The newly released “Trailblazer: An Intimate Biography of Sarah Palin,” written by People magazine Assistant Editor Lorenzo Benet, contains an intriguing claim that runs counter to previously published reports about how the Alaska governor ended up as GOP presidential nominee John McCain’s running mate.
According to the new book, the Alaska governor learned that she was on the vice-presidential shortlist at a February 2008 governors’ meeting in Washington — six months earlier than recounted in a statement released in August by the McCain campaign.
But Benet’s account has been disputed by Palin, whose camp is accusing the author of writing “fantasies” and practicing “bad journalism.”
“She had spent the previous few weeks increasing her national profile,” an advance copy of the book reads. “She had traveled to Washington, D.C., for the National Governors’ Conference, where she met privately with John McCain and learned she was on the short list as a running mate.”
In a statement provided to Politico, Palin spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton said there was no movement on the vice presidential selection until August, a story corroborated by accounts from within the McCain campaign. According to several sources familiar with the February meeting, it marked the first time Palin met McCain in person.
“The author has his facts wrong on this one. Nothing happened on the VP selection until August,” Stapleton said. “Getting such an important fact wrong casts doubts on whatever else might be in the book. And attributing his conjecture to the governor is bad journalism. The governor did not authorize this book and is not responsible for whatever fantasies the author might conjure up.”
Benet was granted two interviews with Palin, the first in June as part of a People magazine story on her pregnancy during her term as governor and another in October as part of the magazine’s coverage of the governor’s lifestyle and family during the presidential campaign. Benet also talked to numerous family members, Palin friends and political associates.
Benet said in an interview with Politico that his account of the exchange between Palin and McCain was not based on information provided by the governor. “It’s my belief that was when she knew she was in the game,” Benet said. “I can’t say whether that’s what she was told or if that’s what she wanted.”
The author added that the line was “based off my own sourcing” and that “it’s my own gut instinct; she didn’t tell me that.”
The book spends little time on Palin’s experience as the GOP vice presidential nominee, delving mostly into Palin’s childhood, family and interaction with friends. Of the book’s 228 pages, Benet’s account of the campaign makes up roughly 30 pages.
Much of the rest of his account of Palin’s political rise portrays her as an ambitious and aggressive politician, determined to gain a prominent job and plagued by a contentious relationship with the press.
Shortly after being elected mayor of Wasilla, Palin is quoted by friends as saying, “I want to be president.”
Soon after becoming mayor, her interactions with the media grew heated. “My goodness, I’ve been here 11 days. Give me a break, please,” she said at a press conference.
“I don’t remember other mayors getting grilled like this,” she is quoted as saying later. The book also states that Todd Palin got into a feud with a local editorial cartoonist over the drawings of his wife.
Benet asserts that Palin changed her tune after becoming governor and sought ways to use the press to polish her national profile. He writes that Alaska spent $31,000 in state funds on media consulting for the governor in attempts to book her for major television and newspaper interviews.
While the book is based on Benet’s interviews with Palin for People magazine, the governor did not authorize it as her biography. The Los Angeles Times has reported that the governor is seeking an advance of more than $10 million for her own book.
“There are several books in the pipeline,” Stapleton said. “The only authorized and authoritative book will be the one the governor writes herself — someday.”