Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Gina Loudon Fabricates Story About Vanity Fair Reporter

Vanity Fair reporter Michael Joseph Gross wrote a response to a number of critics of his investigative piece on Sarah Palin, including St. Louis tea party leader Gina Loudon. As I noted earlier, the one verifiable mistake that Gross made was rather minor: he misidentified Gina Loudon's child Samuel Loudon as Trig Palin. This really was not a central part of the story, but Loudon tried to spin it as Gross trying to portray Sarah Palin as an "elitist." Here's the passage that was being referred to:
When the girl, Piper Palin, turns around, she sees her parents thronged by admirers, and the crowd rolling toward her and the baby, her brother Trig, born with Down syndrome in 2008. Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, bend down and give a moment to the children; a woman, perhaps a nanny, whisks the boy away; and Todd hands Sarah her speech and walks her to the stage. He pokes the air with one finger. She mimes the gesture, whips around, strides on four-inch heels to stage center, and turns it on.
Seems obvious to me that this quote was not intended to portray Palin as "elitist:" why wouldn't a politician need to hand off her child if she was giving a speech? Loudon blew the original context of the quote out of proportion in order to hype up her own correction.

Perhaps recognizing that a minor case of misidentification is not a newsworthy story, Gina Loudon heavily embellished on her role in this story and, according to Gross, completely invented a large portion of her story. On mulitple occasions, Loudon claimed that she personally spoke with Gross and that he took her quotes out-of-context and ignored her comments:
As I stood backstage with the Palins I remember a reporter asking me if I were “Trig’s Nanny” with a hint of something I didn’t trust in his eyes. I coldly retorted, “no, I am Samuel’s mother.” He looked confused, and had more questions to follow. . . .

After I explained which children were Todd and Sarah’s, and which were mine and my husband’s, Mr. Gross moved into a sinister line of questioning. I let him know that I was surprised that he believed the baloney written about her during her 2008 race with John McCain.
Here is Gross's response to Loudon's bizarre delusions of self-grandeur:
Let me state this as unequivocally as possible: Loudon’s accounts have no basis in reality. I do not mean simply that the facts are wrong—I mean that the episode did not occur. I have never met Gina Loudon. I have never spoken to Gina Loudon in person or by phone. I have never exchanged e-mail or snail mail with Gina Loudon. I did not even know Gina Loudon’s name until it began cropping up in connection with the accounts quoted above. Furthermore, I could not have spoken to her in Independence, because I was not allowed backstage on the floor of the arena, where Loudon was; that was a restricted space, and, as far as I am aware, all reporters were barred from the area. (I was sitting several rows up, in a place where I was able to observe what was happening both in front of and behind the curtain.)

It could be that Loudon spoke to another reporter that day, and that this is a case of mistaken identity. The other possibility is that Loudon has simply made everything up, inventing and publicizing a complete fabrication for her own purposes. It is either the one thing or the other.
Given Gina Loudon's history of shameless self-promotion, I'll put my money on "complete fabrication for her own purposes."

One last point of note: in my previous post, I expressed concern about Gross's use of anonymous sources. Gross takes on this point directly:
After the 2008 election, Sarah Palin and her advisers decided that it was time to “go over [the] heads” of the media, as one of her former press aides told me, and, in effect, invent a new way of doing political business. Palin began using Facebook and Twitter to send messages directly to the public. At the same time, she and her staff made themselves virtually inaccessible to reporters. Palin, moreover, is the most powerful person in a sparsely populated, geographically isolated community. She has often used intimidation. Many who have been close to Palin say they are frightened of her. They claim they have seen her ruin reputations. To speak out against such a person in a small community is risky.

This reality presents reporters with a choice: either repeat the official statements and official facts that are made in Palin’s name, or find a way to report other information under the terms that sources will permit.

I made the latter choice—very cautiously. Forced to rely on anonymous sources for certain information, I made an effort to get to know those sources well, talking with them over periods of weeks or months. If I sensed that sources were motivated by the desire to attack Sarah Palin, I did not use the information they gave me. Those who told the most startling stories about Palin spoke not with glee or satisfaction but with trepidation and sadness.
This seems like a reasonable point, albeit one that could easily be abused by reporters. But if Michael Joseph Gross has a history of quality reporting, I think his reporting on Palin should be taken fairly seriously.

h/t to FiredUp Missouri for pointing out the response.


  1. I DO NOT understand how Gina Loudon managed to earn a doctoral degree. I mean, seriously. I just don't get her logic, or lack there of, at all.

    For starters, she goes on and on about everything Gross "attacked" regarding Palin. I read the entire story. Although it did not show her in a positive light, I did not see any blatant, underhanded "attacks". It seems Gross observed and interviewed, and reported the information he collected. And it's not really that I care if Loudon thinks Gross "attacked" Palin. But Loudon's response is to actually say some pretty nasty things about Gross. More do as I say and not as I do tactics from the STL Tea Party.

    Next, wtf is this "Since the first time the Governor saw my son Samuel (who also has Down syndrome), she bolts across the room to greet him every time she sees him. She nuzzles him like a mother who loves children with Down syndrome does." supposed to mean? A mother who loves children with Down Syndrome? What the...

    And again: "but Piper, in particular, cannot seem to get enough of him. She literally plays with him (Gross does say she played with “the children” in his story) from the moment she sees him, until the moment she is pressed to let go of him. It is so sweet, and it speaks to the parenting in her life. She has obviously been taught a real, tangible love for “special children” by her parents, and it shines when she lights up at the sight of a baby with Down syndrome."

    " Sarah pulled me aside to ask me how blessed I felt to be the mother of someone chosen and special, like Samuel." What? "and we talked about the gentle touch of a child with Down syndrome that feels almost like the wing of an angel."

    "Here is petty, but further evidence of Mr. Gross’ slander. Sarah is a size 4. She is tiny. So when you try to hit the woman in the place that would really hurt, and accuse her of spending $3,000 of campaign money on her underwear, namely Spanx girdles, it tells your readers so much about you. Oprah doesn’t spend that on her Spanx, and if she did, you wouldn’t write about it, because she is a liberal. That’s the poorly veiled truth about you, Mr. Gross, you are jealous of Sarah (it glares through your non-story) and you hate her because she stands for good, conservative values. And she has great shoes!" Seriously? This woman has a doctorate? Even if you are a size 4, if you've had children, especially numerous children, and haven't had a tummy tuck, you probably need a girdle.

    I love how everyone likes to ignore facts. Sarah Palin is not smart. She is only successful for the same reasons Dana Loesch is successful - they pray on the fears of those even stupider than they are. Neither are well educated. Neither represent "normal middle class", even though the like to think so. And both think their "religion" gives them some moral high ground to look down upon others from.

    Palin, Loudon, and Loesch all need to just fuck off. Seriously.

  2. Tea bag truths are often transient. The stuff of which dreams are made.