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Sarah Palin emails show an engaged governor mistrustful of the media

June 10, 2011|By Matea Gold and Tom Hamburger | Washington Bureau
  • Gov.-elect Sarah Palin of Alaska holds her daughter, Piper, as Lt. Gov.-elect Sean Parnell applauds after her victory speech in Anchorage on Nov. 8, 2006.
Gov.-elect Sarah Palin of Alaska holds her daughter, Piper, as Lt. Gov.-elect… (Al Grillo / Associated Press )

Reporting from Washington — Thousands of pages of Sarah Palin’s emails from her tenure as governor of Alaska provide an up-close view of her efforts to intensely monitor both state business and her portrayal in the media while stumping the country as part of the 2008 Republican presidential ticket.

Amid the 24,199 pages -- released Friday by Alaska officials in response to media requests made in September 2008 -- are also documents that reveal her fraught relationships with other statewide elected officials, whose criticism often infuriated Palin.

Taken together, the email correspondence underscores Palin’s polarizing effect, long before she was a ubiquitous figure on the national political stage.


RELATED: Read the Palin emails

Palin’s disgust with the media was apparent as soon as she was tapped to be Sen. John McCain’s running mate. She and aides objected when a blizzard of questions from reporters included queries about her favorite poem and the tanning bed in the governor’s mansion. “Arghhhh!” Palin responded, noting she paid for the latter personally and was “dismayed at the media.”

 The darker side of her newfound fame was evident, too, as the governor fielded several vicious threats against her life – all of which she forwarded to her aides without comment.

At the other end of the spectrum, the messages include many adoring missives from supporters around the country who, even before she joined the 2008 presidential ticket, saw her as a rising star.

Before the release of the emails, Palin downplayed their significance, noting that both she and her family have been intensely scrutinized. Tim Crawford, treasurer of her political action committee, said the materials showcase “a very engaged Gov. Sarah Palin being the CEO of her state.”

“The emails detail a governor hard at work,” he said in a statement. “Everyone should read them.”

In her exchanges with aides, Palin’s frustration with her opponents is evident, along with her unvarnished style– she called criticism of her state ethics proposal by the Republican speaker of the House “the most stupid comment I’ve heard all year.”

She was particularly shaken after a blogger posted a rumor in July 2008 that she had an affair. “Guys, I may be pretty wimpy about this family stuff, but I feel like I’m at the breaking point with the hurtful gossip…I hate this part of the job and many days I feel like it’s not worth it.”

Even as her name was floated as a potential national political figure, Palin maintained a combative stance against her own party. In early August 2008 – just weeks before she joined the GOP ticket -- the governor cautioned to her staff that “we need to remember the GOP, for the most part... has not had any support or assistance provided our administration so our time and efforts will continue to be spent on serving Alaskans, not party politics.”

The emails also reveal her tense relations with members of her home state congressional delegation. Her suggestion that Alaska’s then-Sen. Ted Stevens needed to explain his role in an alleged corruption scandal upset other Republican leaders, including Rep. Don Young. In September 2008, upon hearing that Young wanted to talk to her, she wrote: “Pls find out what it's about. I don't want to get chewed out by him yet again, I'm not up for that.”

A member of Palin’s Washington staff at the time, Larry Persily, said in an interview that there was constant tension between the then-governor and Alaska’s members of Congress.

“If you are governor you need to really make an effort to establish a relationship and get along with the congressional delegation,” Persily said. She didn’t do it.”

With her aides, however, Palin could be lavish in her praise.

“Oh you are awesome and encouraging,” Palin wrote to staffer Ivy Frye in December 2007. “And congrats, also, on our first-most-awesome year in office together!”

“You are just great and I loooved the jacket you were wearing!” Frye responded.

Palin’s staff was especially jubilant Aug. 29, 2008, when McCain announced she would be his running mate.

“Wow governor! Just watched you on TV!” wrote budget director Karen Rehfeld. “You knocked their socks off!”

“Can you believe it!” Palin replied. “He told me yesterday -- it moved fast! Pray! I love you.”



The one significant internal controversy that rocked Palin’s administration as governor—the firing of Public Safety Director Walt Monegan in an affair known as Troopergate—is the subject of dozens of feverish emails from inside her administration. The governor insisted that Monegan had “spoken untruthfully” when he claimed he had been pressured to fire Palin’s ex-brother-in-law.

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