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Did Sarah Palin Lie About Her Pregnancy? A New Investigation Re-Opens The Question

By Rebecca Odes |

Sarah Palin not looking very pregnant

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.

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About Rebecca Odes


Rebecca Odes

Rebecca Odes is a writer, artist and mother. She was inspired to write her blog, From The Hips, during her first pregnancy when she discovered every pregnancy book she came across made her feel anxious or irritated. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

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0 thoughts on “Did Sarah Palin Lie About Her Pregnancy? A New Investigation Re-Opens The Question

  1. GP says:

    uhm, who cares?

  2. Diera says:

    I detest Sarah Palin, but I still think that this story should be left alone. Even if true, it’s not evidence of some kind of immorality on Palin’s part, and frankly I think it’s beneath all of us to be scrutinizing pictures of her abdomen. As far as I’m concerned, there’s plenty to object to in her political views, I don’t need to go digging through her reproductive history.

    However, I did want to say one thing; it’s not *that* rare for a younger mother to give birth to a baby with Down syndrome. 50%-75% (I found different statistics in different places) of babies with the syndrome are born to mothers younger than 35, because although their individual risk is much lower, there are also many more women having babies before 35. I don’t know what the risk for teenagers specifically is, but the risk for a mother under 25 is given as 1 in 1250. Certainly much, much lower than the risk for a woman in her forties, but it still happens.

  3. ChiLaura says:

    Hate to ask an obvious question, but how the heck do you explain Tripp’s birth, then? Did Bristol have 2 babies months apart? Is Tripp not really Bristol’s? Is Tripp Bristol’s, but Trig belongs to Willow?
    I don’t understand this “debate.” It’s just craziness. Aren’t you a little bit ashamed that you even wrote this? Tabloid, at best.

  4. Rebecca Odes says:

    @ChiLaura- I think the way the rumor was handled and the relationship of this controversy to the Obama one are both interesting topics. I also made it clear that I think the theory is problematic on a number of levels, including the ones @Diera raised.

    Re: Tripp, I think the theory is that the timing of his birth was adjusted.

  5. Angela says:

    Gotta agree with Deira here. If it’s true I’ll think she’s a moron who shouldn’t be trusted and if it’s not, well my opinion is the same.

  6. ChiLaura says:

    Eh, I’ll start worrying about this when Trig runs for president. Or Sarah. =)
    Although, even if Sarah weren’t Trig’s real mom, at least there’s no question of him being born in Kenya.

  7. Sara says:

    I think the other theory was that Sarah had two daughters that were old enough to be parents

    The only thing about her pregnancy that bothers me is the story of her childbirth. Why would someone who knew they were in labor with a special needs child
    A. get on a plane when they were in labor, muchless a 20 hour ride
    B. travel when they were so close to their due date
    C. give birth in a hospital that didn’t have the facilities to care for a special needs child who has a condition that is known for heart problems.

    I think that either the child wasn’t hers or she knowingly put her disabled unborn child at risk in hopes that he wouldn’t make it if he had severe health problems. I think the second is more plausible.

  8. Sara says:

    Oh, and it’s far more likely that the child wasn’t hers than Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii.

  9. Northeast Elizabeth says:

    I agree the media should push HARD on the Trig story. Why? Because ultimately, Sarah Palin WILL post an original, long-form birth certificate for Trig identifying the delivering physician and birth hospital. And that will force Obama to post his 1961 original typewritten birth certificate, which he CAN’T. GO SARAH!!

  10. goddess says:

    Don’t like her at all, but this is a non-story to me. Who cares?

  11. Linda, the original one says:

    I can’t stand S.P. but I sincerely don’t give a flying ****. :)

  12. Amanda says:

    I guess there are “birthers” on the right AND on the left!

  13. Sarah's Foe says:

    I think the real issue here is calling Palin on her own hypocracy….If she is going to be making baseless comments about Obama’s birth certificate then she needs to open herself up to the same scrutiny. She has the choice to leave public life and all of this will go away!

  14. Sarah's Foe says:

    Northeast Elizabeth – what in the Heck is a “long form” birth certificate???? Obama has a passport…he needed his bc to get the passport….oh forget it – it’s all too complicated for you to understand anyway!

  15. Throw Bristol under the Bus says:

    It’s important if it’s true because she lied and used the child as a prop to sure up her pro-life credibility. She actually posed for a magazine with her daughter under the title “We Chose Life”. I don’t understand how people say it doesn’t matter. This woman is toying with the idea of running for President. If it’s not true, why doesn’t she prove it? Why doesn’t she give her doctor permission to confirm the birth? Does she want the controversy (any press is good press) or does she have something to hide? She loves to prove the left wrong on everything except this issue.

