As the broadcast network evening newscasts on Friday reported on Sarah Palin's decision to resign as Alaska's Governor, they gave little attention to the toll taken on the Governor by the onslaught of frivolous lawsuits from her political enemies. But, by contrast, FNC gave much of the credit for Palin's decision to these lawsuits that have tied up the Governor's time and forced her family to spend a fortune in legal expenses.
On Friday's Fox Report, FNC correspondent Carl Cameron informed viewers: "Those ethics complaints have all been dropped or dismissed, and yet they've taken a toll and she acknowledged as much earlier." Then came a soundbite of Palin from her news conference, which was partially played on the CBS Evening News but not on ABC or NBC. Palin:
Todd and I, we’re looking at more than half a million dollars in legal bills just in order to set the record straight. And what about the people who offer up these silly accusations? It doesn't cost them a dime. ... My staff and I spend most of our days, we're dealing with this stuff instead of progressing our state now.
Subtitute anchor Jon Scott soon made a point of reiterating the frivolous nature of these legal challenges, as he asked Cameron: "But it shouldn’t be lost on people that, you know, all of these ethics allegations that had been lodged against her, none of those stuck, right?"
By contrast, on ABC's World News, correspondent David Wright ignored the role of legal harrassment in her decision, while on the NBC Nightly News, correspondent Chuck Todd mentioned the lawsuits as being "petty," but he attributed this description to being "in her mind," without conveying to viewers the history of these lawsuits failing. Todd:
We had one source tell a colleague of ours here, Lester, that, you know, the various petty – in her mind, petty – ethics complaints that she would receive whenever now she was traveling out of state maybe to do political fund-raising, some of it personal, and, for instance, she just had to reimburse some money.
Only CBS played a clip of Palin's news conference in which she complained about the legal battles, but, unlike FNC's Scott and Cameron, CBS's Cordes did not make a point of conveying to viewers that all the charges had been "dropped or dismissed":
NANCY CORDES: The former high school basketball star has also been on the defense in Alaska, where the Anchorage Daily News reported this week that the state has spent $300,000 investigating 15 ethics complaints against the Governor, most notably related to state-paid family trips and “Troopergate.”
SARAH PALIN CLIP #1: And this political absurdity, the politics of personal destruction, Todd and I, we’re looking at more than half a million dollars in legal bills just in order to set the record straight.
PALIN CLIP #2: The people who offer up these silly accusations, it doesn't cost them a dime. So they're not going to stop draining the public resources.
And while the broadcast networks expressed puzzlement as to Palin's reasons for quitting -- all three of which employed the word "bizarre" to describe her announcement -- when asked by Scott why she decided to step down, Cameron seemed far less confused as he contended that, "Well, she answered it in part herself," before going on to explain her tough battles with Democrats in Alaska, including the endless ethics investigations. Cameron:
Well, she answered it in part herself, Jon. It has been a tough legislative year. They came through a very, very difficult budget battle. Legislatively, she had an awful lot of criticism, particularly from partisans, liberal Democrats in Alaska. And she’s been the object of some investigation. Ethics complaints, investigations by the state's attorney general and others. Those ethics complaints have all been dropped or dismissed, and yet they've taken a toll and she acknowledged as much earlier.
On FNC's Special Report with Bret Baier, correspondent Molly Henneberg noted: "Palin, the former GOP vice presidential nominee, said the decision had been in the works for a while. And she cited 15 ethics complaints against her, all that she has won, but have cost the state and her family a lot of time and money."
Below are complete transcripts of the relevant stories from ABC's World News, the CBS Evening News, the NBC Nightly News, and FNC's Fox Report from Friday, July 3:
#From the July 3 World News on ABC:
DAVID MUIR: Good evening. Sarah Palin's sudden decision to step down as Governor of Alaska is the latest chapter in a remarkable political story. In less than a year, she has rocketed from obscurity in one of the most remote states to become one of the most prominent personalities in national politics. In her lengthy statement today, it was very hard to discern why she's quitting. And tonight, that's doing little to dampen speculation. Some wonder if she’s positioning herself to run for President. Others ask if she’s trying to escape more controversy to come. David Wright is in Washington tonight. David, good evening.
DAVID WRIGHT: Good evening, David. On a national holiday and what had been shaping up to be a fairly slow news day, this is nothing less than a political bombshell – the abrupt announcement by the darling of many in the Republican party that, for now, she's calling it quits.
GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN (R-AK): I'm not seeking re-election. I've determined it’s best to transfer the authority of Governor to Lieutenant Governor Parnell.
WRIGHT: In her backyard in Wasilla, Alaska, her family by her side, Governor Palin told reporters she'll resign by the end of the month.
PALIN: I love my job. And I love Alaska. And it hurts to make this choice. But I'm doing what's best for Alaska.
WRIGHT: But Palin did not make it crystal clear why she felt it necessary to make that choice.
COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS : It’s mystifying. It was a bizarre statement. It didn't make a lot of sense, and it doesn't seem to be the kind of thing someone would do if someone was running for President.
WRIGHT: It's been less than a year since Palin strode onto the national stage as John McCain’s running mate and campaign pit bull.
PALIN: -the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.
WRIGHT: Many Republicans saw her as the ultimate outsider, a charismatic leader with a big future in 2012. But Palin also drew plenty of snipes for seeming not ready for prime time on the issues. Saturday Night Live had a field day.
TINA FEY IMPERSONATING PALIN ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: Nice to meet you, Mr. President. I've seen you on TV.
WRIGHT: More recently, Palin locked horns with comedian David Letterman, all but accusing him of having a perverse interest in her teenage daughter. In an article in the latest Vanity Fair, details serious infighting between Palin and senior members of the McCain campaign.
STUART ROTHENBERG: The criticism has been that she’s rather thin in the resume, and she doesn’t seem particularly serious or thoughtful. This kind of act, I think, only adds to that impression. It doesn't help her redefine herself.
WRIGHT: Today, Palin denounced what she called the “superficial, wasteful political blood sport,” and suggested it may have been a factor in her decision to bow out.
PALIN: I know when it's time to pass the ball for victory.
WRIGHT: Palin said she did not want to be a lame duck, but what's not clear is if she's quitting her day job to pursue national office or quitting politics altogether. When we first heard rumblings about a Palin press conference today, most of us thought that she was going to announce her decision not to seek re-election so that she could focus on the White House, so this announcement that seems to put 2012 in doubt was all the more shocking, David.
MUIR: Much more to come for sure. David Wright tonight, thanks very much.
#From the July 3 CBS Evening News:
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Good evening, everyone. Katie’s off tonight. On this 3rd of July, Sarah Palin is declaring her independence. In a move no one saw coming, she announced today she's resigning two and a half years into her first term as governor of Alaska. She said she believes she “can effect positive change outside government.” This, of course, raises a lot of questions about the future of one of the few big stars of a battered Republican party. Nancy Cordes begins tonight's coverage.
GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN (R-AK): And I really don't want to disappoint anyone with this announcement.
NANCY CORDES: Surrounded by family at her home in Wasilla, Alaska, Sarah Palin said she was abandoning her job because she has no interest in being a lame duck.
PALIN: That's what's wrong. Many just accept that lame duck status, and they hit the road, they draw a paycheck, they kind of milk it. And I'm not going to put Alaskans through that.
CORDES: In a rambling, at times confusing announcement, the former vice presidential candidate said this move had been in the works for a while.
PALIN: -millions of your dollars go down the drain in this new political environment. Rather, we know we can affect positive change outside government at this moment in time on another scale, and actually make a difference.
CORDES: Palin didn't go into detail on how she plans to do that. But she did allude to the hits she's been taking lately, everything from a dust-up with David Letterman to a scathing new expose in Vanity Fair about her rocky relationship with the Republican establishment.
PALIN: -and I know when it's time to pass the ball for victory.
CORDES: The former high school basketball star has also been on the defense in Alaska, where the Anchorage Daily News reported this week that the state has spent $300,000 investigating 15 ethics complaints against the Governor, most notably related to state-paid family trips and “Troopergate.”
PALIN CLIP #1: And this political absurdity, the politics of personal destruction, Todd and I, we’re looking at more than half a million dollars in legal bills just in order to set the record straight.
PALIN CLIP #2: The people who offer up these silly accusations, it doesn't cost them a dime. So they're not going to stop draining the public resources.
CORDES: Palin’s surprise decision is sure to fuel speculation that she is clearing her plate to run for President, though this approach would be a risky and highly unconventional political gamble.
MIKE ALLEN, POLITICO, CLIP #1: This is very unusual, even bizarre. Governors just don't stop in the middle of their terms when there’s no clear reason.
