Sarah Palin: Book Censorship?

MOST OF YOU know there’s a rumor going around that Sarah Palin — John McCain’s Vice Presidential running mate — is not only a creationist who wants creationism taught along with the theory of evolution, but that she also attempted to ban books from her local library, including Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species.

We’ve previously looked into the creationism story, concluding that whatever Sarah’s personal views may be on that subject, she’s never made any attempt to impose such views on the schools in Alaska. Our earlier articles on Sarah Palin and her creationism can be found here: Curmudgeon’s articles on Politics and Science.

So what about the censorship rumors? Reports about such behavior are everywhere. For example, in the Anchorage Daily News we read Palin pressured Wasilla librarian:

Back in 1996, when she first became mayor, Sarah Palin asked the city librarian if she would be all right with censoring library books should she be asked to do so.

According to news coverage at the time, the librarian said she would definitely not be all right with it. A few months later, the librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, got a letter from Palin telling her she was going to be fired. The censorship issue was not mentioned as a reason for the firing. The letter just said the new mayor felt Emmons didn’t fully support her and had to go.

Emmons had been city librarian for seven years and was well liked. After a wave of public support for her, Palin relented and let Emmons keep her job.

That’s the story making the rounds. It includes this:

In December 1996, Emmons told her hometown newspaper, the Frontiersman, that Palin three times asked her — starting before she was sworn in — about possibly removing objectionable books from the library if the need arose.

Okay, here’s the report in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman : Palin: Library censorship inquiries ‘Rhetorical’. The paper notes that this is a re-print of what they published in Dec. 18, 1996:

In the wake of strong reactions from the city’s library director to inquiries about censorship, Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin on Monday was taking pains to explain her questions about censoring library material were “rhetorical.”

They quote Sarah as having made this response:

“All questions posed to Wasilla’s library director were asked in the context of professionalism regarding the library policy that is in place in our city. Obviously the issue of censorship is a library question… you ask a library director that type of question,” Palin said

Is that all there is? No, there’s more. The Anchorage Daily News story we quoted from earlier also mentions one Anne Kilkenny, a Wasilla housewife who often attends city council meetings. (We know the type.) She, it seems, has authored an email which is making the rounds.

In the St. Petersburg Times we read: E-mail on Sarah Palin grabs spotlight. Excerpts:

The first draft of Anne Kilkenny’s e-mail went to her mother in California. Then she sent it out to a few dozen friends and family members, many “in the lower 48.” That was Sunday.

Today, Kilkenny’s words, the observations of a Wasilla, Alaska, homemaker who remembers Gov. Sarah Palin when she was mayor, have circled the globe. The letter is posted on a thousand Web sites. It’s being cited in countless blogs and e-mails.

Ah yes, it started out quite innocently, as a private letter to her mother. Of course. And now:

Kilkenny, 57, has been quoted on the front page of the New York Times. She has been interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, four British papers, L’Express from France and Der Spiegel from Germany, to name just a few. She has gone on TV with ABC and NBC and CNN, which spent four hours at her house yesterday. She has spoken with National Public Radio.

One minute Kilkenny is so bored with her life that she’s hanging out at city council meetings for excitement. Now she’s an international sensation. Sounds like a humdrum housewife’s dream come true. But wait, there’s more:

Kilkenny was part of the insurgency that saved the librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, from dismissal by Palin, who had asked for Emmons’ resignation, according to news accounts at the time. Palin relented after a public uprising.

An insurgency! How heroic! All those endless hours of sitting around watching the sewer director presenting his reports at city commission meetings, and now — glory! Continuing:

At the top of the e-mail, Kilkenny told friends they should feel free to distribute the e-mail to friends. But, she asked, “please do not post it on any websites as there are too many kooks out there.”

Ah, such modesty! Surely this woman has earned our credibility. Oh, get this:

Kilkenny, a Democrat, said she does not share Palin’s political point of view.

Really? We’re shocked. Shocked!

What about Sarah’s attempting to censor Darwin’s work? We can’t find a reference in the source articles. Presumably, that juicy detail has been added by later enthusiasts as they merrily blog the story. This may come as a surprise to some of you, but bloggers sometimes get carried away. Really, it happens.

Reason Magazine has been Tracking the Palin Rumors, and they’ve identified a bogus list of books that Sarah attempted to ban.

As you may have guessed, we’re skeptical of this censorship story. But we’re concerned about it — especially as it may apply to scientific works. We’ll be keeping our eyes open.

[Our related articles are here: Sarah Palin & Creationism.]

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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2 responses to “Sarah Palin: Book Censorship?

  1. Good PI work. My questions:

    Why did she ask the librarian the “rhetorical” question?

    What were they talking about that inspired this question?

    Did she just ask it “out of the blue”?

    Are there minutes to the city council meeting?

    Where are they?

    I know the “LISTof BOOKS” is made up – but I’m not convinced that she wasn’t trying to get rid of some books.

  2. Good questions. The record certainly seems sketchy. Whatever was going on, nothing came of it. The whole story is going to come out. It’s too interesting to die.