The Palin Double Standard

It's apparently legitimate to call Sarah Palin a liar without producing any evidence or bothering to check facts.

Andrew Sullivan calls out John Heilemann for calling “possibly fictitious” her claim that “she and Todd drove their motor home from Wasilla to Los Angeles (distance: 3,375 miles) to watch Bristol on Dancing With the Stars.”

Here’s what I want to know: what process led both John and New York magazine not to confirm whether that 3,375 motor home drive was actually, rather than “possibly”, fictitious? With most politicians, journalists actually try to check factual claims with, you know, reporting. But it seems that one of the best reporters I know, has not, in this case. Why? Why is Palin – alone of all national figures – allowed to tell the tallest, most implausible stories in public and never get quizzed on them by the press? Why is she treated differently? Why are the claims of a candidate who is, say, a veteran vetted, but Palin’s manifold empirically dubious assertions left hanging as if truth didn’t matter any more?

By the same token, however, would Heilemann and New York magazine dare assert that any other national politician of remotely Palin’s stature might be lying about something without bothering to fact check it or present even a shred of evidence? I can’t imagine it.

I happen to think Palin’s a clownish figure, who long ago became a pop culture phenom rather than a legitimate politician.  But journalists should nonetheless exercise due diligence when reporting on her, living up to at least the minimal standards of their craft.

FILED UNDER: Media, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. mantis says:

    It’s apparently legitimate to call Sarah Palin a liar without producing any evidence or bothering to check facts.

    Well, she’s a known liar. It’s just not legitimate to call this particular claim a lie without evidence.

  2. Wouldn’t this be a fairly easy thing to verify though ?

    Of course, as my post yesterday notes most of what Heilemann wrote in that article is more speculative fiction than political analysis

  3. anjin-san says:

    Seems to be legit to call Obama a Muslim, a Kenyan, and a communist without any evidence or supporting facts. At least if you are a Republican.

  4. PD Shaw says:

    Ahh, Andrew wants Heilemann to use the Trig Palin standard; if you think a claim is fictitious, report it as so.

  5. Herb says:

    “Wouldn’t this be a fairly easy thing to verify though ?”

    You’d think. But as we’ve seen with the Birther nonsense, verification does not dissuade the true believer.

    Besides…where does Sullivan get the standing to criticize another journalist’s Palin reporting? Granted, Sullivan’s not a “reporter,” per se, but he’s expounded at length over the years about all things Palin and from what I can tell, has never himself done any of the “reporting” he now wants other people to do properly.

  6. Sullivan does have a point that Palin has created a carefully crafted narrative, much of which may not in fact be true. This story about driving a motor home from Alaska to California is arguably part of that narrative. Heck, Bristol’s appearance on Dancing With The Stars has been as much, if not more, about promoting the Palin Brand as it is about how a 19 year-old single mother performs the tango.

    If that narrative isn’t true, then arguably the public deserves to know

  7. John P says:

    @ Doug. Let us hope Bristol’s appearance on the dancing show is about promoting a brand because if dancing well is the end goal she is not succeeding.

  8. sam says:

    Yeah, that’d be pretty easy to check. I don’t suppose there’s a person in the US except the president whose whereabouts are a closely followed as Palin’s.

  9. ponce says:

    Palin switching from private jet to folksy tour bus for the last mile drive into a city was well documented during her book tour.

  10. PD Shaw says:

    From the quotes on Andrew’s website, it appears that Sarah Palin took credit for participating in a crazy plan, but it was Todd that drove the motor home down. Married people will recognize the dynamic of the appearing and dissapearing “we.”

  11. Tea Partier says:

    doug said: “Sullivan does have a point that Palin has created a carefully crafted narrative, much of which may not in fact be true. This story about driving a motor home from Alaska to California is arguably part of that narrative. ”

    Our here in the real world, we call this “Palin Derangement Syndrome”, where people lose their minds, because they become so obsessed with hating someone. They lose contact with reality, and become wholly immersed in their own fictional world.

    There’s been an oubreak of this lately… Just change the name… Bush, Palin, Brown, O’Donnell or any one of about 50 GOP people running for office, and a few in office, and a few who aren’t and never held office – like Rove. Just the other day, some twit actually said in public that the object of thier hate wanted to execute gays, roll back women’s voting rights, and assorted other pure insanity.

    I’m not sure which is more depressing, that there exists the possibility that someone may actually believe it, or that the person saying it thought that it was believable – betraying how incredibly stupid they believe their audience to be.

