Public image of Sarah Palin

Public image of Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin waves to delegates during her vice-presidential nomination acceptance speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention.
Palinproject.jpg This article is part of a series about
Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin
McCain–Palin campaign, 2008
Governorship of Alaska, 2006–2009
Early political career of Sarah Palin, 1992–2005

Political positions · Electoral history
Public image · Saturday Night Live parodies
Resignation of Sarah Palin
Going Rogue: An American Life
Sarah Palin's Alaska

Sarah Palin, while serving as Governor of Alaska, was nominated as the first female candidate of the Republican Party for Vice President of the United States. Following the nomination, her image came under close media scrutiny,[1][2] particularly regarding her religious perspective on public life, her socially conservative views, and a perceived lack of experience. Palin's experience in foreign and domestic politics came under criticism among conservatives as well as liberals following her nomination.[3][4][5][6] A poll taken by Rasmussen Reports just after the Republican National Convention in the first week of September 2008 found that Palin was more popular than either Barack Obama or John McCain;[7] however, this perception later reversed.[8] At the same time, Palin became more popular among Republicans than McCain.[9] A February 2010 ABC News/Washington Post poll showed 71% of Americans felt Palin lacked the qualifications necessary to be President of the United States.[10]


Qualifications for Vice President

Then-Governor Sarah Palin at the annual blessing of the fishing fleet in Dillingham, Alaska in 2007.

Prior to the Republican National Convention, a Gallup poll found that most voters were unfamiliar with Sarah Palin. 39% said she is ready to serve as president if needed, 33% said she is not, and 29% had no opinion. This was "the lowest vote of confidence in a running mate since the elder George Bush chose then-Indiana senator Dan Quayle to join his ticket in 1988."[11]

Republicans cited her tenure in executive office, high popularity, past focus on ethics and energy issues, her personal life, as well as her command of the Alaska National Guard and Alaska's proximity to foreign countries among reasons for the choice of Sarah Palin.[12]

Criticism focused on her limited foreign policy experience and work on major policy issues and claims of low amount of actual responsibility as well as alleged misconduct during her time in office. Her readiness to step in should the president be incapacitated was also questioned.[5][13][14][15]

Foreign policy experience

Sarah Palin cited Alaska's proximity to Russia and her dealings with foreign trade delegations as showing her the importance of foreign policy.[16] Palin later agreed that her comments were "mocked" and reiterated her view that this proximity enhanced her foreign policy credentials.[17] Her interviews and particularly her response to explaining the Bush Doctrine as Bush's "worldview" were criticized. While few espouse the view that the Bush Doctrine encompasses his entire "worldview," there are were as many as seven different definitions of the phrase "Bush Doctrine".[18] Subsequently, a survey found likely voters were divided on whether Palin had the personality and leadership qualities a president should have.[19][20][21]

Suitability for President

A February 2010 ABC News/Washington Post poll showed 71% of Americans felt Palin lacked the qualifications necessary to be President of the United States.[10] In a poll from October 2010 the number dropped to 67%, with 27% seeing her as qualified and with self-described Tea party members split evenly.[22]

In response to people such as Republican strategist Karl Rove who have suggested that starring in the reality show Sarah Palin's Alaska may be incompatible with running for president in 2012, Palin pointed out that Ronald Reagan was an actor prior to becoming president. This led former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan to write, "Excuse me, but this was ignorant even for Mrs. Palin. Reagan people quietly flipped their lids, but I'll voice their consternation to make a larger point." According to Noonan, who described Palin as a "nincompoop," "Here is an old tradition badly in need of return: You have to earn your way into politics."[23] In a similar vein, former Reagan White House political director Ed Rollins invoked the line Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy in expressing his view that Palin is "no Reagan."[24] Other prominent Republicans to oppose her include former First Lady Barbara Bush,[25] and language such as "a problem"[26] and "virtually unelectable"[27] continued to accompany the prospect of a Palin candidacy among Republican pundits through 2010 and early 2011.[28][29]

