Methods Of Palin Book Author Draw Ire

Joe McGinniss stirred controversy with his book The Rogue on Sarah Palin even before it came out. Last summer, he moved in next door to Palin's lakeside home in Wasilla, Alaska, and was denounced as a stalker. His book is crammed with anecdotes of wrongdoing and hypocrisy in her public and private lives — but he's also drawing just as much attention for how he reported his tale.

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Joe McGinniss is no stranger to writing about Republican politics. His first book was "The Selling of the President," a classic behind-the-scenes look at Richard Nixon's 1968 campaign. His latest book, "The Rogue," depicts Sarah Palin as so driven by ambition that she tramples everything in her path, including her own family. But as NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik reports, it's the actions of the book's author that are inspiring controversy.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Joe McGinniss starts the book with the definition of its title, a word Sarah Palin proudly uses to describe herself.

JOE MCGINNISS: Rogue: an elephant that has separated from a herd and roams about alone, in which state it is very savage.

FOLKENFLIK: In the pages that follow, McGinniss takes readers on a twisty tale of broken marriage vows, cocaine parties, neglected and troubled children. He tells of a religious fervor that fuels bigotry, and a trail of betrayed political supporters and friends abandoned in Palin's wake. McGinniss sparked headlines back in 2010 with his decision to move in next to Sarah Palin's lakeside home in Wasilla while working on the book.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV AND RADIO SHOW)

SEAN HANNITY: Which I think is creepy as all get-out, this stalker-like journalist.

BILL O: Let me make my argument that it's immoral.

SARAH PALIN: Any mom in my position - that they would feel the same way, and that is...

GLENN BECK: Of course, they would.

PALIN: ...do your thing...

BECK: Of course, they would.

PALIN: ...do your thing but keep your distance, and you'd better leave my kids alone.

FOLKENFLIK: That was Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and Palin herself on Glenn Beck's radio show. McGinniss received threats, but he was blessed by the conflict with the Palins; he structured the book around it. Joe McGinniss says he never stalked the Palins or peered at her kids, but says her personal life is fair game for reporting because she parades her family in public view - on the campaign trail and in such television appearances as the TLC reality series "Sarah Palin's Alaska."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SARAH PALIN'S ALASKA")

PALIN: Bristol and I hitched a ride for a mother-daughter day of commercial fishing.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Welcome, ladies.

PALIN: Hello.

FOLKENFLIK: Joe McGinniss.

MCGINNISS: She pushes them front and center. She tries to use, as a fundamental aspect of her image, the sense that Sarah is a working mother of five great kids. These people are all - they do everything together. Look at her whole reality show. They travel Alaska together, and they go mining for gold and hunting caribou. And it's all fake. It's all fake. It's utterly fraudulent.

FOLKENFLIK: In 2009, McGinniss wrote a magazine article about one of Palin's signature pieces of legislation as governor, involving a proposed gas pipeline - which he showed to be a half-billion-dollar boondoggle. But in this book, McGinniss relies on a dizzying array of on-the-record and anonymous interviews to catalog family dysfunction as well as political strife. The author and writer Meryl Gordon has profiled prominent political figures such as John Kerry, and John and Elizabeth Edwards. She says personal lives are not off-limits and she found "The Rogue" entertaining, but said the book felt unreliable.

MERYL GORDON: If you read this book, you don't think she's ever done a good thing in her life. She's a bad mother. She's a bad politician. She's a bad wife. And, you know, I don't think he was looking for anything even balanced or positive about her. He went in with an agenda, and he came out with one.

FOLKENFLIK: Anchorage Daily News columnist Michael Carey has been critical of Palin, but he says...

MICHAEL CAREY: It seems to me it's a very one-sided view of the world that Sarah Palin came out of. You want to tell the story warts and all, but you don't want to make it all warts.

FOLKENFLIK: Last summer, Palin wrote dismissively of McGinniss on Facebook and concluded, quote: Thank goodness for social networking sites like this, and new media sites, which have allowed us to get around the lamestream(ph) media and present the facts.

She has more than 3 million Facebook followers. But McGinniss says those who know Palin best like her least. He says he's simply deploying classic journalistic tools to reveal the truth about a politician that he sees as a threat to the country. David Folkenflik, NPR News.

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