Was Sarah Palin’s campaign-era pregnancy a hoax? A new academic paper investigating the controversy says evidence points to yes. The rumor, in case you’ve blocked it out, was that Sarah Palin lied about being pregnant with her fifth child, Trig, to cover up her teenage daughter Bristol’s pregnancy. Though the question quickly fell from the public eye, for some (perhaps more for conspiracy theorists than others) it has never really gone away.
I don’t know if Professor Bradford Scharlott of Northern Kentucky University is himself a conspiracy theorist, but he’s certainly a guy with a lot of interest in this story, having written a nearly 30 page paper on the subject.
His research has led him to believe that 1. Sarah Palin is most likely Trig’s grandmother, not his mother and 2. The media really dropped the ball on this one, and we might want to think about why.
Here’s the evidence he cites:
1. The Palins said Sarah went into labor in Texas, then worked, gave a speech and took a 20-hour trip home, traveling on a commercial airline.
2. None of the flight attendants noticed that she was pregnant.
3. The press release did not include information about Trig’s birth, and the hospital where they later said he was born did not include him on the list of babies born there.
4. The hospital where Trig was reportedly born didn’t have the best NICU in the area,which would be relevant for the birth of a baby with Down Syndrome, at higher risk of complications.
5. Palin did not look pregnant. Her staff was shocked when she told them she was 7 months pregnant. And there are a number of pictures showing her looking quite svelte just weeks before the birth.
The hoax theory has resurfaced via an article in Business Insider (also published on Gawker), including excerpts from Scharlott’s paper and summing up his findings: “Scharlott concludes that, given that this hoax would be a massive fraud perpetrated on the entire country by a vice-presidential candidate, the media absolutely should have pursued the story more aggressively.” So why didn’t they? “One of Professor Scharlott’s theories, interestingly, is that conservatives have been extraordinarily effective at shaming anyone who has even brought up the matter, let alone investigated it. He notes how different this is than the Democrats ability to quell the other conspiracy theory that has obsessed the nation in recent years–the theory that President Obama was born in Kenya.”
I mean, I agree that some of these stories do seem a little fishy.It does seem unusual that a woman would take a 8-10 hour plane flight when in labor with her 5th child, but perhaps there are special dispensations for the governor of the state the airline is based in. It does seem unusual that flight attendants would not notice a woman who was so pregnant she was in fact in labor at the time (especially in first class, where flight attendants actually look at you). But hey, maybe they were Democrats. She really does look unusually small in the midsection, especially for a 5th pregnancy…but then, look what we’re doing here. Picking apart this woman’s body and the choices she made around the birth of her baby to try to prove her pregnancy out of existence. If another woman looked like that and really was pregnant, or gave birth in that hospital to a child with a disability, what does that say about her? Unusual does not mean impossible.
I like what Jill at Feministe has to say about the reopened can of worms: ”Just because someone flies while they’re at the end of their pregnancy or doesn’t “look pregnant” does not mean that their daughter gave birth and they passed the baby off as theirs (also, a teenage girl giving birth to a baby with Down syndrome is exceedingly rare, so if we’re comparing “evidence I pulled out of my ass,” put that down on “the baby is Sarah’s” side). But “All Palin would have had to do—then and now—to prove that she was Trig’s mother was, ironically, produce a birth certificate,” says Gawker. No. Nope. No. That didn’t work out so well with the Birthers, did it? Let’s not pretend that the people who are convinced that Trig Palin is really Bristol’s are so much more reasonable than the folks who think that Obama was born in Kenya. They are all a bunch of unreasonable people! And unreasonable people, by definition, cannot be reasoned with! So I can’t say I really blame the Palins for stonewalling and refusing to dignify this ridiculous conspiracy theory with “proof.” (Now if only they would behave with dignity about anything else).”
But then the inkling of conspiracy theorist in me wonders if that kind of moral high ground is what got this story swept under the rug in the first place.