Vanity Fair has a new smear piece about Sarah Palin and thankfully this one was not dictated by Levi Johnston. According to this latest hit job, Alaska’s most famous pitbull in lipstick offered to get Bristol Palin and Levi married “if it would be good for the campaign,” threatens her employees, and is prone to ‘F-word’-filled arguments with her husband, Todd. My personal favorite part of the piece is where Levi extends a private apology to the Palins and the hockey mom asks him if he’s wearing “a wire” and if she is being recorded. (He was not.) That public apology that Levi issued? Allegedly, it was written by Todd Palin himself. Levi, through his lawyer, told Vanity Fair, “I had nothing to do with putting that statement together.”
But that’s not all … Vanity Fair makes a many-pronged attack on Palin, but the biggest stink bombs explode in the professional realm. She’s repeatedly described as a she-beast who would make Miranda Priestly look like a Shibu Inu puppy and controls both professional acquaintances and personal minions with fear. According to the reporter, her vengefulness is so well known that:
“.. virtually no one who knows Palin well is willing to talk about her on the record, whether because they are loyal and want to protect her (a small and shrinking number), or because they expect her prominence to grow and intend to keep their options open, or because they fear she will exact revenge, as she has been known to do. It is an astonishing phenomenon. … When it comes to Palin, people button their lips and slink away.”
Just as she was accused of misusing campaign funds to outfit her large brood in designer clothes, Palin’s also accused of misusing campaign employees to cater to her children. During the campaign, Palin had hair and makeup stylists — as do all women who are high-profile in politics, including Michelle Obama — and she allegedly made them make up her daughters, though that was not part of their job. One particular story involves an unnamed Palin daughter asking to be made up by a stylist and being told “no.”
“When the stylists apologetically told the girl they didn’t have time that day, Palin, incensed, sent the child back to give them a message: ‘Tell them they don’t have a choice. They have to do it.’ And so they did.”
After hearing that story, it’s not such a surprise that past employees also told Vanity Fair that they were told by Palin, “I have the power to ruin you.” Local businesses in her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, fear her as well: One employee at a restaurant establishment refused to talk to the reporter about Palin because he said he wanted to keep his job.
Palin is depicted as a histrionic diva, at one point “yelping in theatrical complaint … ‘I want my straws! I want ’em bent!’” (Well, we knew her opinion on straws when pages worth of her contract demands leaked in April.) A former gubernatorial aide says, “The people who have worked for her — they’re broken, used, stepped on, down in the dust.” Another aide said Palin would scream at her staff members and throw things.
“Witnessing such behavior, one aide asked Todd Palin if it was typical of his wife. He answered, ‘You just got to let her go through it… Half the stuff that comes out of her mouth she doesn’t even mean.’ When a campaign aide gingerly asked Todd whether Sarah should consider taking psychiatric medication to control her moods, Todd responded that she ‘just needed to run and work out more.’”
In the lengthy section about Palin’s temper — including more allegations that it was suggested by campaign staff that she take psychiatric meds — there is one telling story:
One friend of the Palins’ remembers an argument between Sarah and Todd: “They took all the canned goods out of the pantry, then proceeded to throw them at each other. By the time they got done, the stainless-steel fridge looked like it had got shot up with a shotgun. Todd said, ‘I don’t know why I even waste my time trying to get nice things for you if you’re just going to ruin them.’” This friend adds, “As soon as she enters her property and the door closes, even the insects in that house cringe. She has a horrible temper, but she has gotten away with it because she is a pretty woman.” (The friend elaborated on this last point: “Once, while Sarah was preparing for a city-council meeting, she said, ‘I’m gonna put on one of my push-up bras so I can get what I want tonight.’ That’s how she rolls.”)
[Editor's Note: Not that I think bullying staffers or throwing and yelling is appropriate boss behavior, something tells me there are plenty of male politicians with terrible tempers too, yet it's only considered newsworthy or shocking when it's a woman being the aggressor. Anyway, I digress.]
But the nastiest mudslinging against her is when the hockey mom is depicted as using her kids for political gains or when she is accused of being a bad mother. Vanity Fair accuses her of being selfish by bringing her children along on the campaign trail and claims “little homework got done.” (Um, what was Todd Palin doing all this time? He’s a parent, too, you know.) Allegedly, while on the campaign trail, she was overhead asking whether her then-pregnant daughter Bristol should marry her boyfriend, Levi Johnston: “Would it be good for the campaign if they got married before the election?” The author also describes attending a speech in Missouri where Piper Palin plays backstage until she is signaled to come out to the podium with her mom so Sarah can “make a public display of maternal affection.”
Her marriage with Todd is still scrutinized as a fraud:
One person who has been a frequent houseguest of the Palins’ says that the couple began many mornings with screaming fights, a fusillade of curses: “F**k you,’ ‘F**k this,’ ‘You lazy piece of s**t.’ ‘You’re f**kin’ lucky to have me,’ Sarah would always say.” (This person never saw Todd and Sarah sleep in the same bed, and recalls that Todd would often joke, “I don’t know how she ever gets pregnant.”)
(Oh, come on, Levi, we all know you were behind that quote.)
But it’s not all a hit piece against her family. Her financial support is also criticized, but the statement that “the Palin machine is supported by organizations that do much of their business under the cover of pseudonyms and shell companies” is never explained in full. But Vanity Fair does do well explaining Sarah Palin’s relationship with media, over which she keeps tight control. Instead of availing herself to any and all interviews, Palin “has submitted to authentic, unpaid interviews with only a handful of journalists.” When she has speaking engagements, the “reporters are kept at bay.” That closed and controlled relationship towards the media is not at all befitting of a public figure; obviously, she keeps tight control over her public statements for a reason, but it’s not at all in the spirit of an open democracy.
Many parts of this particular smear piece make me uncomfortable. As much as I may hate Palin’s politics and her utter co-option of the phrase “feminist” when her politics are anything but, I think she is treated in a sexist way at points in this piece. I don’t think it’s fair to bring up her mothering skills; I also dislike how she is accused at two different points in the piece of using her attractiveness and her “push-up bra” to get what she wants. That may be, in fact, true and Vanity Fair certainly isn’t the first to suggest her appearance has something to do with her popularity. In general, though, I’m uncomfortable with using a politician’s appearance against her. Even though the gossip about her family, her marriage with Todd and her drama with Levi was salacious and interesting, I would have appreciated a meatier article about, say, her closed relationship to the media.
It’s an epically long article, but I highly suggest you give it a read. Let me know what you think in the comments.