April 13th, 2009
08:58 AM ET
13 years ago

Journos: Statement by Palin rep fueled Johnston-Palin coverage

WASHINGTON (CNN) – A recent statement by a spokesperson for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin only served to fuel the media’s coverage of the ongoing feud between Palin’s family and that of Levi Johnston, the father of Palin’s infant grandson and the ex-fiance of Palin’s teenage daughter, two journalists said Sunday.

The feud reached a new level when Levi Johnston, joined by his mother and his sister, sat down for interviews early last week in a media tour designed to dispel several rumors about the family that the Johnstons said were false.

After an appearance Monday on the Tyra Banks show where the young father said he had lived at Gov. Palin’s home while Palin’s daughter, Bristol, was pregnant with the teenage couple’s child and soon after the baby’s birth, a spokesman for the governor said Levi Johnston had lied in the interview.

In a later interview on CBS’ morning show, the young father struck back, sharply refuting the Palins' claim he was lying about being permitted to live with his onetime fiancé and suggesting the Palin family is now essentially treating him as an outcast.

Rather than quell the media frenzy surrounding the break-up of the two teenagers and subsequent feuding between their respective clans, the statement on Palin’s behalf only served to add fuel to the media fire, two journalists said Sunday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

“Did the governor, you know, boost the ratings of these programs by blowing it up into this big public family feud?,” CNN’s Howard Kurtz asked journalists Deborah Norville and Amy Argetsinger.

“I think there is no question,” Norville, the host of “Inside Edition,” said. “Because when an elected official who was campaigning for the second highest office in the land issues a statement, we’re obligated in the news media to pay attention.”

Argetsinger, who writes for the Washington Post, agreed. “I don’t think anyone was particularly interested in talking to Levi Johnston after the Tyra show,” observed Argetsinger. “But she (Palin) called him a liar, which opened up the door to going back and getting his response. She created the day two, day three story, really.”

Soon after being named as Republican Sen. John McCain’s running mate last fall, Palin revealed that her unmarried teenage daughter, Bristol, was pregnant with Johnston’s child. Johnston joined the Palin family at the Republican National Convention.

The two teenagers had plans to marry but, instead, their relationship ended after the birth of their son, Tripp.

Johnston and his family said in interviews last week that Johnston is permitted to visit with his son at the Palin home but is not permitted to take the child away from the home.

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