Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska fired back Friday at the unnamed McCain campaign aides who have been maligning her in recent days, saying that their criticism was “cruel and it’s mean-spirited, it’s immature, it’s unprofessional, and those guys are jerks.”
Ms. Palin spoke out upon her return to the governor’s office here, defending herself from a barrage of criticism that has been aimed at her from unnamed McCain aides ever since the McCain-Palin ticket was defeated Tuesday.
The McCain campaign aides complained about the $150,000 that the Republican National Committee had spent on Ms. Palin’s clothes, the way a Canadian comedian was able to embarrass the campaign by calling her and pretending to be the president of France, and the political ambitions she seemed to harbor beyond 2008.
By the end of the week, their complaints had escalated considerably, with Fox News quoting unnamed McCain campaign officials as saying that Ms. Palin had not known that Africa was a continent, not a country, and claiming that she did not know which countries were covered by the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Ms. Palin told reporters in Alaska that the anonymous criticism was “cowardly,” and that she had discussed the campaign’s position on Nafta at her debate prep sessions.
“I remember having a discussion with a couple of debate preppers,” she said. “So if it came from one of those debate preppers, you know, that’s curious. But having a discussion about Nafta — not, ‘Oh my goodness, I don’t know who is a part of Nafta.’ ”
“So, no, I think that if there are allegations based on questions or comments that I made in debate prep about Nafta, and about the continent versus the country when we talk about Africa there, then those were taken out of context,” Ms. Palin said. “And that’s cruel and it’s mean-spirited, it’s immature, it’s unprofessional, and those guys are jerks, if they came away with it taking things out of context and then tried to spread something on national news. It is not fair and not right.”
Ms. Palin fought back after the infighting had made its way up to Senator John McCain, who made it clear that that he was upset by the back and forth, and ordered his campaign workers to stop it, aides said. Some in the staff worried that questioning the qualifications of the woman Mr. McCain had chosen as his running mate was damaging his reputation.
Ms. Palin said that her experience made her realize how brutal national politics could be. And she had some pungent criticism of the national news media, saying that there had been some bad apples in the bunch.
“For the most part, absolutely, media persons, reporters, have been absolutely right on and there has been fairness and objectivity,” she said. “There have been some stinkers, though, who have kind of made the whole basket full of apples, once in a while, smell kind of bad.”
Senior McCain aides had moved to quell the divisions earlier in the day. Nicolle Wallace, a senior McCain campaign aide who worked with Ms. Palin, defended her Friday on NBC’s “Today.”
“She is perhaps the most un-diva politician I’ve ever seen,” Ms. Wallace said. “The only thing I’ve ever seen her ask for is a diet soda.”
Randy Scheunemann — a foreign policy adviser to the campaign who some factions claimed was fired in the final week, but others said had not been — said that some of the claims about her were false, and ultimately damaging to Mr. McCain.
“The people that are spreading these lies refuse to go on the record,” Mr. Scheunemann said. “They obviously have no loyalty to John McCain or to the person John McCain chose to be his vice president.”
'No clothes audit'
Ms. Palin initially brushed off the criticisms, but upon her return home decided to address them. She said that threats that the Republican National Committee would send lawyers to Alaska to audit the clothes they had bought her were false.
“There is no clothes audit, except for when the belly of the plane got cleaned out, all the piles of the clothes that they had in there, they wanted me at my house to go through it and box things up and send it,” Ms. Palin said during a brief interview in her Anchorage office.
“There’s no attorneys coming up, and there’s no need for it or anything else,” she said. “But that’ll be nice to have that chapter closed because, as I said from Day 1, I never have asked for anything. I’m not, I’m not keeping anything either.”
Mr. McCain has planned his first post-election television interview for Tuesday, when he will appear on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
When Ms. Palin was asked by an entertainment reporter if she would consider becoming a talk show host, she said, “I don’t have any idea of what the next chapter of life is going to open up into, and I look forward to just the surprises that life offers.”
William Yardley reported from Anchorage, and Michael Cooper from New York. Julie Bosman and Brian Stelter contributed reporting from New York.
This story, Palin Calls Critics Among McCain Aides ‘Jerks’, originally appeared in the New York Times.