MSNBC host Rachel Maddow recently portrayed Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as plagued by personal problems and, on at least one high-profile issue, isolated politically.
After running through the Palins' various family troubles, Maddow said on her April 6, 2009 show:
"And [it's] not just the personal stuff. Gov. Palin stumbled through the stimulus fight, rejecting federal money for Alaska before backtracking and taking it. Last week, she got precisely zero support for her call for Alaska's Democratic Senator Mark Begich to resign because Ted Stevens' corruption conviction was overturned."
It was that "precisely zero" that caught our attention. It so efficiently painted Palin as out of step politically with her fellow Alaskans.
A little context: Stevens, a longtime Republican senator from Alaska, was convicted in October 2008 for omitting from his Senate financial disclosure forms free work done on his house by an oil-field services company. Days later, the 85-year-old narrowly lost his re-election bid to former Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a Democrat.
Then on April 1, 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the government would move to dismiss Stevens' indictment, citing several instances of Justice Department prosecutors withholding evidence that should have been provided to the defense.
A day later, Palin did indeed endorse the idea of Begich resigning so the state could have a do-over of sorts.
But did Palin get "precisely zero support" for the idea?
No. In fact, it wasn't even her idea in the first place. It was the Alaska Republican Party that suggested it.
"The only reason Mark Begich won the election in November is because a few thousand Alaskans thought that Senator Ted Stevens was guilty of seven felonies," the party said in a press release on April 2, 2009. "A special election will allow Alaskans to have a real, nonbiased, credible process where the most qualified person could win, without the manipulation of the Department of Justice."
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner then contacted Palin, who has often been at odds with Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich, to ask what she thought of the idea. (Palin had called on Stevens to resign following his conviction in October.)
"I absolutely agree," she responded to the paper by e-mail. "This drastic change in circumstances, wherein truth is finally being revealed, leads me to support the call for a special, fair election."
Later, in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News, Palin seemed to backtrack somewhat, saying she did not want to "split hairs" on whether Begich should resign but that she agrees with the call for a special election.
No one in Alaska's three-person congressional delegation — made up of Begich and two Republicans — supported the calls for Begich to resign and a special election to be held, the Anchorage Daily News and the political news site Hotline reported on April 3, 2009.
But the idea was pushed by Randy Ruedrich, the state Republican chairman who first proposed it, and it was backed by conservative blogs. (Remember, Maddow said there was "precisely zero" support.) ConservativeHQ.com, for example, sent out an e-mail alert saying, "The people of Alaska, and all Americans, must rise up and demand that Mark Begich resign."
Wev Shea, a former U.S. attorney now in private practice in Anchorage, did not specifically call on Begich to resign but he endorsed the idea of a special election and told the New York Times, "There’s a groundswell all over the state for a special election."
So Maddow left her viewers with two incorrect impressions — that Palin had initiated the idea for Begich's resignation, and that no one else supported her. In fact, it wasn't Palin's idea, and she wasn't particularly wedded to it, and others supported it. We find Maddow's claim False.