Unauthorized book draws fire from Palin camp

Palin spokeswoman says People magazine editor's book is not to be trusted

Posted: Friday, February 20, 2009

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A new unauthorized biography of Gov. Sarah Palin written by a People magazine editor hit bookstores Tuesday, drawing quick criticism from a Palin spokeswoman who said it can't be trusted and that Palin wants to write a book of her own.

The governor has hired a Washington lawyer who brokered book deals for President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton to work with publishers, said the spokeswoman, Meghan Stapleton. Publishers have been approaching the governor about a book since the campaign, she said.

But first comes "Trailblazer: An Intimate Biography of Sarah Palin," written by Lorenzo Benet, an assistant editor at People.

Benet says he interviewed the governor's parents, sister and old friends to explore Palin's personal life, from her pre-politics days in Wasilla to pregnancy in office. The story recounts her underdog run for governor and her explosive bid for the vice presidency, though political junkies searching for bombshells may instead find an emphasis on things like Palin's tastes and relationships.

"Her taste in hair, her clothing ... I write a whole chapter about Todd and why she was attracted to him ... It's called 'I like a man in Carhartts," Benet said.

Among the other chapter titles: "Taking charge," "Shaking up the old guard" and "Building a city."

The book didn't have Palin's cooperation and doesn't have her blessing, said Stapleton, who looked to discredit the biography by zeroing in on one fact in particular.

On Page 185, the book says Palin "traveled to Washington, D.C., for the National Governors' Conference, where she met privately with John McCain and learned she was on his short list as a running mate."

Stapleton said that's not true. McCain and Palin never met privately at the February conference, she said, and no one told the governor she was a top contender for the job.

"Nothing happened on the VP selection until August," Stapleton wrote in an e-mail to the Anchorage Daily News. "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 said he doesn't know if McCain actually told Palin she was a top contender to join the Republican ticket at the time, but believes Palin had an inkling she was among the favorites for the job.

"I see how it could be a little misleading. But just let me clarify, that's a belief, it's not so much a statement of fact."

Later, in an e-mail, Benet noted that he never attributed the line about learning she was on McCain's list to Palin.

"I stand by 'Trailblazer: An Intimate Biography of Sarah Palin' and requested an interview with the governor for the book through her campaign office and Mr. Palin, and she did not respond," he wrote.

He did interview Palin's sister, Heather Bruce, whom Benet credits with providing some of the photos for the book. Through Stapleton, Bruce denounced the book Tuesday.

"The only time I 'cooperated' with (Benet) was in September when he told me the campaign wanted me to speak with him," she said in an e-mail. "That was disingenuous. I don't plan to read his book."

Benet interviewed Palin once, in early June, while working on a People story about her pregnancy and birth of her son Trig. He's co-written biographies of romance novelist Danielle Steel, a memoir by figure-skater Scott Hamilton and Star Parker's "Pimps, Whores and Welfare Brats - The Stunning Conservative Transformation of a Former Welfare Queen."

As many as six more unauthorized Palin biographies are in the works, Stapleton said.

At some point the governor wants to write a book of her own, the spokeswoman said. Palin has hired Washington lawyer Robert Barnett to field calls from publishers, she said.

"She doesn't have any deal and she's not signed anything," Stapleton said. Palin asked for Barnett's help in November or early December, she said.

Barnett is a partner at Williams & Connolly, the Washington firm that also represents former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens in his criminal case. Barnett is described on his firm's biography page as "one of the premier authors' representatives in the world," and a 2004 profile in the New York Times said, "Mr. Barnett's secret ... is taking on clients who need no introduction, then using his immense negotiating skills, honed by representing corporate giants like McDonald's and Toyota, to get them more than they dreamed possible."

Palin will pay Barnett's legal fees, Stapleton said.

Writing an autobiography isn't a sure thing for Palin, Stapleton said, "but if I had to guess, I think that - I know - that she would like to some day."

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