Impact on the 2008 election

After announcing Palin as the presumptive vice-presidential nominee, the McCain campaign received $7 million in contributions in a single day,[30] and the Obama campaign garnered more than $8 million by the next day.[31] During the campaign, Palin evoked a more strongly divided response than Joe Biden among voters and was viewed both more favorably and unfavorably when compared to her opponent. A plurality of the television audience rated Biden's performance higher at the 2008 vice-presidential debate.[32][33] Following the presidential election, 69% of Republicans felt Palin had helped John McCain's bid, while 20% felt Palin hurt. In the same poll, 71% of Republicans stated Palin had been the right choice.[34]

Perceptions of Palin's political positions

Energy and environment

Environmental organizations, including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club Alaska, and Greenpeace strongly opposed Palin's positions on issues of energy and environment and criticized Palin for her skepticism regarding humans as the cause of global warming and her administration's positions on wildlife, including the attempt to have the federal designation of the polar bear as a threatened species removed. They also criticized Palin's support of oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.[6][35][36]

Religion in public life

After being nominated, Palin's religious views came under increasing scrutiny in the media.[37][38][39] Palin spoke to a group of graduating ministry students at her former church, where she urged them to pray "that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God," and in the same remarks asserted that "God's will" was responsible for the Alaskan national gas pipeline project.[39]

Following the Republican National Convention, the McCain campaign told CNN that Palin "doesn't consider herself Pentecostal," raising questions in the media about whether she was downplaying her faith.[39] A Rassmussen poll taken after the convention found that Palin was a draw with Catholic voters; the poll found that 54% favor Palin and 42% find her unfavorable, a 12% difference, while Joe Biden was viewed favorably by 49% to 47%.[40]

Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks commented, "As governor of Alaska, Palin has enjoyed a strong working relationship with Alaska's Jewish community. She has demonstrated sensitivity to the concerns of the community and has been accessible and responsive."[41] The Republican Jewish Coalition publishes a page on its website debunking what it calls "smears" about Sarah Palin, as well as an endorsement from Governor Linda Lingle, Hawaii's first Jewish and first female governor.[42]

Women's issues

Ruth Mandel of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University pointed out, “The first image here [of Palin] was: This is a woman who is a wife and a mother, and let us tell you about her family.... If they want the country to see her in a different way, and if they want the children and the family to be off-limits, they have to reframe it. You can’t have it both ways.”[3] President of the National Organization for Women (NOW) Kim Gandy offered, "The fact that Palin is a mother of five who has a 4-month-old baby, a woman who is juggling work and family responsibilities, will speak to many women. But will Palin speak FOR women? Based on her record and her stated positions, the answer is clearly No."[43]

On September 16, 2008, NOW gave its endorsement in the Presidential race to Democratic candidate Barack Obama and his running mate Joe Biden. The Independent reports, "The feminist organisation almost never supports a presidential candidate, but the Alaska governor's Christian fundamentalist faith and her opposition to abortion rights has forced its hand."[44] Gandy explained, "as the chair of NOW's Political Action Committee, I am frequently asked whether NOW supports women candidates just because they are women. This gives me an opportunity to once again answer that question with an emphatic 'No.' We recognize the importance of having women's rights supporters at every level but, like Sarah Palin, not every woman supports women's rights".[43] The neo-conservative magazine the Weekly Standard responded, "the old-fashioned feminists have fallen back on the old theme of false consciousness; that women who don't agree with them aren't really women at all."[45]

Teen pregnancy

According to a CBN blog, Evangelicals did not turn against Palin regarding her daughter's conception of a child outside of wedlock: "First they hear that Sarah Palin chooses the life option even though she had a Downs Syndrome baby and once again the family (and Bristol) has chosen the life option in this recent case... Will there be some turned off by the whole pre-marital sex thing? Of course but this type of story doesn't sink her at all with Evangelicals."[46] Evangelical leader Richard Land said of Palin's seventeen year-old daughter's pregnancy, "Those who criticize the Palin family don’t understand that we don’t see babies as a punishment but as a blessing."[47]

Bill O'Reilly expressed support for Palin: "As long as society doesn't have to support the mother, father or baby, it is a personal matter."[48]

When the pregnancy was disclosed, the Palin campaign stated that Bristol Palin would marry the child's father, Levi Johnston, who appeared with the Palin family at the 2008 Republican National Convention.[49] However, after the baby's birth in 2008, the engagement was called off.[50]

