Joe McGinniss stands by the more outrageous parts of his Sarah Palin tell-all.
Joe McGinniss is no longer surprised at the hate engendered by his new biography, The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin. "Did you see this crazy blogger, Stacy McCain, saying he's starting a legal fund for Todd Palin?" he asks. The blog post appeals for $25 donations to SarahPAC to "help defray Todd's legal expenses when he shows up at McGinniss's first book signing and pounds that scurvy worm into a bloody pulp."
That was posted Thursday, but McGinniss has long been familiar with the passions the Palins arouse. In May 2010, he lucked into a cheap rental home that happened to be next to the Palins' house. Palin publicly shamed McGinniss for doing it. McGinniss prints in his book some of the hate mail he received, and says that it temporarily made his research harder to do.
After the fury died down, McGinniss conducted "at least a couple of hundred interviews from "people who, despite the intimidation and the fear, were willing to talk." The juiciest quotes and stories in The Rogue come from anonymous sources, but McGinniss says he nixed "90 percent of the anecdotes I heard," sticking to the ones he could confirm. Todd Palin has opted to knock the book down by quoting his own anonymous sources, who say McGinniss "was the most disingenuous and intellectual [sic] dishonest writer they'd ever dealt with."
"That's probably about AGIA," says McGinniss, referring to a gas pipeline project that Palin championed but couldn't make work. It was the focus of his first long article about Palin in 2009. "Todd still has a hair across his ass about that." Maybe the Palins are desperate. "She hasn't even announced her candidacy. I don't think she's gonna run, do you? And now she's running third behind Perry and Romney."
Just in case Palin defies McGinniss and stays relevant, here's a guide to a few of the Palin personae McGinniss sketches in The Rogue. Some of this stuff is so outrageous as to be unbelievable—c'mon, snorting cocaine off an oil drum in the great Alaskan wilderness?—and no doubt the fact-checkers and Palin partisans of the Internet will have a few thousand words to say about it over the coming weeks. But as McGinniss ruefully acknowledges in his final chapter, anything that has to do with Palin gets people chattering. Or, at least, starting legal-defense funds.
Sarah Palin, Neighbor
The first line of the book, dated May 22, 2010, is straightforward: "I moved in next door to Sarah Palin today." An evocative description of the Wasilla home he rented last year is illustrated by a snapshot of Lake Lucille, which both McGinniss and Palin have views of. There is a map of the area around the Palin home, illustrating where McGinniss lived. McGinniss reports that the Palins told the original owner that they were going to cut a path through her property. "Todd told her, very plainly, that Sarah was mayor and they could do whatever they wanted, and it would be a mistake for her to try and stop them." The Palins even put up a fence with the ugly back side facing the neighbor's house.
Later, once he learns who's living next door, Todd Palin pays McGinniss a visit, sporting a "First Dude" T-shirt and decrying his 2009 piece on AGIA. "We'll just see how long you stay around here," he says, wagging his finger.
Sarah Palin, Christian
One of Sarah's high-school classmates tells McGinniss that on bus trips, the future governor would "start preaching to us all about 'the Rapture.'… I remember even way back then she kept talking about how the Bible said the Middle East was going to be a bloodbath and that the end-times were upon us or drawing nigh or some such shit."
Palin won office in Wasilla with the help of evangelical Christians. "On her first day in office, Sarah changed the screen saver on the mayor's official computer to read GOD LOVES YOU SARAH PALIN." Phil Munger, whose band played at a commencement for homeschoolers that Palin spoke at, reports on her creationist views, saying she spoke of seeing "pictures that showed human footprints inside dinosaur tracks."
Later in the book, an anonymous source says Palin's religious creed might be an act. "There was no religion in that house. There was nothing about God. There was no Christ. Nobody prayed. There were no Bibles, there were no Christ Is in This Home signs."
David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at email@example.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.
Photograph of Sarah Palin by Randy Snyder/Getty Images