Fear of Retribution: Why Palin Stories Didn’t Break Before the Nomination
It was clear that Editor and Publisher was peeved at the Alaska media for sitting on a story for weeks, even months…the pregnancy of Bristol Palin. I can understand why a reporter from a large media outlet in a populous city would be baffled by all of the secrecy. Understand that NO ONE was saying ANYTHING on the record and the blogs (and the Anchorage Daily News) had to make due with emails and on-line comments. Also understand that there is a reason no one was saying anything and one must appreciate living in Alaska to get the full picture.
I like to explain the State of Alaska as a small town (600,000 +) broken up by great distances into many VERY small towns. Alaskans will snicker if someone from the "lower-48" assumes we know their second cousin thrice removed on their mother’s side just because he happens to live up here. However, we’re also quite accustomed to running into our politicians and other "celebrities" in line at the grocery store, coming out of a movie theater, dip-netting for salmon on the Kenai River, etc… Folks from other parts of the country don’t understand our nonchalant familiarity as was evident by the chuckle I had with progressive radio talk-show host, Cary Carrigan, when I was reporting on his show from the Democratic Convention. He recounted a phone call that he received from an Obama campaign worker (probably an intern) who was "excited" to tell Cary that he could "get him some media time" with former two-term Democratic Governor, Tony Knowles. I later was able to laugh about it with Governor Knowles, who was at my breakfast table.
So on one hand, Alaskans feel a connection to their politicians because those politicians are more available to their constituents. This breeds loyalty. The next reason for silence and secrecy, however, is not filled with "lollipops and rainbows." As a matter-of-fact, it has people fearing for their jobs and believe it or not, their lives.
Friday, July 11th, the highly-respected Walt Monegan was fired as the Commissioner of Public Safety for undisclosed reasons by a Palin underling, not by the Governor herself. Many of us who had been at least guarded supporters of Palin on some issues were perplexed and outraged. Walt Monegan seemed to be working towards actual solutions to serious problems with more than just a band aid. Plus, there were indications from the very first press event that the new appointee, Chuck Kopp, could end up being a disaster. (He was…he lasted 10 days.) It was around that time that many of us were starting to write highly critical articles of the Governor that her spokesperson, Sharon Leighow, started "selectively" handing out press releases. One day, while a number of us were waiting by our email accounts for the Governor’s statement regarding Chuck Kopp, I got a phone call from a friend at progressive radio, declaring "Dan Fagan (conservative talk-show host) is reading the statement on the air NOW!"
The Governor’s spokesperson, Sharon Leighow, was Dan Fagan’s radio partner on his talk show before she worked for Palin.
So, as you can see, Sarah Palin and her spokesperson do the George W. Bush (and now John McCain) practice of punishing those they don’t like and rewarding those they do. As a result, Alaska MSM…a business that depends on getting timely information…has been putty in her hands.
The media manipulation is just a small demonstration of how she does business in Alaska. The Monegan firing and then ensuing information regarding the attempt to get her ex-brother-in-law fired is only the most recent example of what she does when she perceives that someone has "crossed her." She also has a history of exactly the same behavior.
When she was Mayor of Wasilla, she fired the police chief, Irl Stambaugh saying that he "intimidated her." Palin also wanted to ban some books from the library and when library director Mary Ellen Emmons fought her on it, she fired her as well. Her explanation:
“I do not feel I have your full support in my efforts to govern the city of Wasilla. Therefore I intend to terminate your employment …” (The Anchorage Daily News, via nexis)
Ultimately, Palin let the library director have her job back; though Stambaugh’s position was not returned. The police chief took the matter to court, where a judge sided with Palin, saying city law allows the mayor to fire the police chief without cause.
When questioned by the Anchorage Daily News at the time, Palin refused to give details on how Stambaugh had not supported her, saying only: ”You know in your heart when someone is supportive of you.”
According to the nationally-touted comments (read on the Randi Rhodes Show today) in the Washington Independent article from Wasilla resident, Anne Kilkenny:
She [Palin] has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help. The City Council person who personally escorted her around town introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council became one of her first targets when she was later elected Mayor. She abruptly fired her loyal City Administrator; even people who didn’t like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness.
Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything publicly about her.
The fear has escalated now that Palin is in line to potentially hold the second-highest position in the country.
A blogger told me that he needs to back off the more sensitive Palin information because he’s afraid of getting shot by some of the more fanatical, hard-core "Palin-bots." I’ve been told that when media representatives attempted to speak to several members of Palin’s former church, one member wouldn’t speak out of fear of his/her life and the other declined out of fear of potential treatment by law enforcement who are also members of the church.
Wow. Can you imagine Sarah Palin with full access to all Departments of the Federal Government? Perhaps G.W. Bush wasn’t the worst we could do after all.
There may be some Alaskans who are incensed by the deluge of national media into our state, especially Wasilla. However, I am grateful for their help and I offer my assistance to anyone who needs it. After all, what we are all looking for is change and unless for you that means a power-mad, inexperienced, vindictive former Alaska Governor one step away from the Presidency (and the button), we can use all of the research help we can get.