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07.23.09

The Top 25 Sarah Palin Scandals

The governor's mansion isn't all she's leaving behind this weekend: There's Bristol and Levi, the Letterman spat, the $150K shopping spree, and more. The Daily Beast recounts the most memorable.

Only days after John McCain tapped the little-known Alaska governor as his running mate, Sarah Palin announced her teenage daughter was pregnant. Since that moment, the surprises have continued to arrive in a steady stream, culminating with Palin’s bombshell Fourth of July weekend announcement that she would be resigning as governor. Will she now retire to a quiet life bereft of scandal? Just in case, here are 25 we won’t soon forget.

Going Rogue

1) Barneys, Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus, Macy's—Palin visited them all during her fall campaign, and the Republican National Committee footed the bill for over $150,000 to clothe her in enviable outfits. A campaign aide described the shopping spree to Newsweek as "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast." Palin’s face got the luxe treatment as well—her makeup artist was the campaign’s highest-paid staffer in October.

2) Palin famously launched an attack on Obama for his association with former Weather Underground member William Ayers, saying at a rally that he was “pallin’ around with terrorists.” At the time, many wondered if Palin had “gone rogue,” but it was later revealed that the McCain campaign had signed off on the attack.

3) The Thrilla from Wasilla scandalized buttoned-down campaign gurus like Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter when she greeted them while wearing only a towel in her hotel room at the GOP convention in St. Paul.

Media Spotlight

4) Frequently accused of lacking intellectual curiosity, Palin sometimes didn’t help her own cause. One of the gaffes to come out of the governor's infamous September interview with Katie Couric was her inability to name a single newspaper she read regularly, prompting some to wonder: Does she read anything at all?

5) Another moment that did nothing to dispel such perceptions: "I can see Russia from my house!" OK, so that was Tina Fey was paraphrasing Palin on SNL. But the governor did cite Alaska’s proximity to Russia as evidence of her foreign-policy experience. "They're our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska," she told Couric.

6) Taking advantage of Palin’s apparent credulity, two Canadian radio pranksters called her up and pretended to be French President Nicolas Sarkozy. In an outrageous French accent, the man suggested Palin should be running for president. "Haha, maybe in eight years," she replied.

Bristolgate

7) Shortly after McCain announced her as his running mate, Palin, who supports abstinence-only sex education, made her own announcement: She was about to be a grandmother at 44, thanks to her teenage daughter, Bristol. But no worries, Palin assured us—Bristol would be marrying the father, Levi Johnston ( dubbed “Sex on Skates” by New York magazine), who was trotted out at the Republican National Convention in suit and tie. Despite this assurance, the young couple has since split.

8) Perhaps Levi wanted revenge after being made a marionette for the campaign. How else to explain his interview with CBS News, in which he stated that he had lived with the Palins while seeing Bristol, even as Palin told reporters, "It would be over my dead body that a kid would live with my teenage daughter." Levi also told Tyra Banks that the governor knew he was sleeping with Bristol before she got pregnant. “It is unfortunate that Levi finds it more appealing to exploit his previous relationship with Bristol than to contribute to the well being of the child,” Palin’s spokeswoman retorted.

9) Even Palin’s own daughter refused to stay on message. Bristol contradicted her mom’s abstinence-only stance in a televised interview, calling virginity until marriage “not realistic at all.” She later backpedaled, saying abstinence is the only sure way to prevent pregnancy—an assertion we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt on.

The First Dude

10) During the campaign, Palin liked to talk about small-town dwellers as representing “real America.” So when rumors began swirling that her husband, Todd, was a member of the Alaska Independence Party, which aims to have Alaska secede from the Union, it made “real America” seem a little nuts.

11) Not to be outdone, Palin’s in-laws managed to leave their marks, as well. Todd’s sister, Diana Palin, was indicted for burglary, theft, and trespassing related to three break-ins in April, one of which was allegedly aided and abetted by her 4-year-old daughter.

12) Recently, in a bombshell feature on Palin, Vanity Fair reported that she told the McCain campaign she and the First Dude went uninsured during their first years of their marriage—proof that they could empathize with Americans struggling to afford health insurance. Turns out, not so. Todd had catastrophic coverage all along, but Palin insisted to the campaign that the catastrophic coverage did not count and did not have to be mentioned to voters.