Hillary Clinton

"Hillary is missing in action from the Palin-hating brigade", opined a writer at the Weekly Standard.[45] Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton referred to Palin's VP nomination as "historic,"[51] stating, "We should all be proud of Governor Sarah Palin's historic nomination, and I congratulate her and Senator McCain.... While their policies would take America in the wrong direction, Governor Palin will add an important new voice to the debate."[43] Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin expressed a different view: "To the extent that this choice represents an effort to court supporters of Hillary Clinton's historic candidacy, McCain misjudges the reasons so many voters rallied around her candidacy. It was Senator Clinton's experience, skill and commitment to change, especially in the areas of health care and energy policy, that drew such strong support. Sarah Palin's opposition to Roe v. Wade and her support of big oil will not draw Democrats from the Obama-Biden ticket."[52] President of the National Organization for Women (NOW) Kim Gandy said "What McCain does not understand is that women supported Hillary Clinton not just because she was a woman, but because she was a champion on their issues. They will surely not find Sarah Palin to be an advocate for women."[43]

Palin and Clinton were compared and contrasted with one another in the media. A New York Times article explains, "Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Palin have little in common beyond their breakout performances at the conventions and the soap opera aspects of their family lives. Mrs. Clinton always faces high expectations; Ms. Palin faced low expectations this week, and benefited from them. Mrs. Clinton can seem harsh when she goes on the attack; Ms. Palin has shown a knack for attacking without seeming nasty. Mrs. Clinton has a lot of experience; Ms. Palin, not so much. Mrs. Clinton is pantsuits; Ms. Palin is skirts."[53] Guy Cecil, the former political director of Mrs. Clinton's campaign, said it was "insulting" for Republicans to compare Ms. Palin to Mrs. Clinton".[54] The Saturday Night Live skit "A Nonpartisan Message from Governor Sarah Palin & Senator Hillary Clinton" counterpoised Palin, played by Tina Fey, against Hillary Clinton, played by Amy Poehler. The skit pointed out their opposing political views and presented Palin as unversed in global politics, as emphasized by the line: "I can see Russia from my house". Ex-Hewlett-Packard chief executive and former McCain advisor Carly Fiorina blasted the Saturday Night Live sketch in a television interview: "They were defining Hillary Clinton as very substantive and Sarah Palin as totally superficial,"[55] and an ABC news blog headline soon after ran, "Now the McCain Campaign's Complaining that Saturday Night Live Skit Was 'Sexist'".[56]


In a September 2008 article, Chad Baus the vice chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association comments:[57] "Unlike Mitt Romney and John Kerry, Palin is a life-long NRA member and big animal hunter.... In seeking to assuage the concerns of gun owners about his spotty record on guns and rally them to the polls, John McCain couldn't have made a better choice." In its brief, "Sarah Palin and Joe Biden: Worlds Apart", the National Rifle Association says nothing specific about Palin's position on gun legislation but concludes: "Gov. Sarah Palin would be one of the most pro-gun vice-presidents in American history."[58]

Health care

On August 7, 2009 Palin released a statement on her Facebook page in which she said, "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care."[59] The Associated Press reported: "Palin and other critics are wrong."[60] The provision of the health care bill to which Palin referred (on page 425)[61] merely authorizes Medicare reimbursement for physicians who provide voluntary counseling about such subjects as living wills.[62] Howard Dean, the former Chair of the Democratic National Committee, said that Palin "just made that up. Just like the 'Bridge to Nowhere' that she supposedly didn't support."[63] Republicans were divided. Former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Newt Gingrich agreed with Palin, saying that "there are clearly people in America who believe in establishing euthanasia, including selective standards."[63] Palin's "death panels" comment was selected as the "Lie of the Year" by, the fact-checking website of the St. Petersburg Times.[64] Palin was also criticized for having invoked her infant for political purposes.[65]

The ideas for Palin's death panel meme were from the editorial Deadly Doctors, which was written by Betsy McCaughey and published by the New York Post.[66][67] Palin cited a speech Michele Bachmann gave about the editorial regarding President Barack Obama's health care advisor Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, which contained what TIME called "selective and misleading quotes" from Emanuel's writings. While Rush Limbaugh called death panels "the reality of what's going to happen" [68] [61][66][69][70] TIME and ABC described her remarks as false euthanasia claims.[61][69]

Palin said recommendations that women wait longer to be screened for breast and cervical cancer indicate "rationed care".[71] The guideline from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists on pap smears was begun before Obama was elected.[72] The change in guidelines for mammograms was suggested by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which, according to Kathleen Sebelius, does not set government policy.[73][74][75] It also is not related to cost controls, according to members of the task force.[76]

Perceptions of Palin's political style

Approach to campaigning

Sarah Palin in Carson City, Nevada on September 13, 2008.

