Since he burst onto the scene in January with an exclusive interview with former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, John Ziegler has been a NewsBusters favorite.
As a result of last week's $100,000 challenge to debate MSNBC's Keith Olbermann about all things related to Palin, NewsBusters decided it was time to catch up with Ziegler to see if the "Countdown" host had responded.
What followed was a fabulous e-chat about his wager offer as well as what his views are concerning what's happened to Palin this year and what he sees in her future.
Readers are guaranteed to be surprised by some of his answers:
NewsBusters: Since we last spoke in February, a lot has happened to you and to Sarah Palin. Let's start with you. In April, you got thrown off the USC campus for trying to interview people attending an excellence in journalism awards ceremony where Katie Couric was going to be honored for her "Evening News" segments with Sarah Palin. How did that all end up, and is there anything new concerning that incident you'd like to share?
John Ziegler: That whole episode was totally bizarre from the very beginning. I never anticipated that they would arrest me for trying to give away copies of my DVD with my Sarah Palin interview as a special feature because I wanted people about to see Katie Couric get an award for her Sarah Palin interview to know how absurd that award was. Twice I have had contracts from major law firms to take the case against USC and both times the deal has fallen apart at the very last second. I have run into numerous problems because a lot of lawyers here in LA don't want to take on USC and there is a real philosophical/idealogical split on the case as well. Conservatives like parts of it and fear others, with liberals vice versa. It has been very frustrating because it is a very solid and important case (especially since the law in California is very protective of free speech rights on "open" private property), but at this point I am not sure I am going to be able to defend all of our rights here.
NB: In June, you had a marvelous incident with MSNBC's Contessa Brewer when she clearly didn't like what you had to say concerning David Letterman's disgraceful comments about Palin, and she eventually turned off your mike. Tell us about that.
JZ: That was very strange as well. If you watch that interview I really think it got sideways in part because when you do an interview with MSNBC from the NBC anchor desk in Burbank (which I have done several times) there is a very pronounced audio delay. I have never understood why they can't/won't fix that. In the end she seemed to think that I was saying she lacked class, when in reality I was referring to Olbermann and the rest of the hacks over there. The funniest part of the whole thing was that she had just gotten through saying that she wouldn't have been offended if Letterman had said those things about her and then she got so offended by me saying something that didn't have anything to do with her that she cut my mic off. I really think the most important part of that story is that the way I handled that interview is the way every conservative should deal with MSNBC and CNN. Give them absolutely no respect. Unfortunately there are far too many "conservatives" whose only real interest is being on TV and their only real goal is to get invited back. My only goal is to NOT get invited back and it seems as if I have finally achieved that at MSNBC.
NB: In July, Palin announced her resignation as Alaska's governor. Why do you think she did that, how do you think the media covered the announcement, and looking back do you think it was a good decision on her part?
JZ: I actually asked Palin about resigning on my old radio show about a month before it happened. The reason that I asked her that was that I had just come back from Anchorage where we screened the documentary, and I could tell something was up. So I was not shocked at all when it happened, though the timing surprised me. I think the reasons for why she was forced to do this have been greatly misunderstood and I think that she needs to take some responsibility for that. I support the resignation but I don't think the proper foundation was laid for the public and the media to understand it. It seems pretty clear to me that her decision was absolutely the right one for her and her family and probably her state. What she has done since then (getting her book done months early and impacting the public debate through her Facebook page) has been truly remarkable. So in that sense I think it was a great move. Was it the best thing she could have done if she wanted to be elected President in 2012? Absolutely not. But I know that was not what was motivating her.
NB: Shortly after her resignation, Palin made headlines with her "death panels" note on Facebook. How key do you think that was to changing the healthcare reform debate over the summer, and what do you think of the media's coverage of her opinion on the subject?
JZ: That was really remarkable. Here is a homemaker from Wasilla, Alaska, clearly impacting the debate from her Facebook page. She didn't even have to give one single interview! She was absolutely right on the issue, but of course the media coverage of her was beyond unfair, even by the lowly standards of the normal coverage of her. Of course there were no actual "death panels" in the bill. She never said that there were. She said that what was in one of the bills could lead to virtual death panels. She was right and that got removed from the bill. She could not have been more in the right and been more vindicated and yet in the media's world she was completely out of her mind. Classic Palin.
NB: You recently got into a squabble with the ACU's David Keene at the Western CPAC conference. Tell us what that was all about.
JZ: I was a scheduled speaker at the conference. While there I asked Keene for an on-camera interview and he agreed. During the interview, I asked him some questions that he didn't like and he got up and tried to run away. I followed and tried to get him to answer. He threatened to hit me, he cursed me out, and he eventually had me removed from my speaking spot and had the cops called on me. He is totally wrong in the substance of the issues I raised as well as his actions that day. Conservatives should demand that he be removed from ACU and CPAC, but they won't because the conservative media is made up mostly of cowards and sell outs interested primarily in their own standing in the movement.
NB: As a result of your kerfuffle with Keene, Keith Olbermann accused you of "defending your crush." What do you think of what Olbermann said, and tell us about your debate offer with him.
JZ: Olbermann is a coward and a fraud and this episode proves it. It is a real shame that most of the conservative media has ignored my offer to give Olbermann's favorite charity $100,000 if he debates me about Palin-related issues live for his full show. I figured that he wouldn't have the guts to do it, but the Right should have seen it in their interest to push him on the issue to expose who he really is. But I guess no on the right figured they would get asked to go on cable news television if they wrote about it, so almost no one has. As for the Left, their hypocrisy knows no bounds so the fact the Huffington Post featured the original story and didn't even mention the "debate offer" follow up is hardly surprising.
NB: Have you heard a response from Olbermann, and do you expect to?
JZ: I know that another NBC show tried to broker this thing to happen, but it is pretty clear Keith is too afraid to take me up on it or even respond. He is giving up huge ratings, a chance to embarrass a high-profile Palin defender on his turf, and preventing his favorite charity from get $100,000, all apparently to protect his ego. And this isn't a story???
NB: Finally, there's much talk about Palin's future in politics. Look into your crystal ball and tell us what she'll be doing politically in 2010, 2012, and 2016.
JZ: I have not spoken to her about anything like this since her resignation, but in 2010 I think she will be a very sought after campaigner for conservative Congressional candidates. In 2012 I think she could be a formidable candidate for the Republican nomination but I think it is probably more likely that she has a great impact on the process from the sidelines. I think that Palin could be a fantastic presidential candidate in 2016 and maybe even a a bit of a media darling by then (they love a comeback story and will miss the ratings she brings). If she decides to go that route I hope that she runs for US Senate in 2014. However, I must say that I think it is quite plausible that Sarah Palin never runs for political office again and instead fights for her nation through her groups and platforms.
NB: Thanks, John.