Occam’s Razor Says Sarah Palin Is Trig’s Mother

What Women Really Think
April 14 2011 1:31 PM

Occam’s Razor Says Sarah Palin Is Trig’s Mother

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Rachael Larimore Rachael Larimore

Rachael Larimore is Slate's managing editor.

Maybe it’s just coincidence, or maybe it’s that Donald Trump is annoyingly reviving all the weird birther conspiracy theories on the right, but the question of whether Sarah Palin actually gave birth to her youngest son, Trig, is back in the news today , thanks to a story at BusinessInsider.com, by Henry Blodget, about an academic paper by Bradford Scharlott at Northern Kentucky University that concludes that "Sarah Palin staged a huge hoax" and the "American media is pathetic for not pursuing the story."

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The Palin "birther" conspiracy is not an exact parallel to the Obama birther conspiracy-there are some really weird things about the circumstances of Trig’s birth, whereas the Obama birthers are looking for weirdness where it doesn’t exist. But that doesn’t make it any more likely to be true.

Scharlott’s biggest evidence is a handful of photos wherein Palin doesn’t LOOK pregnant. You know what? Not every woman turns into a beached whale when they are pregnant, even at seven months. He also points to the fact that Palin allegedly went into labor , gave a speech in Texas, and then spent 20 hours flying from Texas to Seattle to Anchorage and then driving to Wasilla, all when there were perfectly good hospitals with special neonatal units along the way. I’ll give him that. It’s odd.  But while the flight attendants on Palin’s flight reportedly didn’t notice that she was pregnant, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas did, as she left the speech in such a rush that he asked her if she was in labor.

So we have the tale of the marathon flight after the speech, and the fact that Palin and the Wasilla hospital haven’t been overly forthcoming with birth records (privacy laws, anyone?).

But for Scharlott’s theory-that Bristol is the mother-to hold up, he lets himself believe some equally odd  things. He wonders if perhaps Trig was born in January (see pages 5 and 6 of the paper), to make it medically possible for Bristol to have been five months pregnant when her mother was named McCain’s running mate in August (when Trig was four months old).

The photo evidence-and we know Scharlott loves photo evidence-suggests otherwise.  In a series of pictures that ran in the Huffington Post, taken in June ( click here and scroll ), Trig is clearly a newborn. He’s slumpy and cuddly and not holding himself up.  If he were born in January, he’d have been five or six months old at the time-and likely to be sitting up more and raising his head.  He’d have been close to eight months old at the GOP convention, and again, he looks far more like a four- or five-month old .

Then there’s the fact that a woman who gives birth in her mid-40s has a 1 in 25 chance of having a Down syndrome baby , while for women who are 20 (and Bristol was even younger), it’s 1 in 1529 . To believe that Bristol is the mother, you have to believe that Trig is older than he appears to be and that Bristol Palin, at age 16 or 17, gave birth to a Down syndrome baby whose existence was hidden for a few months, and then turned around within three months and GOT PREGNANT AGAIN.  And, perhaps even more unlikely, they got Bristol’s ex, Levi Johnston, to stick to this story even after the couple broke up and while he was making the rounds trashing the Palin family to anyone who would listen.

Let’s introduce an even crazier theory: Neither Bristol nor Sarah gave birth to Trig. Maybe the Palins hired a surrogate and then concocted the story about Palin giving birth. This is actually far more believable than Bristol being the mother, but again, given that the Palins couldn’t keep Levi Johnston quiet, I think it’s unlikely that the truth wouldn’t have outed by now. The Palins weren’t wealthy enough to buy that kind secrecy before the election.

There’s a much simpler theory out there: Sarah Palin is Trig’s mother. It might sound crazy, but I’m inclined to believe it.

Photograph of Sarah and Trig Palin by Joshua Lott/Getty Images