Thomas Van Flein says the version of Sarah Palin depicted in the HBO film “Game Change” “bears no semblance to reality.”
Van Flein, the former governor’s legal counsel during the so-called Troopergate imbroglio, should know. He had almost daily contact with Palin during a critical time in the 2008 presidential campaign, prepping her for the deposition she gave in October that year regarding the Troopergate charges.
“She was focused, diligent and completely involved. I wouldn’t have agreed for her deposition to go forward if she was depressed, fragile or emotionally distraught as portrayed in the movie,” he tells Big Hollywood.
That’s precisely the opposite of the “Game Change” Palin, a woman who appears alternately cruel and catatonic during the intense campaign.
Van Flein suggests it isn’t just his word against the sources relied upon to construct the film. Palin’s campaign plane had plenty of reporters on hand to cover the governor’s every move. Certainly a few members of the press would have dutifully reported a “catatonic” or over-stressed vice presidential candidate had they witnessed on, he says.
Talk about a scoop.
Van Flein’s association with Palin also introduced him to Steve Schmidt, the McCain/Palin campaign manager who provided HBO with much of its content. Schmidt was also one of the few people to talk on the record for the cable movie production, and his character emerges as the film’s hero.
The legal eagle recalls his less than positive first encounter with Schmidt, a phone conversation in which the campaign manager yelled repeatedly and used profanity in trying to access emails from Palin’s tenure as governor.
“I was troubled to learn he was the campaign manager,” says Van Flein, who ended up participating in several campaign conference calls featuring Schmidt.
“My impression was that the campaign was being run by someone who was in over his head and was too emotional to handle the pressure of a campaign was reinforced,” he recalls.
Palin’s lawyer helped navigate the governor through the Troopergate scandal, one of many aspects of Palin’s public life the film bungles.
“In reality, the Personnel Board issued a detailed report, based on thousands of emails, interviews and depositions, that completely cleared Governor Palin,” he says, noting the film employs dialogue to indicate the complete opposite. “The film creates a false narrative of what actually occurred. To market this film as fair and factual is remarkable.
Then again, HBO seemed disinterested in finding out the truth, if its source selection is any indication.
“HBO never tried to contact me or, as far as I know, the other Alaskans who where working with Governor Palin at the time,” he says. “The movie attempts to portray Governor Palin as a two dimensional left wing caricature.”