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Today Show Gives Platform for Writer McGinniss to Hawk New Palin-Bashing Book

NBC's Today touted an "exclusive" interview Thursday with Sarah Palin stalker and author Joe McGinniss, smearing the former governor with unsubstantiated allegations. NBC didn't try to prove them. They just spread them. Fill-in co-host Savannah Guthrie proclaimed: "Stunning allegations made about Sarah Palin in a bombshell book. Is she really the hockey mom she claims to be? How strong is her marriage to Todd?...Does she use her children as props?" [Audio available here]

McGinniss, promoting his newly released book that amounts to an anti-Palin screed, declared the former Alaska governor to be "An utter fraud. An absolute and utter fraud." Guthrie responded: "You call her a tenth grade mean girl." McGinniss went further: "Oh, that's – those are kind words compared to a lot of what you would hear in Wasilla today. The thing that I found, Savannah, that really surprised me, was that the people who know her best like her least."



Guthrie presented McGinniss's outrageous and unfounded accusations against Palin as shocking revelations: "McGinniss describes a rocky Palin marriage, with Todd and Sarah fighting incessantly and threatening divorce, something they've denied in the past. Another bombshell, McGinniss writes that both Todd and Sarah have used cocaine in the past..."

Guthrie noted that the cocaine use "has not been verified" and challenged McGinniss on the claim: "How do you substantiate something like that?" McGinniss stood by the smear: "Well, you talk to somebody who snorted it with her and you talk to many of Todd's friends who describe him as having been on the end of the straw frequently in his youth. I'm not saying that Todd and Sarah Palin today abuse cocaine or even use it. But there's no question that they both did at one point in their lives."

Despite Barack Obama having actually admitted to cocaine use in his memoir, 'Dreams of My Father,' Today never touched the issue, except on December 13 and 14 of 2007, suggesting that a Clinton campaign surrogate mentioning the "youthful" drug use was a nasty smear against then-Senator Obama.

Earlier in the segment, Guthrie highlighted attacks on Palin's motherhood: "McGinniss says talking to those who know Palin convinces him there is much less than meets the eye. He accuses the famed hockey mom of using her children as props and reports she was not much of a mother at all." McGinniss added that people he talked to insisted that "Sarah Palin was virtually nonexistent as a mother."

In addition to all of that innuendo and gossip, Guthrie made to sure mention: "McGinniss also quotes friends who speak of a sexual encounter Palin had with basketball star Glen Rice in 1987, while she was a sports reporter for a local Anchorage station."

Near the end of the segment, Guthrie sums up McGinniss's vicious attacks: "[He] portrays Palin as hands off when it came to governing Alaska, but a ruthless political opportunist who crushed her enemies and rarely lived up to the fiscal conservative image she championed."

McGinniss then asserted: "At best she's a hypocrite." Guthrie pressed him to go further: "And at worst?" He replied: "At worst, she's a vindictive hypocrite."

Concluding the interview, Guthrie wondered: "Do you think you were fair to her in the book?" McGinniss argued: "I think I was as fair as I could possibly have been, given the fact that she told all the people who were closest to her not to talk to me."

This is not the first time NBC has provided a forum for McGinniss to spew his anti-Palin venom. On the June 1, 2010 broadcast of Today, co-host Matt Lauer conducted a live interview with McGinniss, who proceeded to rant about Palin objecting to him moving in next door to her in Wasilla: "She has pushed a button and unleashed the Hounds of Hell, and now that they're out there slavering and barking and growling. And that's the same kind of tactic and I'm not calling her a Nazi, but that's the same kind of tactic that the Nazi troopers used in Germany in the '30s."

Here is a full transcript of Guthrie's September 15 interview with McGinniss:

7:01AM ET TEASE:

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Also ahead, a new book about Sarah Palin that was controversial before even one word was written. That's because the author moved into a home right next door to the Palins in Wasilla while he was researching it. And the former Alaska governor will not like what he has written about her. But does the author have an ax to grind? We're going to talk to him exclusively.

7:21AM ET TEASE:

GUTHRIE: Alright, just ahead, stunning allegations made about Sarah Palin in a bombshell book. Is she really the hockey mom she claims to be? How strong is her marriage to Todd? Did the author get his information from questionable sources? We'll talk to him exclusively.

7:30AM ET TEASE:

MATT LAUER: Just ahead, the startling new claims being made about Sarah Palin in a very controversial new book. Everything from drug use to a sexual encounter, but where did the author get his information? Does he have an ax to grind? We'll get to that as we speak to him exclusively.

7:38AM ET TEASE:

GUTHRIE: Coming up next, how strong is Sarah Palin's marriage? Does she use her children as props? Is the author of a controversial new book claiming that, just spreading gossip about the former Alaska governor? We will find out.

7:41AM ET SEGMENT:

GUTHRIE: Back now at 7:41 with the controversial new tell-all book on former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. It was written by long-time political author Joe McGinniss, who moved right next door to the Palins to do his research. And we spoke to him exclusively about some of the bombshell claims he's making. From the moment she stepped on to the political stage, Sarah Palin has been a force.

SARAH PALIN: They say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull, lip stick.

GUTHRIE: Self-styled mama grizzly.

PALIN: You don't want to mess with moms who are rising up.

GUTHRIE: Reality TV star.

PALIN: Dang it.

GUTHRIE: Her large family fascinating the country with its dramas, babies, and feuds.

PALIN: I hear he goes by the name 'Ricky Hollywood' now.

