Sarah's Nosy Neighbor
Grove, Lloyd, Newsweek
Byline: Lloyd Grove
Joe McGinniss moved next door to Alaska's hottest export. His gossipy new book has riled the Palins--and rallied her fans.
In a sense--the media-showbiz sense--Joe McGinniss and Sarah Palin are married to each other. It's a very bad marriage, to be sure, and they are obviously headed for a nasty divorce. But for the moment, they are yoked together in the spotlight, feeding each other's resentments, enabling their respective narratives of victimization, and ultimately hoping to squeeze some mutual benefit out of their otherwise toxic bond.
Best-case scenario: the former Republican vice presidential candidate, current non-presidential candidate, and Fox News personality--her continuing relevance certified by a famous writer--gets more lucrative speaking engagements and more support from her fervent followers. And the 68-year-old McGinniss, whose gossipy and often scandalous biography, The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin, is just out from Crown, gets another bestseller.
McGinniss dismisses the notion that his unremitting hatchet job on the former Alaska governor--who, in his account, is not just a bully, but also a religious nut, a racist, a bulimic, and a bad mother who occasionally snorted cocaine and strayed from her marriage--will engender widespread sympathy for Palin as the defenseless prey of a left-wing stalker. "I don't know anyone who's not a card-carrying member of the Tea Party who would believe something as foolish as that," he tells Newsweek.
But already, McGinniss's reliance on anonymous sources to repeat scurrilous rumors about the Palins has come under fire from critics unconnected with the Tea Party, notably The New York Times's Janet Maslin, who trashed the book's contents as "dated, petty and easily available to anyone with Internet access," as well as rife with "caustic, unsubstantiated gossip."
McGinniss defends his methods--which include devoting many pages to speculation that baby Trig, who suffers from Down syndrome, isn't really Sarah's--by noting that most of his sources wouldn't go on the record because they were worried the Palins would exact revenge. "I would say that 90 percent of what I learned is not in the book because I couldn't check it out," he says. "I wrote only the things I was able to satisfy myself about as to their authenticity, as to their accuracy, as to their truthfulness. …