There were two candidates on the GOP ticket in 2008, John McCain and Sarah Palin. Both had young daughters involved in the campaign. Both have written books about the experience. Guess which book was celebrated and which was savaged?
The media's character assassination of Sarah Palin knows no bounds, as she's been smeared as everything from "evil" to "unintelligent." But "Palin Derangement Syndrome" is a hereditary disease, and the media have continued their multigenerational malice toward Bristol Palin in reviews of her new memoir, "Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far."
One newspaper columnist called the book "trailer trash," and the Palins, "the Wal-Mart Waltons." The thought of reading Bristol Palin's account of being a single mom in the spotlight made one writer want to "spew out" his coffee. Another called the book a "vent for her fury."
By contrast, liberal Republican blogger Meghan McCain got much kinder treatment, during the release of her book, with network anchors praising her book as "terrific" and "fun."
The weeks preceding the release of both Bristol Palin and Meghan McCain's books produced some telling numbers about the anti-Palin bias of the mainstream media:
- Networks pan Bristol's book - ABC and NBC ran a combined three negative pieces on the book that causes "a stir"; CBS skipped the news of the book's release altogether.
- Newspapers mock Palin's memoir - 15 prominent newspapers ran reviews of the book; four were neutral, and nine were negative, ridiculing Bristol for "taking swipes" and calling the book 'trailer trash.'
- ABC fawns over McCain's 'terrific' book - Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos called McCain a "fun writer."
- Newspapers mixed on McCain- One negative story on McCain's book, two neutral stories, and one positive review, which highlighted the author's assertion that Sarah Palin brought 'drama, stress, and uncertainty.'
Palin's 272 page account details the last few years of her hectic life - the unplanned pregnancy (which gained worldwide attention and sparked a nationwide abstinence debate), her tumultuous relationship with former fiancé Levi Johnston, her skepticism of the McCains, and life in the unforgiving media spotlight.
But the media focused like a laser upon the "blasts" against her baby daddy and surprisingly honest account of getting drunk and losing her virginity. However, the media played nice with their darling Meghan McCain's tell all memoir, "Dirty, Sexy Politics" about her father's campaign, calling it a "savvy" and "saucy" new book.
Trailer Trash Talking
The most biting critique of Bristol's book came from The Daily Telegraph in London on June 23, 2011 in a piece that isn't a book review, but a platform to hate on the Palins. "If you were concerned that Ma Palin had lost her unique ability to say what nobody with an IQ above 10 is thinking, then console yourself with the news that her 20-year-old daughter is set to release her memoirs," Bryony Gordon wrote in the introduction.
"Bristol Palin, the one who got pregnant during mom's 2008 election campaign, has 'written' a tell-all book … it starts predictably, given that the Palins have been called the Wal-Mart Waltons," Gordon wrote, suggesting Bristol is incapable of writing, putting the word "writing" in quotes. Gordon then concluded that since the book began with Bristol's account of getting drunk and losing her virginity on a camping trip, the book is 'So far, so trailer trash."
George Stephanopoulos didn't hide his love of "Dirty Sexy Politics" when he interviewed McCain on Good Morning America, on August 31, 2010. The ABC anchor and former Democratic pundit began the interview by stating, "'Dirty Sexy Politics'… It is savvy. It is saucy… you're a fun writer." During the interview, ABC displayed graphics that read "Outspoken Blogger Tells All." He concluded the interview by stating "Meghan McCain, it is a terrific book. It's a fun book."
But Bristol didn't nearly receive the kind words that McCain did from the former Clinton campaign staffer. The Good Morning America piece on June 21, 2010 featured Stephanopoulos warning that Bristol Palin is "about to cause another big stir" with her book, which he describes as "real blow-by-blow account of her battles." He later described her as having "the most biting words in the book" for Levi Johnston.
While the book is about much more than Palin's drunken encounter with her baby's father Levi Johnston, The Chicago Tribune thought that portion of the book the only one worth mentioning.
With the headline "Wine Cooler fail," one can conclude the Tribune didn't take the book very seriously. "Call it an endorsement for Bartles and Jaymes?" began the snarky short section on the book. "In an upcoming new book, 'Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far,' Bristol Palin says she was drunk on wine coolers when she lost her virginity to Levi Johnston, eonline.com reports. She also calls her baby daddy a 'gnat.' Sounds like a sweet relationship."
But the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette didn't even get far enough into the book to notice the wine coolers. Ignoring the advice to "never judge a book by its cover," an editorial on June 23, 2011 by Russell Lemond titled "Good coffee wasted" read, "Did anyone besides me spew out their morning coffee across the table when they read that 20-year-old Bristol Palin is coming out with a book?"
Bristol 'blasting,' Meghan 'opens up'
Apparently a Christian who writes a tell-all memoir defending her reputation will earn the scorn of the media. With the release of Palin's book, the media wagged their collective fingers at her for "blasting" others.
The Detroit Free Press' June 21, 2011 piece titled "Bristol book swats 'gnat' Levi" clues the reader in about the unflattering critique. B.J. Hammerstein began the piece highlighting Bristol's attack on Johnston, writing,"'Bristol Palin rips into Levi Johnston…", but assured readers that Johnston would have his own retort (being sure to mention his brief stint with Playgirl). "Don't worry, Johnston fans…The 21-year-old former Playgirl model's tell-all, 'Deer in the Headlights: My life in Sarah Palins Crosshairs,' is being readied for a fall release."
However the Reuter's piece (reprinted in The Chicago Tribune and Sun-Sentinel in Florida) was more subtle in its distaste for the new author by using negative adjectives to describe the way Bristol wrote about the McCains in her book. "Bristol Palin takes swipes at everyone from Sen. John McCain's family to the media and her ex-fiancé in her memoir," Reuters wrote. Bristol also 'pokes fun at his wife, Cindy' and "blamed Johnston… for taking advantage of her."
New York Post writer Cathy Burke continued the negative commentary writing that Palin "blasts" Levi in her new book for calling him a 'gnat' and "spills how, when she told him she was pregnant he said 'it better be a [bleeping] boy'," in a June 18th, 2011 story.
But Meghan McCain didn't nearly receive the type of scolding that Bristol endured. McCain received more positive words describing her writing, with newspaper reviews describing her as "opening up," and a writer who thoughtfully "recounts" the campaign in her book.
The Detroit News wire service ran a piece on September 1, 2010 that said "Meghan McCain opens up about campaign, Palins," and proceeded to feature a line that paints the Palins in an unfavorable light. "John McCain's daughter says in a new book… that Sarah Palin brought drama, stress and uncertainty to her father's failed bid for the presidency in 2008…"
The Washington Post's Stephen Lowman echoed similar claims about Palin's negativity in "Not Afraid of Life," calling it nothing more than "a vent for her fury."
'In the place of real insight, we frequently get catty asides,' Lowman scolded. 'Some of her ex's trash-talk expertise must have rubbed off on her, because she dishes it out with aplomb.' He then adds his own snarky and unnecessary advice by stating, "If a guy, say, Johnston, proposes by slipping a ring on your finger while you're watching TV and the first words out of his mouth are, 'It was expensive,' his heart is probably not in it."
The Culture and Media Institute looked at the three major broadcast networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, and major newspapers in Nexis. CMI compiled stories that aired or were published the week preceding each book's release date.