The Untold Truth Of Sarah Palin

It's been a long time coming, but Sarah Palin is finally back from the dead — the political dead, that is. When Alaska's only Congressional representative died in March this year, resulting in a special election, Palin grabbed the opportunity to represent Alaskans again, per NPR. If she won, it would be a return to form for Palin ever since she resigned from the governor's office in 2009. The preliminary election for the seat was held on August 16, and Palin was projected to land in second place with 31% of the vote, per FiveThirtyEight.

With Donald Trump's endorsement, the general election can be Palin's comeback moment, but arguably nothing will top the run she had as John McCain's vice presidential pick in 2008. It was then that she became a household name and was a boon for conservative politics. But she also earned infamy for her perceived lack of intellectual abilities and understanding of policies. A certain Katie Couric interview comes to mind (via Politico). That's all water under the bridge now as she looks to raise her political star again, but it's worth taking a look at the more untold, forgotten moments of her career. Read on for details you might have missed about Sarah Palin.

She was a basketball star in high school

Sarah Palin apparently did it all in high school. She was named Miss Congeniality in a beauty pageant and then came in second for "Miss Alaska," per Time. Maryline Blackburn, the winner who beat out Palin in the 1984 Miss Alaska pageant, said that the future governor was ultra-ambitious and maintained a competitive look in her eyes, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That account is echoed by another from hairdresser Diane Osborne, who said Palin was quiet and demure but suddenly transformed on stage, per The New York Times. But Palin was no princess: just ask her basketball teammates, who nicknamed her "Sarah Barracuda," per NBC Sports. She had the clutch factor as a point guard and once aced a free throw to put her team over the top during a state championship. It came with 30 seconds left in the game, making her a hero while earning mentions from local papers, as reported by NBC Sports.

In her senior year, she was the team's captain (per Time), and as someone who was brought up with a religious background, she led her team in pre-game prayers (as reported in The New York Times). As she got older, reminders of those early glory days were constantly there through her husband, Todd Palin, who she had dated since high school (per Time) and who she met during her basketball game trips.

She switched colleges five times

Sarah Palin had a peculiar college career and one that spanned five school transfers. Her college experience began at the University of Hawaii, which she attended with three friends, including basketball teammate Kim Ketchum, as reported by Slate. Their time there lasted for only a few weeks because of the bad weather, so she and Ketchum departed for the Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu, per the Seattle Times. But they only stayed there for their freshman year, and Palin transferred to Idaho, where she had been born. She spent two semesters at the North Idaho College and then at the University of Idaho, where she graduated after a detour at the Matanuska-Susitna College in Palmer, Alaska.

To many people, Palin's college-hopping may express a laissez-faire indecisiveness, but as it turns out, many Alaskans have similar stories. In fact, her father went to 10 colleges, per The New York Times. A combination of being short on money and a desperation to be out of Alaska creates the college-touring phenomenon among Alaskans. Her interests and majors ran from business administration to TV production to political science, but she ultimately got a degree in journalism, per Slate.

She wasn't afraid to fire people as mayor

Sarah Palin quickly made her presence known as mayor of the small Alaskan town of Wasilla in 1996. She began a series of firings, sending letters requesting resignations from the public works director and the finance director of the town, as reported by Anchorage Daily News. In addition, she eliminated a museum director title entirely, merging the position with the librarian, per Anchorage Daily News. But when it came to the librarian herself, along with the police chief, things were personal. The librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, and the police chief, Irl Stambaugh, had been hired by Palin's election adversary and former incumbent, John Stein. What's more, they publicly supported Stein over Palin. Palin told local news that she sent Emmons and Stambaugh, along with the other directors, letters to test their loyalty. Stambaugh responded to his firing with a lawsuit, per Newsweek. His case was dismissed, and he had to pay Palin $22,000 for legal fees.

Her testy exchange with Emmons, a well-liked librarian of seven years, didn't go over so well. Palin wanted a librarian who would be willing to ban books on command, but Emmons refused to take on the duty, per Anchorage Daily News. Emmons then received the letter — the so-called loyalty test — informing her that she would be fired. The news became public, and there was backlash. Emmons kept her job, and Palin reassured others that the book ban requests were merely "rhetorical," per The Frontiersman.

She tried to get her former brother-in-law fired during 'Troopergate'

The firings didn't end when Sarah Palin became governor of Alaska. One particular firing followed her all the way to the 2008 presidential ticket. The scandal was known as "Troopergate," and it was rooted in family drama. State trooper Mike Wooten was a high-ranking officer who had divorced Palin's sister, per Anchorage Daily News. Prior to Palin taking office, Wooten had been suspended after allegations that he tased his stepson, along with a slightly more Alaskan crime of shooting a moose. Palin also told investigators in 2005 that Wooten had threatened to kill their father, per The Washington Post. Her sister, Molly McCann, filed for divorce shortly after. But the suspension wasn't enough for Palin, according to Alaska's Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, and once she became governor, she wanted him fired. Monegan said that Palin and her husband, Todd, had spoken to him several times with the intent to get Wooten fired, a power that Monegan alone had.