Palin was early on accused of dissimulation in her approach to campaigning during the 2008 elections. An Associated Press writer reported, "Day after day she said she had told Congress 'no thanks' to the so-called Bridge to Nowhere, a rural Alaska project that was abandoned when critics challenged its costs and usefulness. For nearly a week, major news outlets had documented that Palin supported the bridge[77][78][79] when running for governor in 2006, noting that she turned against it only after it became an object of ridicule in Alaska and a symbol of Congress's out-of-control earmarking... (The campaign) equated lawmakers' requests for money for special projects with corruption, even though Palin has sought millions of dollars in such 'earmarks' this year. The Washington Post reported that "critics, the news media and nonpartisan fact checkers have called [Palin's claim] a fabrication or, at best, a half-truth."[80]

Palin compared herself to Harry Truman, the vice-president who succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt, contributing to the impression that for a time the race was between Palin and Obama.[81] Indeed, for many Palin was the main attraction at McCain-Palin rallies; there were often "a sizable number of people making their way towards the exit" after Palin left the podium.[82]

After the McCain-Palin ticket lost the elections, media coverage focused on rumors of infighting within the McCain campaign, reporting that campaign staffers stated Palin had refused preparation for her interview with Katie Couric, was at times emotionally intractable, could not list the three members of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and was unaware that Africa is a continent rather than a country, had scheduled an interview with French President Nicolas Sarkozy which turned out to be a radio station prank, spent far more than the reported amount on her campaign wardrobe, and asked to make her own concession speech on election night.[83] Although Palin disputed the accusations as "foolish", she said she bears no ill will towards the McCain staff who anonymously leaked the accusations to the press.[84] Ultimately the press emphasized Palin's statement that she was sorry if she had cost McCain a single vote.[85]

Campaign imagery

2010 Congressional election campaign poster

In March 2010, Palin posted to her Facebook page to seek contributions to SarahPAC to help defeat 20 House Democrats in the 2010 Congressional election. Her post featured a graphic that used gunsight crosshairs to mark the Democrats' districts.[86] She also tweeted to her supporters, "'Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!' Pls see my Facebook page."[87][88] Palin critics said she was inciting violence.[89][90] One of the targeted Democrats, Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, objected to the graphic, saying, "we're in the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they've got to realize that there are consequences to that action."[91] Palin referred to the targets as "a bullseye icon" in a post-election tweet.[92][93]

In the immediate aftermath of the 2011 Tucson shooting, where Giffords was among those who were shot, Palin was the subject of press and political criticism about her style of political rhetoric,[94][95][96] which was disputed by defenders of Palin in the media.[97][98][99][100] Palin removed the controversial graphic from her website,[101] but later restored it. On Glenn Beck, an e-mail said to be from Palin was read, saying "I hate violence. I hate war. Our children will not have peace if politicos just capitalize on this to succeed in portraying anyone as inciting terror and violence."[102] Following the 2011 Tucson shooting, a Palin aide stated that death threats against the former Alaska governor had risen to "an unprecedented level".[103] As more details of the shooting emerged, the Christian Science Monitor reported: "The suggestion that the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Saturday might have been influenced by political 'vitriol' seems less likely as more becomes known about suspect Jared Loughner".[104][105] Palin released a video denying any link between her rhetoric and the shooting, controversially referring to such suggestions as a blood libel, also saying that, "Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them."[106][107]

A public opinion survey commissioned by USA Today and conducted by Gallup January 14–16, 2011, showed that Palin was perceived favorably by 38% of those polled and unfavorably by 53%, the highest unfavorable rating since Palin entered national politics.[108][109]

Approach to governance

Palin came under fire in congress and the media as a result of her support for the Gravina Island Bridge "Bridge to Nowhere",[110] often called an emblem of pork-barrel spending and excessive earmark requests.