    If she had kept the baby out of the limelight, I would say it mattered less, but she has used the child politically. She has made money off of sharing the ever-changing story of his birth. Her daughter has made money off of her pregnancy. Should she be a poster child for abstinence if she’s had two babies?

    Also, why doesn’t she clear this all up so people will stop talking about her daughter? If Bristol didn’t have the baby, why not prove it and get her name out of the tabloids? She threw her under the bus when the rumor first came out and she’s doing it again. If there were wild rumors out there about my daughter and I could easily prove them wrong with a birth certificate or by giving the doctor or hospital the permission to say they were present at the birth I’d do it in a heartbeat. Instead Palin leaves her daughter and her reputation out there flying in the breeze. Why? I also find it hard to believe that she wouldn’t love to prove all the Trig truthers wrong. Is she really overlooking the chance to give liberals haters the finger? Why?

  16. drpatois says:

    Since you are suppose to be one of the top parenting sites I would think you would be more accurate in your statements as opposed to asserting someone pulled something out of their ass. Really?
    “HOWEVER (we can go round and round on this) the majority of Down babies are born to low risk young women, because young women have far more babies than older women. So it is very difficult to say that a young woman does not need to have nuchal translucency measured. And most obstetrical providers are obtaining triple screens on all pregnant women regardless of their risk category.”

    And she did not “just fly” toward the end of her pregnancy. A 44 year old, multiparous, Governor, carrying a fetus known to have down syndrome and likely heart issues, who by her own accounts, had her membranes rupture 4 or 5 weeks** prior to her due date, began contractions and instead of seeing a physician chose to travel from Dallas to Seattle, layover in Seattle, fly from Seattle to Anchorage and then drive from Anchorage to the Mat-Su Valley **(which has no NICU) because you can’t have a fish picker from Texas. Really.
    **these depend on which version of her story in her words you want to believe.

  17. Rationalist says:

    I would argue that the real story is the unwillingness of the press to investigate the bizarre claims of a vice presidential candidate because of…squeamishness? Not wanting to look like Birthers? The press did not do what they are supposed to do: ask questions so the public can better understand the candidates they are being asked to vote for.

    If Palin had adopted Trig – for whatever reasons – and kept the matter private, it would be no one’s business. But to pretend to be pregnant in sight of the Alaskan public, her staff, etc. is really strange. And to go on to tell, in detail, an elaborate story of deciding to go through with the pregnancy, going into labor in texas, worrying about the birth etc. She has invoked the story hundreds of times.

    If this rumor is true, then that says something about her that I as a voter think is significant.

    Voters had questions about Obama’s birth certificate. Fair enough. He was asked for it and he provided it.

    Granted, it’s not a constitutional issue whether Palin gave birth to Trig. It matters because she’s made carrying a child with Down Syndrome to term a cornerstone of her political appeal, and she continues to have a significant role in our national conversation, and may yet run for President.

    If Palin gave birth to Trig, it would be the easiest thing in the world to prove. No birth certificate necessary, long form or otherwise. An affidavit from her doctor. A verified ultrasound.

    Instead, her doctor spoke to a journalist with a lawyer present in 2008 and has refused all questions since. Instead, Palin offered her “about 5 months” pregnant teenage daughter to an international audience as proof Bristol wasn’t the mother of Trig. As proof, she responded, “do they want to see my stretch marks?”

    Why all the obfuscation? If someone asked me if my children were indeed born to me, I might be offended, but I could prove it in about three minutes.

  18. physicsmom says:

    I’d like to add a few comments:

    1) This story is not about Trig or Bristol, it is solely about Mrs. Palin. She is the one who may have perpetrated a hoax and her children are unfortunate collateral damage. That hasn’t seemed to stop her thus far.

    2) It doesn’t really matter who the bio mom is. Palin could have picked him up by the side of the road. It’s the fact that she FAKED a pregnancy to get sympathy and CRED with her base that is the problem. (If the baby were Bristol’s and she just adopted him, wouldn’t that have been good enough? No, it had to come from her body).

    3) Once she announced that she was pregnant, she started wearing scarves and leaving her jacket on inside. Now that everyone knows she is supposedly pregnant, she no longer needs to HIDE the fact. But she still tries to. Why? Because she’s trying to hide that she’s NOT pregnant.

    4) After her empathy belly finally arrives, she looks properly pregnant (after April 13). Remember anyone can LOOK pregnant (as in the picture) who is not pregnant.

    5) It’s hard to point to one specific piece of evidence to prove the story true. No particular photo or statement fills in the blanks. It’s the preponderance of evidence that makes the hoax plausible.

