Opinion: Palin and the price of Trump’s endorsement

By Rich Moniak

Two days after Sarah Palin entered the race to replace the late Rep. Don Young, Donald Trump gave her his “Complete and Total Endorsement.” But that doesn’t mean he’s judged her fitness to represent Alaska’s interests in Congress against the other 15 Republican candidates. It’s mostly about having confidence she’ll never criticize him in public.

Palin’s appeal to Trump begins with her endorsement of him for president 2016. Another thing he appreciates is the way she fights the mainstream media. In fact, they both filed defamation lawsuits about opinions published by the New York Times.

In February, the judge dismissed Palin’s case a day before the jury sided with the Times. She plans to file an appeal.

Trump believed he was libeled by a piece that suggested Russian President Vladimir Putin offered him “the quid of help in the campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy.” That case was dismissed last month.

Then on March 24, he filed a lawsuit against Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, five former FBI officials, and yet to be named “media companies.” He claims they were all part of a “scheme to find — or fabricate — proof of a sinister link between Donald J. Trump and Russia.” And it involved “hacking servers at Trump Tower, Trump’s private apartment, and, most alarmingly, the White House.”

The source of that last accusation is a Feb. 11 court filing by “Special Counsel John Durham, who has been heading a DOJ investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia conspiracy.”

Which brings me back to Palin. She owns SarahPalin.com, a website “that reports and comments on current events.” It published a story about Trump’s lawsuit on March 25. Oddly though, it no longer appears on the site’s pages which scroll through its headlines.

Perhaps that’s because between Feb. 13 and 17, they covered Durham’s court filing in five separate stories. And like the rest of the right-wing media learned, they’d gotten it wrong.

Durham has been on the case since 2018. The court filing in question relates to the upcoming trial of one of the two individuals indicted for lying to the FBI. It stated government evidence will be presented showing individuals “exploited … domain name system (“DNS”) Internet traffic pertaining to (i) a particular healthcare provider, (ii) Trump Tower, (iii) Donald Trump’s Central Park West apartment building, and (iv) the Executive Office of the President of the United States.”

That line set off a firestorm at Fox News and the rest of the rightwing media. Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, tweeted “They spied on Donald Trump as sitting President of the United States.”

One of the articles that SarahPalin.com published leads with “bombshell allegations” that Clinton’s “campaign paid a tech company to infiltrate servers at the White House and Trump Tower in order to commit treason and spy on President Donald Trump.” Another one reported Trump’s statement that Durham’s filing provided “indisputable evidence that my campaign and presidency were spied on by operatives paid by the Hillary Clinton Campaign. … In a stronger period of time in our country, this crime would have been punishable by death.”

After a factcheck by Lead Stories, SarahPalin.com updated two of their stories with a notation that reads “Special Counsel Did Not Say Clinton Paid Tech Boss To ‘Infiltrate’ Trump Tower And White House Servers.” But no correction has been added to the first story mentioned in the above paragraph.

Lead Stories and other factcheckers also determined that Durham’s reference to the “Executive Office of the President” was while Barack Obama occupied the White House. But SarahPalin.com hasn’t annotated Trump’s statement to say it’s not true.

That’s the short version of a very long story.

The gist of it all is Trump’s lawsuit once again shows how little regard he has for the truth. And apparently, it’s also not high among Palin’s journalistic ethics.

Although SarahPaln.com is small potatoes in the right-wing media, that doesn’t make her any less responsible than the New York Times for the inaccuracies and false statements it publishes. But she probably won’t correct the record now because Trump would likely withdraw his endorsement. And that would risk being sent back to the realm of political irrelevancy.

• Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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