Some media outlets repeated Palin's statement that she "stood up to Big Oil" when she resigned after just 11 months as the head of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission because of abuses she witnessed involving other Republican commissioners and their ties to energy companies and energy lobbyists, and again when she raised taxes on oil companies as governor; in turn others said that she is a "friend of Big Oil" due to her fervent advocacy of oil exploitation, including her push to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling and effort to de-list polar bears as an Endangered species since this could hinder oil speculation.[111][112]

Similarly, some called Palin a "small-town foe of 'good old boys' politics and a champion for ethics reform", as evidenced by her run-ins with Ted Stevens, while others argued that Palin's record "undermined arguments that Palin has broken from Alaska's Republican machine, including Stevens."[113] Still others point to nepotistic hiring tendencies and question her firing policies.[114] Controversy arose concerning Palin's dismissal of the Wasilla police chief at the start of her first term as mayor,[115][116] and her firing of the public commissioner while governor of Alaska (what the media referred to as "troopergate").[117][118][119][120]

In an article entitled "State leaders question Palin's qualifications", the Juneau Empire, one of Alaska's main papers, reported that as governor, Palin was so frequently absent from work at the state capitol that, "someone at the Capitol even printed up buttons asking, ‘Where’s Sarah?’”; the article quoted Rep. Andrea Doll, D-Juneau, "At a time when her leadership was truly needed, we didn't know where she was."[121]

Approval rating as Governor

As governor of Alaska, Palin's job approval rating ranged from a high of 93% in May 2007 to 54% in May 2009. In November 2006, the month before Palin took office, Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski’s job approval rating was 19%.[122]

Date Approval Disapproval Pollster
May 15, 2007[123] 93% Not reported Dittman Research
May 30, 2007[124] 89% Not reported Ivan Moore Research
October 19–21, 2007[125] 83% 11% Ivan Moore Research
April 10, 2008[126] 73% 7% Rasmussen Reports
May 17, 2008[127] 69% 9% Rasmussen Reports
July 24–25, 2008[128] 80% Not reported Hays Research Group
July 30, 2008[128] 64% 14% Rasmussen Reports
September 20–22, 2008[129] 68% Not reported Ivan Moore Research
October 7, 2008[130] 63% 37% Rasmussen Reports
March 24–25, 2009[131] 59.8% 34.9% Hays Research
May 4–5, 2009[131] 54% 41.6% Hays Research
June 14–18, 2009[132] 56% 35% Global Strategy Group

In April 2009, SurveyUSA reported job approval ratings for the following U.S. governors: Bob Riley (AL) 54%, Arnold Schwarzenegger (CA) 25%, Chet Culver (IA) 42%, Kathleen Sebelius (KS) 46%, Steve Beshear (KY) 47%, Tim Pawlenty (MN) 46%, Jay Nixon (MO) 56%, Bill Richardson (NM) 46%, David Paterson (NY) 25%, Ted Kulongoski (OR) 40%, Tim Kaine (VA) 50%, Christine Gregoire (WA) 40%, and Jim Doyle (WI) 35%. (Polls taken April 24 – 26, 2009).[133]


Soon after the RNC, Palin quickly became a favorite subject of satire and derision. According to Lara Spencer, host of the tabloid show The Insider, Palin was part of a big cross-over between politics and pop culture in the 2008 election.[134] During the campaign Spencer conducted the only live broadcast interview with Palin's husband, Todd Palin.

Palin's status as a mother of a child with Down syndrome was initially a focus for some pundits and reporters during the 2008 elections. CNN’s John Roberts pondered: “Children with Down’s syndrome require an awful lot of attention. The role of vice president, it seems to me, would take up an awful lot of her time, and it raises the issue of how much time will she have to dedicate to her newborn child?”[3]

William Kristol of the Weekly Standard wrote: "There she is: a working woman who's a proud wife and mother; a traditionalist in important matters who's broken through all kinds of barriers; a reformer who's a Republican; a challenger of a corrupt good-old-boy establishment who's a conservative; a successful woman whose life is unapologetically grounded in religious belief; a lady who's a leader."[135]