GUTHRIE: But now a controversial new book takes aim at the image Palin projects to the world. 'The Rogue,' a 318-page takedown of Palin by best-selling author Joe McGinniss, paints a scathing portrait of the woman who could have been vice president.

JOE MCGINNISS: An utter fraud. An absolute and utter fraud.

GUTHRIE: You call her a tenth grade mean girl.

MCGINNISS: Oh, that's – those are kind words compared to a lot of what you would hear in Wasilla today. The thing that I found, Savannah, that really surprised me, was that the people who know her best like her least.

GUTHRIE: McGinniss spent four months in Alaska, claims he spoke to approximately 200 people, a mix of Palin's old associates, acquaintances, and former friends. But his book was causing controversy before he wrote even one word. She had a problem with you living next door.

MCGINNISS: Well, she did. And I don't know why she did, because-

GUTHRIE: Really? You don't know why?

MCGINNISS: I really don't.

GUTHRIE: McGinniss says it was just happenstance that the woman who owns the property next door to the Palins in Wasilla offered to rent her house to him for the summer while he did his research. Palin revealed who her new neighbor was on Facebook, writing, 'Wonder what kind of material he'll gather while overlooking Piper's bedroom, my little garden, and the family swimming hole.' And on her reality show.

PALIN: Piper whispered to me as we're coming up the lawn, 'Mom, that neighbor's out there, he's watching us. He's watching us.'

GUTHRIE: An editorial in the local paper warns McGinniss, 'Alaska has a law that allows the use of deadly force in protection of life and property.'

CHRIS WALLACE [HOST, FOX NEWS SUNDAY]: Has that been a problem or do you just go with the flow?

PALIN: You know, like Todd says, some people just need to get a life. Bless his heart. He needs to get a life.

MCGINNISS: I was surprised at Sarah's reaction, but it taught me something very interesting. She over reacts. She has no modulation in her responses to stress. In other words, she freaks out.

GUTHRIE: McGinniss insists he was not there to spy and that anything he learned about the Palins from living next door did not go into the book. But the experience becomes a huge part of the story. You really became a character in the book.

MCGINNISS: Well, Sarah made me a character. She's a phenomenon. I said that to Todd when he came tromping across my lawn to confront me about living next door. He said, 'Why are you writing about her anyway?' I said, 'Well Todd, I've been writing about politics since 1968. Your wife is a phenomenon. There's been no one like her in American politics before, no one who's come from nowhere to get so far.'

GUTHRIE: In a statement to NBC News, Todd Palin writes that McGinniss is a man who, quote, 'Traffics in innuendo and falsehoods and spent the last year interviewing marginal figures with an ax to grind in order to churn out a hit piece to satisfy his own creepy obsession with my wife.' But McGinniss says talking to those who know Palin convinces him there is much less than meets the eye. He accuses the famed hockey mom of using her children as props and reports she was not much of a mother at all.

MCGINNISS: People who've known that family for the entire period of time that those children were growing up, told me in ways that I found very believable, that Sarah Palin was virtually nonexistent as a mother.

GUTHRIE: McGinniss describes a rocky Palin marriage, with Todd and Sarah fighting incessantly and threatening divorce, something they've denied in the past. Another bombshell, McGinniss writes that both Todd and Sarah have used cocaine in the past, a claim that has not been verified. How do you substantiate something like that?

MCGINNISS: Well, you talk to somebody who snorted it with her and you talk to many of Todd's friends who describe him as having been on the end of the straw frequently in his youth. I'm not saying that Todd and Sarah Palin today abuse cocaine or even use it. But there's no question that they both did at one point in their lives.

GUTHRIE: McGinniss also quotes friends who speak of a sexual encounter Palin had with basketball star Glen Rice in 1987, while she was a sports reporter for a local Anchorage station, prior to her marriage. It's not clear from the book whether Rice admits or denies the encounter but he told McGinniss, 'In a short time we got to know a lot about one another. It was all done in a respectful way, nothing hurried.' He continues, 'She was a gorgeous woman, super nice. I was blown away by her. Afterward she was a big crush that I had.' McGinniss portrays Palin as hands off when it came to governing Alaska, but a ruthless political opportunist who crushed her enemies and rarely lived up to the fiscal conservative image she championed.

MCGINNISS: Hypocrite, you know, at the best. At best she's a hypocrite.

GUTHRIE: And at worst?

MCGINNISS: At worst, she's a vindictive hypocrite.

GUTHRIE: McGinniss says the Palin enemy list in Alaska is long, but acknowledges he talked to few friends. Do you think you were fair to her in the book?

MCGINNISS: I think I was as fair as I could possibly have been, given the fact that she told all the people who were closest to her not to talk to me.

GUTHRIE: Now, as Palin tantalizes supporters with travel to early primary states, many wonder just what are her political intentions?

PALIN: Polls? They're for strippers and cross country skiers.

GUTHRIE: McGinniss says everything he learned about Palin convinces him she won't run.

MCGINNISS: I think she's going for the easy money. She's going to take the path of least resistance. I don't think that she's going to run for president.

GUTHRIE: Well, in his statement to NBC News, Todd Palin says that former members of Sarah Palin's administration interviewed for a separate magazine story said the author, Joe McGinniss, was, quote, 'The most disingenuous and intellectually dishonest writer they had ever dealt with.' And Palin went on to say, quote, 'I'd ask the fathers and husbands of America to consider our privacy when one summer day I found this guy on the deck of the rental property just 18 feet away next door to us staring like a creep at my wife while she mowed the lawn in her shorts.' Well, you can read Todd Palin's entire statement to NBC on our website, Today.com.


- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.