Big Government has a statement from Sarah Palin’s brother, Chuck Heath Jr., in which he calls Joe McGinniss’s book as “one lie after another.” What intrigued me was Heath’s description of how McGinniss “included in his book comments falsely attributed to me by one of his unnamed sources” and didn’t even ask Heath if he’d actually said what the “sources” said he had said.
This is journalistic malpractice of the worse sort.
If Person X tells you that Person Y said something derogatory about Person Z, you cannot publish this derogatory statement, attributed to Person Y, based on the hearsay assertion of Person X, especially when you name Person Y and Person Z but grant Person X the cloak of anonymity.
This is to allow an anonymous source (X) to accuse Y of defaming Z.
Under the Sullivan precedent, a public figure like Sarah Palin would have a hard time prosecuting a libel suit against McGinniss, but Chuck Heath Jr. is not a public figure. So for McGinniss to accuse Heath of badmouthing the Palins, based on hearsay from an anonymous source, is a dangerous thing, from a legal perspective. And it’s just plain despicable, from an ethical point of view.
The recklessness of McGinniss is astonishing, as is the irresponsibility of Random House in publishing such shoddy work.
UPDATE: In reference to some of the comments below, I am will state as a fact that McGinniss’s tale about Sarah Palin and Glenn Rice is a lie. While I offer no source for this statement, permit me to explain the dynamics of this particular situation, for which McGinniss and Random House are entirely responsible.
Notice that Glenn Rice has said nothing — not one word — about McGinniss’s book since its publication. Does that not strike you as curious?
Further notice that McGinniss did not merely claim that Sarah Palin had a one-night stand with Rice. He attributes to an anonymous “friend” of the Palins this quote: “Sarah and her sisters had a fetish for black guys for a while.”
So the alleged tryst with Rice is, according to McGinniss’s source, merely the tip of a massive iceberg of “Jungle Fever” also involving Sarah and her sisters Heather Heath Bruce and Molly Heath McCann. Does it strike you as odd that no other Palin-hating liberal journalist has ever made such a claim? Or that no witness has stepped forward in the past two weeks to vouch for the truth of this widely publicized claim by McGinniss?
Remember that we’re talking about Alaska, a state with a population smaller than some medium-sized cities, where a mere 3.3 percent of the population is African-American.
According to the anonymous “friend” quoted by McGinniss, all three Heath sisters were carrying on “for a while” like Lili Von Shtupp with Sheriff Bart in Blazing Saddles: “It’s twue! It’s twue!”
Well . . . NTTAWWT and YMMV, but we may suppose that such behavior would have been so widely known in Wasilla that McGinniss could have found more than one “friend” to say it, and that somehow this alleged “fetish” of the Heath sisters might have been reported by some of the other journalists who’ve made the pilgrimage to Wasilla in search of anti-Palin anecdotes.
As Sherlock Holmes might observe, that dog hasn’t barked, has it?
Toby Harnden of the London Daily Telegraph calls McGinniss’s uncorroborated “fetish” tale what it really is: A dishonestly underhanded way of playing the race card against Sarah Palin.
McGinniss made this lurid accusation knowing full well that if Sarah (or her sisters) were to deny it, this would give Sarah’s enemies a chance to exclaim, “A-ha! That proves it! She’s a racist!”
Sarah and Todd have said nothing about this. But it’s kind of strange that no reporters have gotten any comment from Glenn Rice, nor have any of them attempted to verify McGinniss’s false “fetish” smear on the Heath sisters.
UPDATE II: The complete absence of standards — the “By Any Means Necessary” ethos of Palin-haters — prompts John Nolte’s remark:
If you want to know why the Hollywood blacklist against conservatives is real and why Hollywood conservatives stay in the closet, look no further than The Stephen Hanks Management Company.
Bingo. And the same implacable hatred of conservatives also pervades academia and journalism, so that whether you seek to engage in the war of ideas through entertainment, education or journalism, the conservative communicator is always surrounded by remorseless enemies.