For decades, Joe McGinniss has been to journalism what Sarah Palin has become to politics--a relentless self-promoter who rarely lets facts get in the way of a good story-—and now they come together with the former’s book about the latter as she is on the brink of possibly becoming a presidential candidate.
The next media scandals du jour will emanate from that 320-page tome, the flavor of which is imparted by a review in the New York Times:
“'The Rogue’ suggests that Todd Palin and the young Sarah Heath took drugs. It also says that she lacked boyfriends and was a racist. And it includes this: A friend says, ‘Sarah and her sisters had a fetish for black guys for a while.’
“Mr. McGinniss did in 2011 make a phone call to the former N.B.A. basketball player Glen Rice, who is black, and prompted him to acknowledge having fond memories of Sarah Heath. While Mr. Rice avoids specifics and uses the words ‘respectful’ and ‘a sweetheart,’ Mr. McGinniss eggs him on with the kind of flagrantly leading question he seems to have habitually asked. In Mr. Rice’s case: ‘So you never had the feeling she felt bad about having sex with a black guy?’”
This kind of Palin journalism is being unloaded on the literary world by Crown, a division of Random House, whose recent list includes George W. Bush’s memoir, “Decision Points.”
McGinniss, who rented a house next door to the Palins in Wasila for “research” and pre-publication publicity, has a long history of calling more attention to himself than his subjects.
I was a book publisher in the late 1960s when his "Selling of the President" supplanted as a best-seller Theodore White's meticulously reported series of "Making of the President" books of the Kennedy years.
His reporting skills can be judged by McGinniss’ swallowing the story that Nixon's media handlers were manipulative geniuses when, in fact, they managed to spend millions turning a 15-point polling advantage after the conventions into a November victory by less than one percent.
Back then, a would-be reporter named A. J. Weberman was featured in Esquire as a "garbologist," who spied on the rich and famous by rooting through their rubbish, reconstructing their inner lives from the evidence of egg shells, coffee grounds and discarded scrap paper.
Now, new generations of readers will have to decide whether Sarah Palin, for all her brashness, deserves that kind of “journalistic” treatment.