The Media's Feeling Sorry for Palin After the Sexy Cocaine Book

Worries that Joe McGinniss might have ruined the fun of Palin gossip

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Joe McGinniss' book The Rogue offers a chance to prove -- finally -- that three years of Sarah Palin hatred was a principled stand based on policy issues and not that she's a reminder of the meanest high school cheerleader. McGinniss' book is full of brand-new tabloidy anecdotes, claiming through many anonymous sources that Palin did cocaine, slept with a basketball star (in fairness, there's some on the record reporting on that one), had marital problems, and didn't always want to cook her kids dinner. After widely repeating the tales, the press has leapt to Palin's defense and is conducting a bit of soul-searching: Why are people so interested in sex and drugs, especially a sexy sex drug like cocaine when it's allegedly being done by a sexy person like Sarah Palin? It's quite a mystery.

Politico's Molly Ball observes, "They kicked her around, victimized her, tried to destroy her. But all of a sudden, the lamestream media is coming to Sarah Palin's defense." The New York Times' review of The Rogue was brutal, and several newspapers refused to run "Doonesbury" comic strips that excerpted the book. And it's not just the MSM. Palin's new media detractors say McGinniss' book is appalling, too. Slate's Libby Copeland frets that The Rogue will finally make Palin's claim that the media is out to get her sound true. "It’s precisely because it is so easy for the Palin camp to make claims of ill intentions and poor judgment against anyone writing about her that The Rogue deserved to be written by someone with purer motives and a greater regard for accuracy," Copeland writes. Her colleague Rachael Larimore, sounding like the primmest Sunday School lecturer to have ever shamed me, goes further:

...[W]hatever meritorious reporting there might be on Troopergate or legislation she worked on as governor or her expertise or lackthereof on energy issues, it has to compete with his anonymously sourced musings on Palin's parenting skills and his sympathy for Levi Johnston's mother. It's interesting that he apparently criticizes Bristol Palin for showing up on Dancing With the Stars and blames the media for giving them so much attention, while writing a book that is clearly targeted to... garnering the media's attention. ...
It’s a problem not uncommon to Palin’s liberal critics. She drives them so crazy that they can't resist taking the low road when they write about her. She's a lousy parent! An attention hound! She's really dumb! She might be all those things, but focusing on the superficial only has the effect of convincing her supporters that the media is out to get her...
Palin "might be all those things" -- but you're only supposed to imply it, not say it outright! The Los Angeles TimesDavid L. Ulin explains his feelings about the book in what seems, to me at least, the most honest way: "I have no doubt that McGinniss' view of Palin is accurate: that she is narcissistic, undisciplined and unqualified for public life. Still, I want more than innuendo to make the point." The underlying complaint seems to be: "while we really do want to destroy Palin, this is not the way to go about it." Indeed, Jezebel's Margaret Hartmann worries that McGinniss has ruined the game. "In addition to proving Palin's point that the 'lamestream' media is out to get her, the book may have another unfortunate effect: Making us feel a brief tinge of pity for Palin."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.