Palin later fired Monegan in 2008, and he believed it was due to his failure to remove Wooten. The state legislature launched an investigation into Palin's actions on whether she abused her office, and it found that she had violated Alaska's Ethics Act. However, the probe also stated that it wasn't the driving factor behind Monegan's firing, according to ABC News. A second investigation by the state Personnel Board found her innocent of ethics violations, per The Seattle Times.

People thought Trig was Bristol's child

There have been a lot of dramatic moments in Sarah Palin's career, but none are as baffling as the conspiracies surrounding the birth of Trig Palin, who was born a few months before she was selected as John McCain's running mate. On April 18, 2008, Palin gave birth to Trig after having gone into labor 24 hours earlier, then giving a speech in Texas, before taking a 10-hour flight home, as reported by Business Insider

Witnesses who saw Palin prior to giving birth did not describe her as looking pregnant, while photos of Palin shortly before Trig was born showed a relatively flat stomach. What's more, Palin had publicly revealed she was pregnant only two months earlier. Her staffers were surprised at the news that seemingly came out of nowhere, especially since they didn't think she appeared pregnant. Palin later said she concealed her pregnancy to avoid a media circus. 

However, these circumstances became fodder for internet conspiracists, driving a theory that Palin was covering for her teenage daughter, Bristol. Bloggers phoned the hospital to confirm Trig's birth date and mother but were given no comment. Palin was frustrated by the rumor and was upset it was being tied to Bristol, according to The Washington Post. She released her medical records before Election Day, along with a statement from a doctor, but this did nothing to quell the conspiracy, per Business Insider.

John McCain regretted selecting her

Years after his campaign loss, John McCain felt the pain of regret — the regret of choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate. Or, more accurately, he wished he would have picked former Senator Joseph Lieberman instead, according to his book "The Restless Wave" (via The New York Times). He admitted that he betrayed his intuition and adhered to the advice of those around him, who feared that Lieberman's past affiliation with the Democratic party would hurt them. His regret reflected the consensus among his advisors, including Chief Strategist Steve Schmidt, according to The Washington Post. Although Schmidt conceded that Palin had a natural talent that could draw and entertain crowds, he believed she wasn't prepared and wasn't properly vetted. However, Schmidt wasn't afraid to indict her character and leadership potential, saying that he would be afraid of a Palin presidency, and felt guilty that he came close to allowing that to happen.

Of course, all of this has to hurt — especially since it came from the people responsible for making Palin a national star. Palin told the Daily Mail that McCain's comments were a "gut punch." But she wouldn't be Sarah Palin if she didn't throw some water on it. She added that the comments in McCain's book contradicted what he had personally told her and believed that a ghostwriter was mostly responsible.

She resigned as governor to avoid bankruptcy

Sarah Palin raised eyebrows across the Republican world when she decided to resign as governor before her term was over. It was 2009, a year after her whirlwind campaign as John McCain's running mate and 18 months before her term as governor was over, per The Guardian and ABC News. So naturally, people assumed that she was setting her sights on the presidency, although some believed that it was the wrong strategic move if she wanted to remain relevant. But not to worry, Palin had actually resigned for completely different, practical reasons: namely, she could no longer afford it.

The investigation into her firing of a public safety commissioner — otherwise known as "Troopergate" — proved costly, per New York Magazine. Along with other investigations run by resentful adversaries, as Palin described it (via ABC News), the legal bills amounted to some $500,000, and Palin thought it would have kept adding up unless she left office. And there was an additional factor that played into her abrupt retirement decision that the average Alaskan could appreciate: she didn't want to waste taxpayer money. If she had announced her decision not to run for a second term, she would have to live out the remaining months doing nothing while still collecting a paycheck. And Palin was no lame duck.

Her made-up word became the New Oxford American Dictionary's word of the year

In 2010, New York City was consumed by controversy over the planned construction of a mosque near Ground Zero, per ABC News. It became part of a national conversation, and Sarah Palin decided to weigh in, posting on Twitter: "Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn't it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate," (via HuffPost). The problem: "refudiate" wasn't a word recognized by the English language. She deleted the post, replaced the word with "refute," and then compared her error to William Shakespeare's habit of making up words (via Twitter).

Palin was widely mocked on social media and by media websites. Gawker began selling t-shirts and the hashtag #ShakesPalin started trending. But Palin got the last laugh, in a way. Her word was recognized by the New Oxford American Dictionary as their word of the year. They defined it as a combination of "refute" and "repudiate" and allowed that it could be understood as another word for "reject," per the Los Angeles Times. There was an underlying sensibility to the word, the dictionary editors argued, which shouldn't be surprising since she wasn't the first to confuse the words: "Refudiate" was found in writing from 1925, per NPR.

