Even false rumors can be revealing. It wasn't true that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was a secret Muslim, or that his wife hated white people, but the persistence of those claims in email chain letters, online comments and blog posts told you what a chunk of middle America feared, namely scary foreign terrorists in disguise. What to make, then, of the flood of conspiracy theories about Sarah Palin that are flooding the dark corners of the internet? We thought rumors about the Republican vice presidential candidate and her family were going to dry up last week, but since our last comprehensive factsheet they have just kept coming. There's some genuine scandal. But a fake pregnancy? Secret rehab stints? Maybe the Bush and Clinton years left the blue states dreading anyone who seems too country-fried. Or maybe the Palin's really do have this many skeletons in their closet! Trudge through the thickening swamp of Palin mud and decide for yourself, one rumor at a time, after the jump.
Track Palin joined the Army to avoid jail time for drugs or vandalism.
True? Unsubstantiated. Pops up without corroboration on message boards and in email chains.
Notable: The Palin hometown of Wasilla is considered the "meth capital of Alaska." There are rumors Track was one of three unnamed teenagers charged with vandalizing 44 school buses while drunk. None of this proves anything, but it makes it much more fun to speculate!
Why someone would make this up: Sarah Palin made Track's military service a key part of her address at the Republican National convention. If he's a delinquent, those comments were disingenuous, and some conservatives would wonder about Palin's parenting, particularly amid the simultaneous SCANDALOUS pregnancy of Palin's 17-year-old unwed daughter Bristol.
Levi Johnston was in court-ordered rehab.
True? Almost certainly false, considering someone enthusiastically emailed us this rumor — and swore up and down to its authenticity — just one day before Johnston appeared at the Republican National Convention.
Notable: Citing courtroom sources, our tipster said the rehab would immediately be followed by a shotgun wedding. A dash of truth makes any smear more believable!
Why someone would make this up: Would make Johnston's engagement to pregnant Bristol Palin seem seriously nutty and Sarah Palin foolish to allow it.
Todd Palin had affairs.
True? There is zero evidence for this. It's pure assertion.
Notable: A Wonkette tipster phrased it as "the first dude has a John Edwards problem times ten zillion."
Why someone would make this up: Because if Todd Palin is having affairs, it means his wife must be doing something wrong. If you're a conservative, you might argue she works too much and isn't performing her wifely duties or whatever. If you're a liberal, you might argue Todd Palin cheats because his wife shuts him out of sex because she doesn't use birth control (even though she probably DOES use birth control since, according to Time, she supports the use of birth control generally and belongs to a anti-abortion, pro-birth-control group).
Sarah Palin had an affair.
True? If you unquestioningly believe the National Enquirer, which alleged Sarah Palin had an affair with an unnamed business partner of her husband. Palin vigorously denied the report, and the Enquirer offered only a tepid backing of its story.
Notable: The tabloid promised more details, but hasn't yet delivered. Bloggers went after the divorce court records of one of Todd Palin's business associates, thinking maybe he was the guy the Enquirer was talking about, but the records proved barren.
Why someone would make this up: To trash Sarah Palin's judgement and character, obviously.
Sarah Palin had a different affair
True? Even less likely than the other alleged affair.
Notable: This rumor started when liberal bloggers noticed that the McCain campaign denied the one specific affair alleged by the Enquirer with one specific person. What if Sarah Palin was sleeping with someone else? Her denial doesn't apply to that! She could be sleeping with tons of people and having affairs left and right and we'd NEVER KNOW!!
Why someone would make this up: Because he is 1> bored and 2> still traumatized by Bill Clinton's narrowly-crafted denials of his hanky-panky 10 years ago.
Sarah Palin faked her pregnancy to cover up for her daughter having a love child
True? Still hotly contested. But the Times weighed in today with a story quoting witnesses in and adjacent to the delivery room, as well as state governors who were with Palin when she began leaking amniotic fluid at an event in Texas. Pretty strong case! Skeptics still wondered if this reporting could be trusted, noting how the Washington Post made a big error in a prior story like this. The doubters also still wonder how Palin hiked briskly around Juneau in high heels while seven months pregnant and how she was back at work three days after giving birth (see Times story).
Notable: Officially, Bristol Palin is five months pregnant, which would have to be a lie if she secretly gave birth in May and had the baby passed off as her mother's.