You’re Fired

13) Go back to California, Commie! To some, Palin came off as a vengeful, autocratic small-town mayor after Wasilla's police chief Irl Stambaugh said she fired him because he attempted to curb late-night drinking and the practice of carrying concealed guns.

14) Stambaugh wasn’t alone. Even before becoming McCain's running mate, Palin was under investigation for wrongfully firing Alaska's top law-enforcement official for refusing to fire her former brother-in-law, a state trooper. A state panel found her guilty of ethics violations in the “Troopergate” affair.

Skeletons in the Closet

15) Palin used public funds to acquire land to build a hockey rink in the town of Wasilla, where she was mayor. But she didn't sign the right paperwork, and Wasilla ended up on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to sort out the real-estate dispute.

16) Even in God’s house, Palin couldn’t escape scandal. Sitting in the pews of her Wasilla Bible Church on August 17, 2008, she dutifully listened to David Brickner, executive director of Jews for Jesus, say that terrorist attacks on Israelis were God's "judgment of unbelief" of Jews who haven't accepted Christianity.

17) Is it still hunting if you pick off your prey from a chopper? As governor, Palin instituted a program that paid wolf hunters $150 per kill—even if they shot from the comfort and safety of a helicopter. Environmental organizations charged that the practice was not only unfair, but illegal, because Alaska’s bounty laws had been repealed in the ‘80s. "The governor is overstepping her legal authority by offering cash payments for each wolf killed by aerial gunners," stated Tom Banks, Defenders of Wildlife's Alaska associate.

18) She was for it before she was against it. Accepting the Republican Party nomination for vice president, Palin described her distaste for pork by saying she did not want federal funding for the Ketchikan's Gravina Island Bridge. "I told Congress, thanks but no thanks on that bridge to nowhere." Except, she didn't. In 2006, she campaigned on a pledge to build that very same bridge while running for governor just two years earlier.

Back To Alaska

19) Gobble, gobble…gross. This past Thanksgiving, Palin participated in a ceremonial pardoning of a turkey, then proceeded to give a live television interview with a man grimly slaughtering the birds right behind her.

20) David Letterman incurred Palin’s wrath when he joked about her daughter getting pregnant. “Sarah Palin went to a Yankees game yesterday. There was one awkward moment during the seventh-inning stretch: Her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez,” he cracked. Palin shot back angrily, saying his comment disparaged women and created a culture that tolerated “statutory rape,” since it was 14-year-old Willow, not Bristol, who was at the game. Letterman eventually apologized for eight minutes on his show and asked Palin to come on a guest. “It would be wise to keep Willow away from David Letterman,” Palin said in her refusal on her Facebook page.

21) Palin found herself tripped up when nominating attorneys general. NRA Director Wayne Anthony Ross was rejected by state lawmakers in April, for, among other reasons, seeming to defend a man’s right to rape his wife and calling gays "immoral" and "degenerate."

22) Guess who’s not coming to dinner. Sarah Palin was originally scheduled to headline the GOP’s annual fundraising dinner before being replaced by Newt Gingrich. The slight left Palin so angry at fundraisers she originally said she wouldn’t attend the dinner at all. She eventually informed organizers she was showing up the afternoon of the event, but didn’t address the crowd.

Resignation Shocker

23) Palin surprised the nation when she announced her resignation on Fourth of July weekend, in what might have been an unsuccessful attempt to bury the shocking news. She said the state was wasting millions of dollars fielding frivolous ethics-violations inquiries, but some suspect her resignation is a strategic move to better her presidential prospects for 2012.

24) Sarah Palin's war with The New York Times heated up in July when the paper reported that her hairdresser, Jessica Steele, said the governor was under so much stress before resigning that her hair was thinning and she needed "emergency help." Steele took to Twitter to deny the story: "I am Sarah Palin's hairdresser in Alaska! The media is saying Sarah's hair is thinning this is a lie!!! I never said this and it's not true!" She added, "I have never spoken 2 Inside Edition or told any reporter at the NYTs that Sarah Palin's hair was thinning to the point of emergency! Liers! [sic]"

25) At least four more ethics complaints have been filed since Palin announced she would resign, bringing the grand total to 19. An independent investigator filed a complaint saying Palin’s fund to pay off her $500,000 legal fees violates state law. Palin said the complaint will “mislead the public and prejudice a fair review of this matter." Another complaint that Palin called “ridiculous” and “wasteful” on Twitter says the names of people who sent Palin gifts should be made public.