A great deal of attention was paid to Palin's physical appearance during the 2008 elections. According to Vogue magazine, "Besides being telegenic, [Palin] had a tough-girl Alaskan résumé that most politicians could only dream of—the protein her family eats comes from fish she has pulled out of the ocean with her own hands and caribou she has shot."[136] Others were quick to point out striking resemblances of Palin to actress Tina Fey, who would impersonate her on Saturday Night Live, and Peggy Hill, a character on Fox Network's cartoon series King of the Hill. Regarding her appearance, Palin has said, "I've been taken aback by the nasty criticism about my appearance. I wish they'd stick with the issues instead of discussing my black go-go boots. A reporter once asked me about it during the campaign, and I assured him I was trying to be as frumpy as I could by wearing my hair on top of my head and these schoolmarm glasses."[136]

According to the Los Angeles Times of October 23, 2008 "the news that the Republican National Committee has bought Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her family nearly $150,000 worth of clothing since September has fueled charges of hypocrisy by her detractors and sparked questions about the legality of the expenditures [...] Election-law experts are split on whether the RNC's expenditure is allowable under federal laws, which prohibit the use of campaign funds for personal use."[137] Tracey Schmitt, Palin's traveling press secretary responded by saying "It was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign."[137] "I am an Obama supporter, but when I heard that for $150,000, they dressed her, her children and her husband, I thought, 'that's not much,'" said Vicki Sanchez, a costume designer who dressed Geena Davis as the first female U.S. president on the short-lived TV show Commander in Chief."[137] She continues on to say "When you start buying $3,000 suits, boots that cost anywhere from $800 and up, and designer shoes, which cost $500 at least, it goes fast".[137]

A University of South Florida study by Nathan Heflick and Jamie Goldenberg, released in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, found that support for Palin, and the McCain-Palin ticket by extension, was diminished when people focused on her appearance compared to her personality. The study found that when participants focused on her appearance, they gave her lower ratings for competence, intelligence and capability, which in turn, lowered people's likelihood of voting for the GOP ticket.[138]


A profile in The New Yorker described Palin's oratorical style as "simultaneously chatty and urgent", and noted that "she reinforces her words with winks and nods and wrinklings of her nose that seem meant to telegraph intimacy and ease". The article's author, Philip Gourevitch, characterized Palin as being "high-spirited, irrepressible, and not in the least self-conscious."[139]

Features of the Minnesotan dialect are prominent in the Mat-Su Valley where Palin grew up because the area was settled by farmers from Minnesota during the Great Depression.[140][141] Palin's dialect is Upper Midwestern, and she speaks with a characteristic North Central American English dialect. Her dialect is often tied in with her persona, and often reinforces her "folksy" image.[142]


In July 2010, amidst the Cordoba House controversy, Palin wrote on her Twitter asking Muslims to "pls refudiate" support for the mosque.[143] She was then mocked by bloggers[144] and media outlets[145] for using "refudiate", which is not a word.[146] Palin later responded on Twitter, saying that "English is a living language." and "Shakespeare liked to coin new words too."[146] According to Michael Shear of the New York Times, the record suggests the original Twitter message was no typo. Just days earlier in a Fox News appearance, Palin had combined "refute" and "repudiate" into "refudiate".[147] The word was chosen as new word of the year for 2010 by New Oxford American Dictionary, with the statement "From a strictly lexical interpretation of the different contexts in which Palin has used 'refudiate,' we have concluded that neither 'refute' nor 'repudiate' seems consistently precise, and that 'refudiate' more or less stands on its own, suggesting a general sense of 'reject.'"[148]

Palin's children

In June 2009 David Letterman told a joke that Sarah Palin's daughter was "knocked up" by a baseball player during a Yankees game. Palin then issued a public statement condemning Letterman's joke.[149] A campaign then began to have David Letterman fired or to force him to apologize for his actions, with several Republicans organizing a boycott of Letterman sponsors.[150] On June 16, Sarah Palin accepted Letterman's apology.[151] In June 2009, Palin responded to a blogger for altering a photo in which her son Trig's face was altered, calling the change "malicious".[152] The image superimposed was of a local Alaskan right-wing radio show host and was implying that he was her "baby" regarding his positive coverage of her governorship foibles.