She might have been targeted by Anonymous

In 2010, when Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal halted payments to Wikileaks from the hackers group Anonymous, the hackers responded with denial of service attacks (DDoS) against them, per CBS News. The hacking blitz became known as Operation Payback, with Anonymous also going after anyone who was publicly against piracy, per The Guardian. This included Kiss bassist Gene Simmons, the Motion Picture Association of America, various music recording companies, and ... Sarah Palin. Her team announced that her political action committee website, her credit card, and her husband's credit card were all hacked, per the Los Angeles Times

Palin had once said that Julian Assange's crimes warranted the same scrutiny that U.S. officials paid to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Her comments, which were posted on her Facebook page, led her to believe she was vulnerable to Anonymous' attacks. She continued to make disparaging comments about the group after the incident and accused them of violating her free speech rights.

Palin had evidence on her side: her site was attacked with a "Lower Orbit Ion Cannon" (via The Atlantic), the same tool used against Anonymous' other confirmed targets, per BBC News. Her web developer also said that the hacker left a message confirming its Wikileaks ties, per The Atlantic. But not everyone bought the story. Some doubted the credit card hacks were committed by Anonymous since they hadn't done the same to Visa or Mastercard's customers. Additionally, Anonymous never took credit for the attacks against Palin.

She sued the New York Times for defamation

In 2011, a shooting rampage outside a Tuscon, Arizona supermarket killed six people and injured 13, including Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, according to History. The tragedy became national news, and at one point, Sarah Palin's name was thrown in the middle of it. During the previous election cycle, Palin's political action committee, SarahPAC, released a list of congressional district races that it planned to target with funding, per ABC News. The list came in the form of an image of a map with districts targeted beneath a crosshairs graphic, and one district was Gabby Giffords'. In its article about the shooting, "America's Lethal Politics," The New York Times accused Palin of inciting the shooting because of the crosshairs graphic on Giffords' district, per CNN. But there was no evidence that the shooter was inspired by Palin's ad and, in fact, his politics didn't match Palin's. He had been described as libertarian and socially liberal. The Times re-edited the sentence and issued a correction, along with a brief apology on Twitter. However, the mention of SarahPAC and the graphic remained in the article as examples of toxic politics.

Palin responded by suing the paper for defamation and sought $75,000 in damages, per CNN. Palin testified that although she had experienced hate mail and death threats before, they skyrocketed in the aftermath of this incident, as reported by CNN. The jury unanimously voted in the Times' favor, but only after the judge dismissed the case (via the Independent).

She's tried to form a media empire

When Sarah Palin resigned as Alaska's governor in 2009, people voluntarily threw her name into the presidential ring, assuming she was seeking higher office, per The Guardian. But no — Palin had set her sights on a different kind of career path: media domination. A year later, her reality show, "Sarah Palin's Alaska," aired on TLC and saw some short-lived popularity, per the Washington Post, though the show was on air for only one season, per Politico. She had a second stint with reality TV with the Sportsman Channel's "Amazing America with Sarah Palin," a form of travel show in which Palin spoke to outdoors types around America, who were partaking in extreme sports or other interesting activities.

In 2014, Palin launched the Sarah Palin Channel, a paid prescription internet channel for $9.95 a month, per Time. The channel was meant to act as an alternative to mainstream media and featured Palin in videos talking about policies, as well as what she thought were President Barack Obama's failures. Many videos gave insight into her political ideas, and a U.S. debt clock was also featured on the site. The channel was canceled after a year, and the videos were made available on her Facebook and her political action committee's website, per Variety. Palin's other media efforts included a regular Fox News contributor role and an appearance on "The Masked Singer," as detailed by Politico.

She found out her marriage was ending through an email

Sarah Palin discovered her husband wanted a divorce from their 31-year-long marriage in the most soul-crushing way: through an email, per NBC News. On June 19, 2019, Todd Palin's divorce attorney sent her an email out of nowhere, leaving Palin feeling as if she had "got shot." What's more, when her husband finally filed for divorce a few months later, it came soon after their wedding anniversary. Their subsequent counseling was doomed: Todd's reason for divorce was "incompatibility of temperament," per NBC news. The divorce was finalized in 2020, while Todd requested joint custody of their youngest child, Trig, per People. They had five children in total, most of whom had been in the public eye.

But if you think this was a sad ending for Palin's love life, then you'd be sorely mistaken. In April 2022, she confirmed her romance with former New York Ranger Ron Duguay during an interview with the New York Post. Although she called her divorce from long-time husband Todd "bizarre" and still shocking, she found comfort with Duguay, with whom she had been friends for a while.