ALLEN CLIP #2: -frees her to run for President, but now she has to answer questions about why she quit her job, about why she now is traveling around to make money for herself instead of working for her state.
CORDES: Leaving the state house would give her the freedom to travel across the country, campaigning for Republicans and giving her valuable political experience she could never get in Alaska.
KATIE COURIC: You’ve cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?
PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land boundary that we have with Canada. It's funny that a comment like that was kind of made to – I don't know, you know, reporters-
PALIN: Yeah, mocked. I guess that’s the word, yeah.
CORDES: The timing of all this is curious. Typically, when politicians make announcements on a Friday at the start of a holiday weekend with no notice, it means they're trying to bury the news, not herald the onset of an exciting new chapter in their political lives. Maggie?
RODRIGUEZ: Nancy Cordes in Washington. Thanks, Nancy. John Dickerson, also in Washington, is a CBS News political consultant. John, after listening to the entire news conference, I'm still not sure why Sarah Palin is resigning. What's your take?
JOHN DICKERSON: Well, I think she's basically sick of being governor, sick of being the target of both the media and her political opponents who have launched all these ethics investigations. She's going to take the bulls eye off her back. And now she can travel. And she can go embrace her public. They are wildly in love with Sarah Palin in the Republican base. She can raise money for Republicans, build morale in the party, and if she wants a future in the national party, those are all important things if she wants to run again.
RODRIGUEZ: But 2012 is a long way away. Why do you think she chose to leave now?
DICKERSON: It's bizarre, and there's no good explanation. And if she were trying to do away with the kind of speculation that she says has so irritated her, this is not the way to do it.
RODRIGUEZ: What about the down side here? Could her actions be seen as bailing on the citizens of Alaska?
DICKERSON: The down side is that her greatest card used to be the charges that she lacked depth and didn't have executive experience, she could point to her role as Governor. Now she doesn't have that anymore. She used to say I could fight the old boy network, but today in her remarks she clearly was sick of the fight.
#From the July 3 NBC Nightly News:
LESTER HOLT: Good evening. I'm Lester Holt, in tonight for Brian Williams. There was something of a political bombshell dropped in Alaska this afternoon where first-term Governor Sarah Palin announced she is stepping down from office. Since bursting on the national scene a year ago as John McCain’s vice presidential running mate, Palin has maintained a high profile in national Republican politics, and is often talked about as a possible presidential candidate in 2012. What we don't know tonight is whether her decision to not seek re-election and leave office early is the first step towards a White House bid or the end of her political journey. We'll get some political analysis in just a moment, but first, with the latest, here’s NBC’s Peter Alexander.
PETER ALEXANDER: Sarah Palin made the stunning announcement alongside her family at their lakefront home in Wasilla, Alaska.
GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN (R-AK): I will not seek re-election as governor.
ALEXANDER: But there was more. With nearly a year and a half to go in her first term, Palin said she’s quitting the job altogether, leaving office before the end of the month.
PALIN: Many just accept that lame-duck status, and they hit the road, they draw a paycheck, and they kind of milk it. And I’m not going to put Alaskans through that.
ALEXANDER: It was just the latest bizarre twist for the self-described maverick, who was catapulted from obscurity to fame barely 10 months ago when Republican presidential nominee John McCain introduced her as his running mate. But the harsh glare of the national spotlight has been focused on Palin ever since. A scathing profile in the current issue of Vanity Fair magazine reveals new details about the vicious criticism of her during the 2008 campaign, calling Palin “the sexiest and the riskiest brand in the Republican party,” and attacking her performance as “disastrous.” During the campaign, McCain bragged Palin was the country's most popular governor, but, since emerging as a national figure, she’s seen her approval ratings at home dive to their lowest levels since she took office. Many say she ignored topics critical to Alaskans, and her problems were complicated when her family dramas became tabloid fodder. Just last month, Palin got into
a bitter dustup with David Letterman after the late-night comedian made an offensive crack about her daughter and another frequent tabloid target, Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez. Today, Palin compared her decision to her days as an Alaska high school basketball star.
PALIN: She drives through a full court press, protecting the ball, keeping her head up because she needs to keep her eye on the basket, and she knows exactly when to pass the ball so that the team can win. And that is what I’m doing, keeping our eye on the ball.
ALEXANDER: Palin says she’s not abandoning politics altogether, and that she’ll help Republican candidates wherever they need it.