Palin and the media

In July 2009, Palin threatened to sue any media outlet that printed rumors that she was being investigated by the FBI on corruption charges involving inappropriate contracts. The head of the FBI in Alaska said that she was not being investigated. Some sources have noted however, that the statute of limitations on the contract incident would have passed.[153] She also criticized the media in an op-ed in The Washington Post in which she said "many in the media would rather focus on the personality-driven political gossip of the day than on the gravity of these [Cap and Trade] challenges. So, at risk of disappointing the chattering class, let me make clear what is foremost on my mind and where my focus will be."[154]

Thomas Frank, of The Wall Street Journal wrote of her, "Ronald Reagan stood tall. John McCain was about service. Barack Obama has hope. Sarah Palin is a collector of grievances. She runs for high office by griping."[155] Conversely, Palin said of the media in a February 2009 interview, "This is for the sake of our democracy that there is fairness in this other branch of government, if you will, called the media. It is foreign to me the way some in the mainstream media are thinking. There have been lies told, there have been reputations trashed, there have been children that have been harmed."[156]

The Palin residence on Lake Lucille

Sarah Palin, the LA Times, and other commentators have accused Newsweek of sexism for their choice of cover in the November issue discussing Palin's book, Going Rogue: An American Life. "It's sexist as hell," wrote Lisa Richardson for the LA Times.[157] Taylor Marsh of the Huffington Post called it "the worst case of pictorial sexism aimed at political character assassination ever done by a traditional media outlet."[158] David Brody of CBN News stated: "This cover should be insulting to women politicians."[159] The cover came from a photo of Palin used in the August 2009 issue of Runner's World.[160][161][162]

In March 2010, Palin was given a show on the Discovery Channel called, "Sarah Palin's Alaska",[163] produced by Mark Bennett.[164] A Palin series on Fox News called "Real American Stories" [164] generated some controversy since several of the guests shown "interviewed" by her claimed to have never met her: L.L. Cool J and Toby Keith both complained that footage taken from an interview with someone else was recycled for this.[165]

Author Joe McGinniss rented the house adjacent to the Palin's home in Wasilla while researching a book on Palin. The Palins erected a fence between the properties and Sarah Palin referred to McGinniss as "The Wasilla stalker" and intimated that she believed his book will be "unfair."[166]

Paul Revere remarks

During a 2011 bus tour, titled "One Nation", across the Northeastern states and paid for by her PAC,[167] Palin visited the Paul Revere House in Boston. When asked what she had learned during her visit, Palin replied with a comment to the effect that Paul Revere had warned the British that Americans would not let them confiscate American arms, and that Revere's warnings involved ringing bells and firing guns.

He who warned, uh, the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells, and um, makin' sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed.
—Sarah Palin, Los Angeles Times

The remark was widely seen as a gaffe and not accepted by the news media, but she declined to withdraw her assertion.[168][169][170][171] Historian Brendan McConville stated that Palin's account was "essentially right" and Cornell law professor William Jacobson said Palin’s critics are the ones in need of a history lesson. “It seems to be a historical fact that this happened, A lot of the criticism is unfair and made by people who are themselves ignorant of history.”[172][173] On the other hand, Revere biographer James Giblin disagreed with some of Palin's remarks, characterizing her comment about warning the British as a "blooper".[174] A director from the Paul Revere House also disagreed with historical descriptions made by Palin.[174] Robert Allison, the chair of the history department at Suffolk University, commented in an interview with NPR that Revere did not personally ring bells nor were gunshots involved, but he did ride as part of the militia warning system, intending the ringing of church bells as a sign of American solidarity and a warning to the British not to impound the colonists' weapons. Allison said that Palin was correct on the whole.[175]


Palin became a subject of parody and satire soon after her nomination for Vice President on the Republican Party ticket for the 2008 presidential election.

2008 Presidential election

Immediate comic reaction

A putative Palinesque name is generated for Leone Sextus Tollemache.

