After investigative author Joe McGinniss, who's researching a book about Sarah Palin, rented the house right next door to the former Alaska governor's residence in Wasillla, Palin took to Facebook to send him a chilly "Welcome, Neighbor!" note. Palin asks McGinniss "what kind of material" he expects to get from "overlooking" her 9-year-old daughter's window; meanwhile, Glenn Beck has accused McGinniss of "stalking" Palin. Just who is Palin's new "neighbor from hell"?
Who is Joe McGinniss?
A sometimes-controversial writer best known for political nonfiction and "true crime" books. His first book, 1969's The Selling of the President, about the marketing of Richard Nixon, made him, at 26, the youngest author to hit the New York Times bestseller list. He famously forfeited a $1 million advance to report on the O.J. Simpson case, after sitting through the trial and declaring it a farce.
What's his Palin book about?
According to publisher Broadway Books, an imprint of Random House, the book (working title: Sarah Palin's Year of Living Dangerously) is an "investigative narrative of Sarah Palin's significance as both political and cultural phenomenon and as an embodiment of the contradictory forces that shaped Alaska as it moved into its second half-century as a state."
Has McGinniss written about Palin before?
Yes. In "Pipe Dreams," his April 2009 article in Condé Nast's Portfolio, McGinniss paints a picture of the Alaska governer as a self-serving politician who both promoted and blocked a $40 billion natural-gas pipeline project: "Sarah Palin had been a bare-knuckle backwoods populist," he wrote, "who’d built a career out of puffing up dragons she could then slay."
Is he "stalking" Palin?
It depends on who you ask. Many commentators agree with Beck that renting a house 15 feet away from the Palins' lakeside property is a "really creepy" intrusion on Palin's privacy. Others say Palin is over-reacting, or even invading McGinniss' privacy. "No one in the media should reward Palin for this irresponsible and pathetic bullying," says The Washington Post's David Weigel. "Politicians don't have veto power over who gets to write about them, or how they research their stories, as long as they're within the bounds of the law." It's worth noting that McGinniss also bid about $59,999 in a 2009 eBay charity auction to have dinner with Palin, purportedly to "kick off the reporting" for his Palin book; he lost (or was frozen out, say some) to Palin "advocate" Cathy Maples.
Has McGinniss responded to Palin's "welcome" note?
Not directly. Random House pointed out that McGinniss has a long history with the state, noting his "classic book about Alaska" Going to Extremes (1980), and promised Palin that "McGinniss will be highly respectful of his subject's privacy as he investigates her public activities." McGinniss' son, Joe McGinniss, Jr., also replied to Palin's note with a statement (taken at face value by some conservative commentators) that his father was just following his heart: "He's convinced that Todd will step aside and when the time is right, he'll be there, right next door, to pick up the pieces."