the author’s extensive on-the-ground reporting in Alaska, as well as in-depth interviews he conducted with approximately 200 people who have known Governor Palin at different stages of her life and career. After a thorough and careful examination of the book, including probing discussions with the author about his sources, we are confident that the reporting it contains is solid, reliable, and well-substantiated.

I checked in with McGinniss largely to ask what he discovered from the time he sent the e-mail to the time he turned in the manuscript. “I continued my reporting into June of this year,” he says, “almost six months after I asked Griffin for his help in getting anonymous sources to go on the record—because I always knew the book would be criticized for using unnamed sources, although Woodward and Bernstein were heralded for keeping Deep Throat anonymous for so long, and despite the fact that almost every day the NYT and/or WaPo publishes a story containing quotes from ‘a source who requested anonymity because…”

Get that? Breitbart’s supposedly devastating debunking is based on an email exchange last January, after which the allegations and how they were expressed were firmed up under scrutiny from Random House’s libel lawyers, otherwise the book would never have been published. They could end up being proven wrong, but Palin’s team arguing the details in court will not be a pretty sight.

So there you go. For one reason or another, I’ve seldom if ever linked to some of those blogs above in the past, and certainly haven’t given houseroom to a number of these reported rumors. But now I have.

So how’s that suey threateny lawyery thing workin’ for ya, Sarah? Popcorn! Get it while it’s hot. And now I feel kinda dirty, so I’m going to take a shower.

Late Update: Big surprise:

(AP)  JUNEAU, Alaska — A publisher is standing behind a book about Sarah Palin, a day after Palin’s attorney threatened to sue over it.

Crown Publishers spokesman Stuart Applebaum says the company is confident the reporting in Joe McGinniss’ book is “solid, reliable, and well-substantiated.” Applebaum says Crown stands behind McGinniss and the book, “The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin.”

Posted by YAFB on 09/27/11 at 09:09 AM • Permalink

Categories: PoliticsNuttersSarah PalinOur Stupid MediaPoliblogsSkull Hampers

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Legal action means legal expenses means an appeal to Palinites to support Sarah in her brave struggle.

Grifters gonna grift. SATSQ.

I’m glad the righty blogs are all over this, since nobody else gives a rat’s ass. Palin’s public record is damning enough.

Interesting, though, that the letter falls short of the obligatory Cease & Desist. It seems more nearly calibrated to freak out the “anonymous source” community.

Both fine theories, gents, and both possibly part of the truth.

If I may add one of my own (which may already have cropped up on a pro-Palin blog): perhaps Breitbart et al. are in cahoots with her enemies in the Republican Party who want to see her taken down, and are doing their bit by reporting all these scurrilous rumors in the hope that some may stick and finish her off as a political figure for good.

perhaps Breitbart et al. are in cahoots with her enemies in the Republican Party

Interesting thought - it’s hard for me to credit Breitbart with that much guile, though.

I don’t think Breitbart has to be the guilesome here. Just taking direction. I imagine there is a lot of money sloshing around during the campaign season. A POS like Breitbart probably cleans up during this part of the cycle.

uh, that’s “guilesome one,” btw.

On the other hand, the hidden-in-plain-sight angle on this is that Palin hired McGinniss to move next door and victimize her with a sleazy, muckraking “exposé.” She has the money, and certainly could have fed him pre-approved “dirt” that would showcase the creepy salaciousness of the Left. Then come the headlines, the buzz, the stern denials and the undisclosed, vindicating “settlement.”

Sure, that’s nuts. But I think I’ll post it on a bunch of blogs and see what happens.

What Dave S. said.

It is really hard for public people to sue for slander or libel, otherwise Barack Obama would own Faux Snooze. But of course, when you combine a spoiled greedy client with a beclowned legal team the result is hilarious antics.

And speaking of Faux, I wonder if they really want their darlin’ suggesting that publishing anything less than 100% fully sourced fact is grounds for a lawsuit.

On the other hand, the hidden-in-plain-sight angle on this is that Palin hired McGinniss to move next door and victimize her with a sleazy, muckraking “exposé.” She has the money, and certainly could have fed him pre-approved “dirt” that would showcase the creepy salaciousness of the Left. Then come the headlines, the buzz, the stern denials and the undisclosed, vindicating “settlement.”

Sure, that’s nuts. But I think I’ll post it on a bunch of blogs and see what happens.

Well, for sheer efficiency’s sake, I’d like to see Breitbart and the campaign team of whoever the GOP frontrunner at the time is thrown into that mix, but then I like popcorn, me. Also ratfucking. Did I mention ratfucking? Oops.

A sternly-worded letter from the suits?  That’s it?

I thought Todd was supposed to open up a can of whup-ass on McGinnis.  What happened, did Robert Stacy McCain spend the defense fund on Nazi memorabilia?

I hope Palin has to go to court and pledge to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.  That would be very interesting.

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