The Corner

‘Refudiating’ the Vanity Fair Palin Piece

While Vanity Fair writer Michael Joseph Gross has admitted he erred in saying that little Trig Palin was at one event (although VF has yet to correct — or note — the error in the online piece), he still hasn’t retracted any of the other inaccuracies in his Sarah Palin piece. And there are plenty.

Earlier today I spoke to long-time Palin friend (they’ve known each other since elementary school) Kristan Cole, who completely denies Gross’s characterization of her and Palin’s relationship in this passage:

People who know Kristan Cole and Kris Perry, her closest local friends and advisers of longest standing, say that the relationships have deteriorated. Her former aides Meg Stapleton and Ivy Frye are said to have parted with Palin on bad terms.

Apparently, “people who know” was code for “strangers who speculate.” “[It’s] absolutely not true. I don’t know where they get this stuff from, honestly,” said Cole about whether her relationship with Palin had deteriorated.  On the contrary, she affectionately described the care the Palins had shown her throughout the summer, after she had broken her hip while running a 12K race. “She [Palin] was really concerned. Both her and Todd kept in contact with me, to check on me and see how everything was going. No matter where they were.”

Ivy Frye has also stepped forward to correct Gross’s piece. From the Conservatives 4 Palin site, here’s the statement Frye issued:

I didn’t leave on “bad terms.” I’ve known the Palins for many years and I respect them personally and professionally. Our relationship is not “deteriorated.” In fact, I just waved campaign signs with Todd and Sarah last week, and went 4-wheeling with Willow and Piper. Gross’ 8 page hit piece is a complete work of fiction from beginning to end. And the media elite wonder why we call them “lame stream.”

And over on Big Journalism, political activist Dr. Gina Loudon refutes Gross’s claim that Trig Palin was present at the event. The baby mentioned was Loudon’s son Samuel, who also has Down Syndrome. And while Gross describes the event as dominated by photo-op concerns (“Behind the curtain, Piper plays with other children, oblivious to the speech. She runs in circles, plays hide-and-seek, poses for snapshots, and generally acts as if she were in another world—until she gets the signal to do her job: march to the podium, pick up Palin’s speech, and allow Palin to make a public display of maternal affection.”), Loudon describes a softer atmosphere:

All of the Palin children circle around Samuel the moment they can get close, but Piper, in particular, cannot seem to get enough of him. She literally plays with him (Gross does say she played with “the children” in his story) from the moment she sees him, until the moment she is pressed to let go of him.  It is so sweet, and it speaks to the parenting in her life.  She has obviously been taught a real, tangible love for “special children” by her parents, and it shines when she lights up at the sight of a baby with Down syndrome.  This is not an ordinary reaction in children.  Most children step away, look curious, or frightened, or confused.  Not the Palin children, and especially not little Piper.

Next time liberals accuse conservatives of poisoning the political dialogue, it’s worth recalling this article. Not only does it adopt a hostile, mocking tone, but it is also riddled with factual inaccuracies. Would such a poorly sourced and researched piece, crammed with conjectures and assumptions, ever be published in a similarly influential magazine if it were on say, Nancy Pelosi or Hillary Clinton? Seems highly unlikely.

There are plenty of topics that warrant heated Washington debates. There’s no need to delve into ugly (and untrue!) gossip unless the goal is to ensure a complete lack of civility and respect in political dialogue.

UPDATE: Meghan Stapleton (noted in the quote above as being on “bad terms” with Palin) e-mails me that the assertion is completely false. Her statement:

After years of working for Governor Sarah Palin and living with her for weeks at a time, I don’t recognize the person described in this latest VF hit piece. This is just nonsense and despicable. The Palins and I also remain close – not a difficult fact to check.

And Gross’s snarky description of Palin’s moose chili incident may not be exactly on the mark, either:

“This whole hunter thing, for Sarah? That is the biggest fallacy,” says one longtime friend of the family. “That woman has never hunted. The picture of her with the caribou she says she shot? She got out of the R.V. to pose for a picture. She never helps with the fishing either. It’s all a joke.” The friend goes on to recall that when Greta Van Susteren came to the house to interview Palin “[Sarah] cooked moose chili and whatnot. Todd was calling everyone he knew the day before—‘Do you got any moose?’ Desperate.”

A reader e-mailed me a clip from Palin’s interview with Van Susteren. In the interview, Van Susteren directly asks who shot the moose. Palin never even suggests that she did; she immediately responds that probably one of her parents did. “I just grabbed a chunk of their moose meat out of the freezer because we didn’t have any moose meat in our freezer the last couple of days,” she explains.

When Palin’s autobiography, Going Rogue, came out, the Associated Press assigned eleven fact checkers to look for errors. Between the eleven of them, they found exactly six “errors” (when it’s considered an error that Palin asserts she’s not ambitious, you have to wonder about the criteria here) over the entirety of the 432 page book. By my count, Gross’s magazine piece has at least that many already.

Katrina Trinko — Katrina Trinko is a political reporter for National Review. Trinko is also a member of USA TODAY’S Board of Contributors, and her work has been published in various media outlets ...

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