In Scott Conroy and Shushannah Walshe’s new book, “Sarah from Alaska: The Sudden Rise and Brutal Education of a New Conservative Superstar,” the authors recount a rather bizarre incident they experienced while researching their subject. Sarah Palin’s spokesperson accused them, at the former governor’s behest, of “stalking” the governor and “cornering Piper[Palin’s daughter] at her bus stop for comment.” This was after one “security official” saw them talking to Piper, after they had coincidentally run into her on the street in Juneau.
Walshe and Conroy were campaign embeds on the Palin plane, and certainly this sort of strangeness could have only come from the aftermath of McCain/Palin ’08. In fact, Palin had agreed to cooperate with them on their book, until, one assumes, the ex-governor figured out that it would be more profitable to save herself for Harper Collins. The incident is worth reading in full. From the book:
It wasn’t just frivolous ethics complaints that caused Palin and some of her staff to overreact to perceived menaces. In December 2008, we put [Walshe and Conroy] in a phone request to the governor’s closest aide, Kris Perry, to interview governor Palin for this book. Within minutes, Perry called back with Palin by her side and extended an open invitation to come to Alaska for the interview. “What’s in it for me?” Palin jokingly shouted into the phone. But the arrangement was revoked a couple of weeks later when Stapleton emailed us to say that the governor would no longer agree to be interviewed.We were disappointed but pleased that several of her friends and family in Alaska did agree to participate. One afternoon, while conducting interviews in Juneau, we decided to take a short walk to catch a glimpse of the governor’s mansion, which is located on a busy street in the heart of downtown. On our way back, we crossed paths with Piper Palin and two of her friends, who were evidently returning from school. We had known Piper as a frequent guest in the back of the plane during campaign flights between the cities. Her energy and humor made her a favorite among the ever-exhausted members of the traveling press corps, and she seemed excited to chat briefly with us about her return to Alaska…
Okay, all sounds more or less normal. Then the freakout from Team Palin.
We thought little of the unexpected encounter until about an hour alter when a voicemail arrived from an irate Sharon Leighow, the governor’s deputy press secretary. Leighow explained that a security official had notified the governor that piper had stopped to talk to a pair of strangers on the street and that we matched the description. Palin, of course, knew quite well who we were and that we were well acquainted with her daughter on a friendly basis. In fact, one close aide told us that Palin frequently used to encourage Piper to venture to the back of the campaign plane to butter up the press corps. But that didn’t stop Palin from dispatching an intermediary to attempt to intimidate us with a series of absurd accusations. Leighow accused us of “cornering Piper at her bus stop for comment.” Then she added for good measure: “We don’t appreciate you being here, and we don’t appreciate you stalking the governor as you have been.”
Walshe and Conroy — who I know from having covered the campaigns myself; my thoughts can be found at length about that experience in this GQ piece — emailed me their view on the ‘stalking’ Palin accusation. “The incident was a real wake up call for us–they were clearly trying to intimidate us and made it abundantly clear that they wanted us out of Alaska,” said Walshe. “We spoke to almost 200 people when we were researching the book, and not all of them had kind things to say about Sarah Palin. The governor’s operation was aware of this, and Palin’s press aide flat-out told us that they ‘didn’t appreciate’ us being in the state.”