In response to a Palin-bashing expedition by Max Blumenthal -- attempting a guilt-by-association smear involving my Donkey Cons co-author --today I got an e-mail from my old friend, Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center:
So you know Palin according to Max Blumenthal.
Is his reporting true?
Always happy to help a damsel in distress, I sent Heidi this e-mail reply:
In general, no. Max Blumenthal's career is a massive ziggurat of errors stacked one atop another. But that clever fool occasionally gets one or two things right, just to keep us on our toes The facts:
- I have never spoken directly to Sarah Palin.
When I covered her during the 2008 campaign, I had a very brief encounter with her. She was on stage at Shippensburg (Pa.) University for an "overflow" event -- that's where she held a smaller, short event for people who were still standing in line for the main rally when Secret Service closed the door. (Secret Service security is an extreme hassle from a reporter's standpoint, FYI.) When she did the "rope line" at the end of the overflow event, shaking hands and signing autographs, I approached the stage. My kids had asked me to get Sarah's autograph, so I handed her my notebook to sign.
Palin had appeared at the overflow event wearing a T-shirt -- probably a gift from a local supporter -- with the motto "Ship Happens," a joke-slogan among Shippensburg students, and I had made a note of that. When I handed Palin my notebook, she saw this note and, realizing that I was a reporter, gestured at her T-shirt and shouted, "Ship! Ship!" -- laughing in mock-panic that I might misreport the slogan. She then signed my notebook and handed it back with a wink and a smile.
That small gesture -- the joking recognition of the negative-P.R. potential of a "Ship Happens" T-shirt -- convinced me of Palin's keen political instinct. She is no dummy. And the fact that she has been portrayed as a dummy is one reason I have been so relentlessly critical of the (John) McCain campaign's media strategy.
- I co-authored Donkey Cons with Palin's collaborator, Lynn Vincent.
This has attracted much attention from various liberal media types, including Rachel Maddow and now Max Blumenthal. As is customary in such matters, Lynn signed a confidentiality agreement with Harper Collins, and thus is unable to discuss her interactions with Palin. Of course, as any good reporter knows, you never burn your sources, and the last thing in the world that Lynn would do is to betray Sarah Palin's trust. However, there was one occasion -- after some Alaska bloggers had falsely claimed that the Palins were on the verge of divorce -- when I asked Lynn, as a favor, if she could get me a quote from the governor on the matter, which she did.
Lynn Vincent is a wonderful person, and was wonderful long before she and I co-wrote Donkey Cons. It was Lynn who, as news editor of the Jacksonville (Ala.) State University studentpaper circa 1981-3, recruited me to join the staff of the newspaper, after seeing some of the rock music record reviews I'd submitted. Perhaps you should ask Morris Dees to send you up to JSU to root through the archives of the student newspaper (The Chanticleer) and see if you can find anything in my reviews of old Elvis Costello records that might be useful to the SPLC's mission.
It is regrettable that the Left's "By Any Means Necessary" effort to destroy Palin should have led you, Dr. Beirich, to waste time following up on Max Blumenthal's misguided work. As I've told you before, it is a shame that someone of your abilities finds herself toiling in that ridiculous Nonsense Factory down in Montgomery, rather than hiring on at a university and doing useful work. My sympathy for your plight -- I don't think you're evil, just because you can find no better employment than the SPLC -- is the main reason I've offered to sing karaoke with you, next time I'm visiting kinfolk in Montgomery.
Prior to your inquiry, I had not seen Blumenthal's Daily Beast column which is, in at least one point, accurate: It was I who, in a blog response to Clark Stooksbury of The American Conservative, planted the suggestion that Lynn seek the Palin contract. That Lynn saw that suggestion and followed up on it is a tribute to her entrepreneurial persistence. But in reading through Blumenthal's article, I note among his various mendacities this blatant falsehood:
"Marlene Johnson, the Times’ former arts section editor and an African-American, told me McCain was 'an avowed segregationist.'
This is just about 180 degrees opposite from the truth. If Ms. Johnson believed me to be an "avowed segregationist" -- which I most certainly am not -- this was not a case of *her* telling Blumenthal that, but of Blumenthal (or others) telling this *to her.* There were disgruntled employees and ex-employees of The Washington Times who, bearing personal malice toward the newspaper's management, chose to use the SPLC's attacks on me as a weapon for their own spiteful vengeance. Whatever harm was done to me was really collateral damage in terms of their main object of wounding Wes Pruden and others.
Live and learn, I suppose, but I am not the sort to harbor grudges. Max was assigned to do a hit-job on The Washington Times and did it rather ineptly, as he tends to do everything ineptly. When Max called me seeking comment for his Nation magazine article, I gave him the best quote in the story: "I'm too lazy to be evil." Once the article was in print, reaching out in a spirit of friendship, I invited him to have beers with me and my friends, a gesture of hospitality that he now falsely portrays as harassment. Max also claims that his Nation article had something to do with my being placed on probation at work in 2007; that is a flat-out lie -- both as to the timing and to the reasons for my probation -- and I would be happy to supply the names of witnesses who could testify that Blumenthal's report is false.
Of Blumenthal's other errors (i.e, repeating the delusional claims of George Archibald) I simply don't have time to deal with them now, except to say that anyone tempted to cite Max Blumenthal as a definitive source should be warned about Max's habitual sloppiness and inaccuracy. He is wrong in matters both large (I am not a white supremacist) and small (my work habits are not "anemic"), and his writing is so generally untrustworthy that we may say of his work what Mary McCarthy said of Lillian Hellman: Every word is a lie, including "and" and "the."
What is most absurd in all this is the transparent desperation of liberals to find something -- anything -- that they can use as the smoking-gun gotcha, the silver bullet that finally slays the Sarah Palin werewolf. Grateful that this quixotic quest is of some benefit to me, by adding to the gleaming lustre of my mysterious notoriety, I only hope that you'll encourage others to keep barking up this same tree. Because it's the wrong one, sweetheart. Please feel free to call me, Dr. Beirich. This e-mail is blind CC'd to others and will appear as a post at my blog.
Robert Stacy McCain
Let me know if I can be of further assistance, ma'am. It would be unchivalrous to refuse.
The key in these matters, I think, is to distinguish who is who in the Evil Coalition of Liars and Fools. At SPLC, Dees and Mark Potok are clearly the Liars. Their lesser minions are therefore Fools, and the fundamental task is to make the Fools realize they are being duped and exploited by the Liars.
If Beirich ever wises up, she has the potential to be Morris Dees' Worst Nightmare: A liberal Ph.D. thoroughly familiar with the evil machinations of the SPLC, ready and willing to expose the ugly truth.
By enlightening her, at the very least I put her in line for a handsome raise. "Pay me or trade me," as they say in the major leagues, and Dees can't afford to let Dr. Beirich go free, or he'll risk disastrous revelations.
Matthew 5:44 is a fearsome weapon against evil.