A Comedy Central writer joked that "she's a pit bull who wears lipstick for some reason!" (in response to her statement at the 2008 Republican National Convention that the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom was lipstick).[176] In addition, David Harrington's "Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator"[177] generates hunting, industrial, hockey-related, and other idiosyncratic personal names from names that are supplied to it.[178]

Also, comedienne Julie Brown re-wrote her 1980s single "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun" as a parody titled "The Ex-Beauty Queen's Got a Gun."[179][180] Some street art in New York City also parodied Palin before the 2008 election, including one employing Shepard Fairey's Barack Obama "Hope" poster.[181][182][183]

Tina Fey and Saturday Night Live

On September 13, 2008, Tina Fey appeared in a comedy skit, "A Nonpartisan Message from Governor Sarah Palin & Senator Hillary Clinton", on Saturday Night Live as Sarah Palin, alongside Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton.[184][185] The sketch was written by Poehler, Fey, and head writer and Weekend Update anchor Seth Meyers.[186]

Due to its popularity, additional sketches with Tina Fey as Sarah Palin were seen in later SNL episodes leading up to the weekend before the election, with Fey ultimately performing her impersonation alongside both the real Palin and John McCain. Palin has said that, before her national prominence, she once dressed up as Fey on Halloween.[187]

Nicole Parker and MADtv

On September 27, 2008, Nicole Parker portrayed Sarah Palin during a mock Q&A session in a live audience. On October 4, 2008 MADtv aired a Special Election Presidential Special where it featured Nicole once again appearing as Palin.[188]

Gina Gershon

Actress Gina Gershon self-produced and posted several parody videos in which she portrays Palin for the comedy website Funny or Die.[189][190] In one of the videos,[191] Gershon, as Palin, dons a stars-and-stripes bikini and totes a gun, a reference to a widely circulated, but faked, photograph purporting to be the real Palin in such a scenario.[192][193][194]

Sara Benincasa

YouTube contributor Sara Benincasa created video logs, or vlogs, in which she stars as Governor Palin.[195] In these vlogs, Benincasa (as Palin) compares the experience of heading up a Parent-Teacher Association to the responsibilities of running Alaska and discusses how being a mother of five children makes her fit to run the United States.[196] In the skits, Benincasa's sometime comedy partner, Diana Saez, appears as Palin's (fictional) cousin and assistant Dina Heath-Barr.[197]

Live with Regis and Kelly

Kelly Ripa impersonated Palin on the Halloween edition of Live with Regis and Kelly (broadcast October 31, 2008), parodying phrases associated with Palin such a "Say it ain't so, Joe" and "Maverick", wearing Palin's well-known red outfit, and speaking in Palin's accent. Her co-host, Regis Philbin, impersonated Joe Biden.[198]

Caribou Barbie

Following her nomination, Palin was often tagged with the epithet "Caribou Barbie", a play on Malibu Barbie, owing to her background as a beauty pageant contestant in her home state of Alaska.[199][200] Palin herself uttered this phrase when she made an October 18, 2008 guest appearance on Saturday Night Live, filling in the blank for Alec Baldwin, who could not remember what people called her.[201] Baldwin later referred to Palin as "Bible Spice" in an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman.[202] The epithet Caribou Barbie has been contrasted with Palin's usage of Mama grizzly to describe herself and later to describe other moms seeking political office.[203]

Country music singer Ray Stevens issued a You Tube music video entitled Caribou Barbie on March 11, 2010 which gently parodies Palin's image but at the same time denounces her critics and urges voters to think of her in 2012 should she decide to run for the U.S. Presidency.[citation needed]


William Shatner

In addition to his career on Star Trek, actor William Shatner is also known for his spoken word performances. On July 27, 2009, Shatner gave a "spoken word" interpretation of Palin's farewell address on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.[204][205][206][207] He returned to the Tonight Show on July 29, 2009 and performed a few of Palin's "Tweets" on Twitter.[208][209] Shatner then appeared on the show on December 11, 2009 to recite Palin's Going Rogue: An American Life, but was followed by an appearance from Palin herself reading excerpts from Shatner's autobiography, Up Till Now.[210][211][212]

An American Nightmare versus An American Life

Going Rouge: Sarah Palin An American Nightmare is a collection of essays about Palin with a spoof title and cover design similar to Palin’s memoir.[213][214] The paperback was released on November 17, 2009, the same day that Palin’s own hardback Going Rogue: An American Life was released.[213] Both books feature Palin on the front in red, but Going Rouge: An American Nightmare has her against a backdrop of black thunder clouds and lightning, instead of the blue sky with clouds of her actual memoir.[215] Going Rouge is compiled by Richard Kim and Betsy Reed, two editors of the left-leaning weekly The Nation, and includes essays by Katrina vanden Heuvel, Naomi Klein, Katha Pollitt and others.[213]


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