Sarah Palin’s war on the media continues?
The woman who once called on the press to “quit makin’ things up” took it a step further yesterday by allegedly banning four members of the media from a book event in Wasilla, Alaska.
On a four-person “banned list” — yes, that term was actually used by police — were a blogger, a videographer, a local radio host, and another person who hasn’t been identified. TPMmuckraker reached two of the four by phone in Alaska this morning. Here’s what happened.
A bit before 11 a.m., Dennis Zaki and Jesse Griffin drove up to the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center in Wasilla, planning to talk to the Palin diehards and get some footage. “I kind of thought it would be relatively boring,” says Griffin, who writes the Immoral Minority blog.
When they arrived, they entered the arena with a crowd of about 1,000, some of whom were holding as many as five copies of Going Rogue. Zaki, who formerly ran the news blog Alaska Report and is now a freelance videographer, saw a sign directing media to check in. When he got to the small ticket office, and a man asked him for ID, he immediately knew something was up.
“This guy picked out my auto license, which is way odd for Alaska — nothing like this happens in Alaska,” says Zaki, who has covered Palin events for years. Then the man “hops on his walkie talkie and calls someone else.” At that moment, Zaki glanced behind the man and noticed the zoom lens of a small silver digital camera coming out toward him. A woman had snapped his picture.
“I was shocked — that hadn’t happened to me even at an Obama event,” Zaki says. “So I thought, oh geez, what’s going on?”
The Wasilla official who runs the arena, Recreation and Cultural Services Manager James Hastings, came down from the upper level, where Palin was signing books, and approached Zaki — “Dennis, can I talk to you?”
Meanwhile, Griffin had approached the ticket office and also had his picture taken. When he turned around after writing his name in a book, a Wasilla police officer in full uniform was waiting to escort him out of the building. “‘The banned list’ was the term that was used a couple different times,” Griffin tells us.
“When I turned back to talk to Dennis” — Griffin’s ride home — “the officer put his hand on my shoulder and told me to keep going toward the exit,” he says.
“They were anxious to get us out the door quickly. I guess they felt like they were going to have some kind of unseemly incident,” says Griffin, who wrote about the experience on his blog. “But that certainly wasn’t going to happen.”
Zaki says Hastings told him that because it was a paid event — in which Palin or her publisher, HarperCollins, paid for the police, the food, etc. — they could ban anyone they wanted. He also told Zaki that the banned list had photos of the four people on it: Zaki, Griffin, local radio host and prominent Palin critic Shannyn Moore, and one other name.
Zaki tells us that in the past he has only put out videos with straight footage of Palin’s speeches, no commentary included.
“It all went down so fast. I was just in shock,” he says.
Hastings told the Anchorage Daily News that “it wasn’t in his (Zaki’s) best interest to be here. He and others could have found themselves in a negative situation.” But Zaki tells us he’s covered plenty “of these tea bagging events and nobody does anything.”
Tina Andreadis, a spokeswoman for Harper, tells TPMmuckraker that the company did rent out the arena and hired security for crowd control, as is routine. But Harper had no role in running the event, and no Harper personnel were sent to Wasilla.
Here’s video of the event. Around the time that Palin peers over the balcony and the crowd roars, Zaki and Griffin were being shown the door.
(This story has been revised to include comment from Harper.)
Late Update: Zaki tells us that “shadow governor” Todd Palin was behind the banned list.