Why someone would make this up: Because it would show that Sarah Palin was secretly ashamed of her daughter's out-of-wedlock child before she decided she had to embrace it publicly. Also, TWO out-of-wedlock babies are maybe twice as bad as one?
Sarah Palin is racist! She said "Sambo beat the bitch!" when Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton.
True? The source on this is a supposed Aboriginal Alaskan waitress named "Lucille" interviewed by the LA Progressive, which also asserted Palin refers to Aboriginal people as "Arctic Arabs" and "fucking Eskimos."
Notable: No one else has interviewed this "Lucille."
Why someone would make this up: The vast majority of Americans have never met or even SEEN an Alaskan up close. They only know these strange pseudo-Americans live in a remote, desolate land and make their money fishing, working with oil and collecting checks from the federal government. In other words, they're rednecks. So what else are they going to do, as far as the elite lower 48 states are concerned, but sit around and be racist all the time?? We're READY to believe Sarah Palin is a big secret racist. So this might seem like an effective and cheap way to smear her. But many of her supporters might also be wary of politically-correct super-elites from the coasts falsely throwing around accusations of racism.
Sarah Palin is a rude, conniving bitch.
True? Well, a blog tipster tried to ask Sarah Palin whether she was supporting corrupt Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, and she totally dodged the question, like some kind of politician or something! Also, a widely-circulated letter from someone identifying herself as Anne Kilkenny of Wasilla, Alaska says Palin "has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help" and is known as "Sarah Barracuda." Juicy!
Notable: Ken Layne at Wonkette said Palin is like the "snarling evil god-obsessed nut who punished you constantly" in junior high but "your parents would never quite believe it because she 'seemed like a nice lady,' from a distance, with her squeaky voice."
Why someone would make this up: Because while Tina Fey will totally vote for a bitch, many voters find bitches threatening. Plus "evil bitch" is way different from "bitch on the side of angels."
Levi Johnston will not go through with his announced wedding to Bristol Palin.
True? This is from our tipster's friend's employee in Alaska, so it's airtight.
Notable: We were told Levi "is not marrying Bristol. He does not want to move to Washington. Sarah is going to abandon her daughter in Alaska... They tried to force a 18-year-old kid to marry. His parents balked. Then they said they are going to sue for child support... This is extortion."
Why someone would make this up: To make Sarah Palin look like a manipulative liar who created a sham marriage to shore up her political future.
Todd Palin is the new Hillary Clinton, wielding undue influence through his spouse.
True? Palin has been accused in a whisper campaign and even in the Times of London of lobbying on behalf of the oil industry, but his work is officially confined to a non-management role as a oil production operator and no reports provide specific information contradicting this. More troubling and substantiated are his ties to the investigation of a state trooper he and his wife wanted punished more severely than had originally been decided by the appropriate state authorities.
Notable: Todd Palin has already, perhaps inevitably, been compared to Hillary Clinton.
Why someone would make this up: Not clear, really. Vice presidents are usually pretty powerless, and it would be surprising if inexperienced Palin was an exception. The amount of damage Palin's husband could do, in turn, through inappropriate influence is miniscule.
Sarah Palin conceived her son Track before she was married
True? Unproven. It's been discussed on various random websites. Even if it's true, as repeatedly asserted, that Track Palin was born April 20, 1989, just under eight months after the Palin's eloped, it's possible the child was born premature.
Notable: Fox News commentator Alan Colmes likes this rumor: he floated it in a blog post. It's unclear if he verified Track's birthday on his own.
Why someone would make this up: To make Sarah Palin look immoral to social conservatives who look down on single mothers and children born out of wedlock.
Levi Johnston is a high school dropout.
True? Quite possibly. The Associated Press discovered he as not listed on his team roster for the 2008-2009 academic year. His mom wouldn't say if he graduated. "She said simply he's no longer a student and any further information would have to come from him."
Why someone would make this up: To tarnish Sarah Palin's character by making her daughter's choice of husband seem rash and foolish rather than noble.
Sarah Palin hired a sexual harasser as Alaska's top cop
True? Palin apologized for appointing as Department of Public Safety Commissioner Chuck Kopp, who had been issued a letter of reprimand by the City of Kenai for alleged sexual harassment. Kopp denied that charges, saying the incident amounted to a simple hug.
Notable: Kopp replaced Walt Monegan, whose firing by Palin was also controversial.
Why someone would make this up: Calls into question Palin's judgement and abilities as a government executive.