PALIN: And I’ll work very hard for others who still believe in free enterprise and smaller government. I’ll work hard for and campaign for those who are proud to be American, and who are inspired by our ideals, and they won't deride them.
ALEXANDER: It is still an open question whether the 45-year-old governor will ever run for office herself again. A close advisor told NBC's Andrea Mitchell today that Palin has told supporters she’s fed up with politics. Lester?
HOLT: All right, Peter, thanks. All this raises a lot of questions. First and foremost, why is Governor Palin walking away? And why now? NBC's political director, Chuck Todd, is in our Washington bureau tonight. Chuck, she has been a lightning rod for criticism that continues long past her VP run, especially for her out-of-state travel. It’s fair to say, I think, did it become too much?
CHUCK TODD: Well, it’s possible. We had one source tell a colleague of ours here, Lester, that, you know, the various petty – in her mind, petty – ethics complaints that she would receive whenever now she was traveling out of state maybe to do political fund-raising, some of it personal, and, for instance, she just had to reimburse some money. It all brings to light this fact – she will now make a lot of money. When she leaves office at the end of July, she becomes a private citizen. Suddenly, she can give speeches, she may get something like $50,000 to $100,000 a speech on the speaking circuit. She could end up with a radio deal, a TV deal, all of these things she could not have done while sitting in office. So whether money was a motivator in this or not, the fact is she can now cash in on her celebrity, cash in on that fame and make a lot of money, very quickly, and she was not wealthy, if you recall, Lester, before coming onto the national stage.
HOLT: Right, but she loses the platform of being a sitting governor. Does that preclude her from seeking office later down the road and remaining in politics?
TODD: Lester, she’s been unconventional. I mean, I think the idea that, you know, you suddenly assume, you know, she can somehow not have a future in national office. Look, she may spend the next year campaigning for Republicans all across the country. She’s probably going to be the person that can attract the largest crowds – some of it is car wreck watchers, you now, they’re just are coming curiosity seekers. It doesn't matter. She can attract a lot of people. So don't assume that her political career is over. She may be taking a rest. She may want to make a lot of money. And then come January of 2011, when her term would have ended, she may be recharged, both financially and mentally, and suddenly wanting to seek national office again.
#From the July 3 Fox Report on FNC:
JON SCOTT: Talk about a bolt out of the view, the Republican governor of Alaska and former vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, held a stunning news conference at her home. She said not only that she will not run for reelection in Alaska, but she will not even fill out her current term.
SCOTT: In fact, she says she will swear in the lieutenant governor replacement later this month. And she says her kids and husband Todd all support her decision. Palin says this decision has been in the work for a while, but still, today’s news conference was called so hastily we’re told only a few reporters actually had the time to go to her house to cover it. Carl Cameron with the news live from Washington. The big question is: Why?
CARL CAMERON: Well, she answered it in part herself, Jon. It has been a tough legislative year. They came through a very, very difficult budget battle. Legislatively, she had an awful lot of criticism, particularly from partisans, liberal Democrats in Alaska. And she’s been the object of some investigation. Ethics complaints, investigations by the state's attorney general and others. Those ethics complaints have all been dropped or dismissed, and yet they've taken a toll and she acknowledged as much earlier.
PALIN: This political absurdity, the politics of personal destruction. Todd and I, we’re looking at more than half a million dollars in legal bills just in order to set the record straight. And what about the people who offer up these silly accusations? It doesn't cost them a dime. So they're not going to stop draining the public resources, spending other people's money in this game. It won't stop. It's pretty insane. My staff and I spend most of our days, we're dealing with this stuff instead of progressing our state now.
CAMERON: So she argues she removes herself as a distraction from moving Alaska forward, and she ends that sort of ankle-biting by some of her critics, and that could conceivably free her up to look at higher office, though there will always be now this assertion that she quit one job and that in essence disqualifies her for one she might soon seek.
SCOTT: But it shouldn’t be lost on people that, you know, all of these ethics allegations that had been lodged against her, none of those stuck, right?
CAMERON: That’s right. And, when you look at the polls, Jon, Sarah Palin remains, among Republicans, hands down, the most popular. A recent Pew Research poll put her favorable rating at 73 percent. Mitt Romney was the closest competitor with 57 percent among Republicans. When you look at Sarah Palin’s ability to command an audience, to articulate the Republican message, and to invigorate the GOP base, she is unrivaled. When she was the running mate for John McCain, when she was added to the ticket, John McCain went from trailing in the polls to leading as a general election candidate for about a week and a half. It was the only time he led, and it was immediately after Sarah Palin was added to the ticket. She has tremendous charisma and an ability to motivate the Republican base. She does spark controversy, and she does have her critics within the GOP, but all that said, she is undeniably the center of their attention this Fourth of July weekend.