  12. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Anjin, you and Mantis are known liars. What is your point? Everything you write or say is BS. If Obama is not from Kenya, there are documents to prove it. We do not get to see those documents. We have to take the word of people who have a vested interest in those documents not being seen. Is Obama a Muslim? Do Christians go to mosques and Islamic schools? Obama did. By definition, Obama is not a natural born citizen. His daddy was a subject of the British Crown. Those, Anjin, are truths. If not, prove them wrong. Not words, documents.

  13. wr says:

    Hilarious. Tea Partier chimes in from the “real world” with a lecture about “derangement syndrome,” which apparently only affects those who are opposed to Republicans, and right on cue Zels is back hyperventilating about birth certificates. But of course there couldn’t be such a thing as “Obama Derangement Syndrome.”

  14. ponce says:

    “It’s apparently legitimate to call Sarah Palin a liar without producing any evidence or bothering to check facts.”

    Rereading Sullivan’s post, he doesn’t seem to be concerned about journalists calling Palin a liar, he seems more concerned with why journalists allow Palin to get away with easy to disprove lies.

  15. James Joyner says:

    @Ponce: Right. I’m just pointing out that the sloppiness goes both ways. Palin simply isn’t treated by the same standards as other serious presidential aspirants. And, despite my strong reservations about her, she’s a former governor and VP nominee with a substantial national following.

  16. Tea Partier says:

    @wr : “Hilarious. Tea Partier chimes in from the “real world” with a lecture about “derangement syndrome,” which apparently only affects those who are opposed to Republicans, and right on cue Zels is back hyperventilating about birth certificates. But of course there couldn’t be such a thing as “Obama Derangement Syndrome.”

    While certainly there are people who suffer from it, calling attention to Obama’s extreme efforts to hide all facts concerning his citizenship and birth, is not “derangement”. It’s called skepticism. We’re called to believe, on faith, that all the questions of Obama’s qualifications for office have been answered, when, no, they have not. Like it or not, there’s nobody who can simply rebut the questions asked and rebut some of the arguments made on the matter. There’s a saying that says “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.” And just because the conspiracy types are big on Obama’s past, doesn’t mean there isn’t truth to some of the observations.

    I’ve seen at least a dozen different arguments about Obama being legally qualified, and only a couple of them have even half baked rebuttals. Mocking, insults, and “nobody believes you” do not count as factual rebuttals, btw. It is well established that the law at the time of Obama’s birth does not grant him US Citizenship on behalf of his mother, for instance. It’s also well established, by Obama’s own word, that at one time he was a citizen of a foreign country and his parents had DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY from the laws of the US. He has travelled under foreign passports apparently, and many of the items needed to PROVE he reclaimed his citizenship are not found or do not exist.

    The point being that whether or not the conspiracy types have flocked to it and made all kinds of really “out there” arguments does not make it any less true that there’s plenty of solid, factual reasons to doubt the legitemacy of Obama’s legal qualification for office. Obama feeds this by refusing to release countless papers, hiding much of his past, and failing to offer ‘best evidence’.

  17. sam says:

    Tea Birther reveals himself.

  18. mantis says:

    While certainly there are people who suffer from it, calling attention to Obama’s extreme efforts to hide all facts concerning his citizenship and birth, is not “derangement”.

    Ah, cognitive dissonance. Must be nice.

  19. ponce says:

    “Palin simply isn’t treated by the same standards as other serious presidential aspirants.”

    Hmmm.

    The press and most of the public reached the point where everything George W. Bush and Bill Clinton said was just assumed to be lies.

    Palin has reached that status without winning the presidency (yet).

    She’s the Mercury 7 astronaut of political fabulists.

  20. John425 says:

    President Palin 2016-2024

  21. An Interested Party says:

    “While certainly there are people who suffer from it, calling attention to Obama’s extreme efforts to hide all facts concerning his citizenship and birth…”

    How, exactly, is the president using “extreme” efforts to “hide all facts” concerning his citizenship and birth? Anyone who is questioning the president’s place of birth and/or citizenship or who claims he is a socialist and/or a Muslim really has no business lecturing anyone else about derangement syndromes as said person is suffering from a derangement syndrome himself…

  22. rodney dill says:

    How, exactly, is the president using “extreme” efforts to “hide all facts” concerning his citizenship and birth?

    Obviously since he hasn’t released his Kenyan Birth Certificate, he’s hiding it. 😉