    This is not an easy story to cover because it’s so complex to put together cogently. It is, however, easy to prove wrong. D-N-A. And it is important, as DrPatois explains above.

  19. physicsmom says:

    Oh, and I failed to add to no. 4 above: she didn’t wear the empathy belly on the plane (it’s uncomfortable), which is why the flight attendants didn’t notice.

    There was no danger to the baby, because there was NO baby.

  20. jenny tries too hard says:

    Physicsmom, congrats. In deciding that Trig is not necessarily Palin’s grandson, you’ve come up with the craziest conspiracy yet. So she went to all these lengths to fake a pregnancy, not necessarily to protect her daughter (who is rather unlikely to have conceived a child with DS and also unlikely to have given birth to two healthy, normal-sized babies 8 months apart) and her family’s image, but specifically to acquire a child with special needs to up her pro-life cred (when she was at that time hardly known at all outside of AK, was not immediately facing an election, and thus didn’t really have a huge “base” problem)…but didn’t think to fake a noncontroversial labor and delivery story or order her empathy belt before her fake pregnancy begins? She’s setting out to appeal to people who are allegedly so judgmental that adopting her daughter’s kid or another child isn’t good enough, but she doesn’t anticipate the shit-storm of judgment over her flight? More importantly, Sarah-stupid-Palin can plan things that far ahead? Sorry, physicsmom, but that’s about as far-fetched as the conspiracy theory that Obama’s mother, a teenager from 1960s Kansas who’d never left the States, flew to Kenya for the pleasure of giving birth surrounded by strangers in a foreign country in which she didn’t plan to raise her baby, and then his grandparents put an announcement in a Hawaii paper just in case they needed to make it look like he was born in the States someday. Just ridiculous. Human beings don’t behave that way, most of the time.

    Really, when Palin was first introduced as McCain’s running mate, in that nanosecond between her introduction and the announcement of Bristol’s pregnancy, the rumor seemed mildly plausible; it’s not unheard of for a teenager to let her mom raise her baby, though I do think it’s a little odd in this day and age to fake the pregnancy. But once you eliminate that, what possible motive could Palin have for faking a pregnancy? If she really did think she needed more pro-life cred (which is silly, by the way) wouldn’t it have made as much sense to adopt a child with special needs? Isn’t that one of the arguments that some people throw at pro-lifers—”Oh yeah? How many unwanted children have you adopted?” So, yeah…if there were some reason to believe that Trig were really Bristol’s or Willow’s (and there’s not—none of the photos of Bristol or Willow really have them appearing pregnant rather than chubby, and they were both in public school right before Trig was born, DS is a lot more likely in the pregnancy of a 43-year-old than a teen, and again Bristol had a big, healthy baby 8 months after Trig was born) it might’ve made sense. Beyond that, though…ridiculous.

  21. Lisa says:

    You know, you are just nutty.

  22. ChiLaura says:

    I think that we’re all missing the obvious: Levi Johnston has never outed SP as faking the pregnancy. If that lovely opportunist, whom the press loves when he goes about his Palin-bashing, hasn’t yet outed the “fake pregnancy,” then it hasn’t happened. (I’m only half-joking as I write this.) This is the conclusion my husband and I came up with last night.
    On a side note: Obama never has produced the long-form birth certificate, which is why the Obama-birther story is still going. (Though it may continue even if he did.) One theory is that his real name isn’t Barack Obama, but something like “Barry Soetoro,” the idea being that his name was changed when his stepfather adopted him, and he never bothered to change it back. The theory also says that this is why all his college and work records are sealed: they still say Barry Soetoro. *shrug* I don’t know, but I do find that one interesting and more plausible than the “not born here” strain of the argument. I probably just outed myself as a crazy conspiracy theorist…

  23. Humuhumunukunukuapua'a says:

    palin has more than enough negatives to justify her NEVER being elected to any position of governance again without this wacko theory seeing the light of day. promoting it only gives the birthers license to pursue their (sorry trig) retarded theories about obama.

    of course, her pathology is one of attention-whoring, so she’ll probably relish this last little bit of the media spotlight before she fades away into her wasilla mcmansion serviced by eskimo slaves.

  24. Northeast Elizabeth says:

    The “long form” certificate is the “Certificate of Live Birth” providing the name of the hospital, the signature of the delivering physician, the employment of the parents and other information. It’s the contemporaneous document upon which the “Certification of Live Birth” is based. The certification is merely an affidavit from current officials indicating that they looked at some OTHER document, in this case presumably the long form certificate. Which has never been released.

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