SCOTT: All right, now, I saw that statement from the Democratic National Committee. Their view of this is that it's a lose-lose proposition for Sarah Palin.
CAMERON: And there are those who are saying this effectively ends her political career because there's no way she can seek higher office having abandoned the one that she's now said that she will step away from. There is some political history to support that type of an allegation. The problem is Sarah Palin's made something of a career, albeit short, by bucking historical trends in her party. And her maverick image of herself certainly fits the bill. She says essentially to heck with it, I'm going to give up my job because they're making too much of an issue of me instead of progressing, as she says, the state of Alaska. And at the same time, by taking that target off of her back in her home state, perhaps she can come to the lower 48 which many have said that she sort of disdains and run more aggressively for higher office herself.
SCOTT: The state of Alaska is represented in Washington by three lawmakers – one Congressman and two Senators. Fox News has spoken to representatives for all three of those lawmakers. It appears the Governor did not tell any of them about her decision ahead of time. We're also getting reaction tonight from the political parties. The Republican Governors Association taking the look forward, not backward approach, releasing a statement saying, quote, "While we regret the news announced by Governor Palin today, Alaska will continue to have a Republican governor through 2010. And we are confident the state will elect a Republican in next year’s election.” Democrats, of course, see things another way. Here's that statement I alluded to earlier from the Democratic National Committee. Quote, "Either Sarah Palin is leaving the people of Alaska high and dry to pursue her long shot national political ambitions, or she simply can't handle the job. ... now
that her popularity has dimmed and oil revenues are down. Either way,” the DNC says, “her decision to abandon her post and the people of Alaska who elected her continues a pattern of bizarre behavior [that] more than anything else may explain the decision she made today.”
SCOTT: Joining us now from Washington, Richard Miniter. He is the editor of the Washington Times editorial page. Are you scratching your head as much as most of the rest of us seem to be about this, Richard?
RICHARD MINITER: Yes, I am. And part of what I'm worrying about is what's the future of women in political life in America? Sarah Palin is the last working mother to – with children of school age – to be in major American politics. Children used to be off limits, but we saw with the beginning of the Bush twins, when they were attacked as a way for the media to attack President Bush, and we saw relentless attacks on Sarah Palin's children. That’s got to have figured into her decision. What does that mean for the many successful professional working women out there with school-aged children? Are they going to say I'm going to sit out political life, I’m not going to run for mayor or city council or Senate or President of the United States based on Sarah Palin's experience? I think the media has a lot to answer for.
SCOTT: Well, you can see why she might want out. I mean, she was hugely popular as governor of Alaska, then she became the vice presidential nominee. When she went back to Alaska after the campaign, all kinds of political enemies sprang up and started filing those ethics charges. She was having a great deal more difficulty governing than she did before she became a national figure. But it seems that she still wants to be a national figure. How do you explain?
MINITER: Well, we'll see about that. I mean, she certainly has told friends that she felt like Gulliver tied down by so many Lilliputians – these are various ethics charges. She’s been exhaustively investigated in the state of Alaska by virtually every investigative agency. And as far as I'm aware, no one's really come up with anything solid against her. But these things are enormously costly in terms of time and emotional energy. She did feel drained, and she has said that publicly, as anyone would. But also the negative press continued. Vanity Fair magazine, other major publications, of course the Letterman jokes. All these things, I think, have a cumulative effect. Attacking her through her children, which is a unique weakness of politicians who are working mothers have, is something I think she felt keenly. We really need to ask ourselves maybe we need to go to a place where children are once again off limits just as they were in the Clintonyears or in the Carter years where Amy and Chelsea were off limits.
#From the July 3 Special Report with Bret Baier on FNC:
MOLLY HENNEBERG: Palin, the former GOP vice presidential nominee, said the decision had been in the works for a while. And she cited 15 ethics complaints against her, all that she has won, but have cost the state and her family a lot of time and money. After a bruising article this month in Vanity Fair magazine which called her 2008 election performance, quote, "disastrous," and a recent back and forth with talk show host David Letterman about jokes he made about Palin and her daughter, today the Governor acknowledged the intensity of the spotlight.