Disgraced writer Joe McGinniss, who may have condemned an innocent man and stalked and smeared a former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee with lies that he himself admitted were based on no factual evidence whatsoever, died Monday.
However, the legacy media and the mainstream, establishment elements in the new media conveniently whitewashed most of that in lionizing a writer who was “one of them.” The late Andrew Breitbart blasted the media for the “outrageous” double standard and the lack of traditional criticism coming from them when it came to McGinniss, and the obituaries about him show that is true even after his death.
In 2011, Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Joel Pollak and Breitbart obtained an email that revealed McGinniss himself, after he moved next door to stalk Sarah Palin’s family for a “salacious” book he was writing about her, admitted that he lacked “proof” of his book’s “most headline-grabbing allegations.” That did not stop the mainstream media from publicizing McGinniss’s book, and it did not stop them from sweeping that lack of proof and sourcing under the rug upon his death.
In those emails, a panicked McGinniss asks one of his collaborators for any piece of evidence regarding the wild allegations he was making about Palin and her family:
Jesse, you can ridicule Sarah for calling in to the execrable Bob & Mark, but the fact is that as far as this story goes, there’s no there there. And rumors about what might come in weeks ahead are not facts. In fact, they’re garbage.
I’ve neither seen nor heard anything that indicates that Ms. Tripp’s story has any basis in fact. None of the endless crap Patrick posted about her before getting the boot from palingates.com offers any substantiation.
Neither from you, the Enquirer, AlaskaWTF, palingates.com or anyone else, have I seen a credible, identified source backing any of the salacious stories about the Palin family.
Thus – as Random House lawyers are already pointing out to me – nothing I can cite other than my own reporting rises above the level of tawdry gossip. The proof is always just around the corner, but that’s a corner nobody has been able to turn. Maybe Jeff Dunn has, in which case I’ll be the first to congratulate him. But frankly, at this point, I’m tired of it, and I’ve run out of time.
For any or all of those who’ve told you they’ll speak out, but not yet, now is the time. My book represents the last best chance to put the truth about Sarah in front of the American people in a documented, verifiable way. But I need facts that I can rely on. I didn’t live this long and work this hard over so many decades to wind up as AlaskaWTF between hard covers.
In its obituary, the Associated Press simply noted that “whether insisting on the guilt of a murder suspect after seemingly befriending him or moving next door to Sarah Palin’s house for a most unauthorized biography, McGinniss was unique in his determination to get the most inside information, in how publicly he burned bridges with his subjects and how memorably he placed himself in the narrative.”
Of his “salacious” smears about Palin, the AP wrote that the book “failed to sell many copies despite” them but does not mention that the book’s allegations were unproven and unfounded. TV Newser just notes that McGinniss in 2011 published a “biography” of Palin and that, during the writing of the book, McGinnis, “in an effort to get a closer look at the 2008 GOP VP nominee, rented a house next door to Palin’s in Wasilla, Alaska.”
The New York Times merely writes about the “sensational allegations” that McGinniss made about the Palin family without ever mentioning that McGinniss himself admitted he lacked evidence for them.
The mainstream press also swept aside arguably McGinniss’s most controversial episode in which he may have condemned and betrayed an innocent man who was found guilty of murdering his family. In his bestselling book Fatal Vision, McGinniss condemns “JefferyMacDonald, an Army doctor and a Green Beret accused of killing his pregnant wife and two daughters,” in what MacDonald believed was a betrayal after McGinniss lived with him and his defense team. The Associated Press notes that McGinniss paid a $325,000 out-of-court settlement to MacDonald but reveals few details about the incident, perhaps because it would reflect badly on him.
In an op-ed for Breitbart News in 2012, Sarah Palin wrote that Errol “Morris, an Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker whose past work was instrumental in freeing a man falsely convicted of murder, takes apart the key elements of the MacDonald case bit by bit:”
As the New York Times reviewer put it, “[Morris] will leave you 85 percent certain that Mr. MacDonald is innocent. He will leave you 100 percent certain he did not get a fair trial.” But how did we not hear about this sooner? The incompetent and corrupt manner in which this case was handled is outrageous. The errors are glaring. In order to comfortably be assured that MacDonald got a fair trial and is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” we have to forget a number of significant facts.
McGinniss’s book “actually embellished the prosecution’s case – even supplying a motive. According to McGinniss’ theory of the case, MacDonald secretly wanted to break free of his wife and kids, and so he murdered them one night in a fit of rage induced by some diet pills he was taking.”
But what was most disturbing is how Morris believes McGinniss may have come to that motive. Before he met MacDonald and started work on Fatal Vision, McGinniss published some of his diaries in his book Heroes, which was published in 1976:
JANUARY My book was number one. Great to be young and a Yankee. I came to town to do the Cavett show and I threw a party in my suite at the Warwick. Six months earlier, I had lain in front of a television set with my wife, watching the Cavett show, and it had seemed another world, light-years away. She had said maybe someday you’ll be on it, and I had said oh, don’t be silly, and I’d meant it. Now I had done Cavett, Carson, Griffin, and all the rest. I had debated the House minority leader, Gerald Ford, on the David Frost show, and, quite clearly, he had come out second best.
MAY And warm mellow weekends. Nancy’s two teen-age sisters came to visit. And brought another girl along. The five of us swam naked in the river. We traveled a lot: to the Caribbean, to the Kentucky Derby, to speeches I was making around the country. Then we came back and gave a party. We opened up the whole house and gave a party for sixty people on the weekend of the Preakness. It was marvelous. I was Gatsby. And the rest of my life would be a party. Except that my wife called often on the phone. She pleaded with me to return. There were long, stuttering silences filled with sorrow. And my mother called, and my father, and pleaded, too. And my dreams were bad. I dreamed of going back to my wife and finding her old and horribly wrinkled. And I dreamed terrible dreams about the maiming and destruction of my daughters.
Morris wrote of McGinniss’s diary entries:
But here’s a terrible irony. There is no evidence- despite McGinniss’s desperate efforts to find it- to suggest that Jeffrey MacDonald had “terrible dreams of the maiming and destruction of my daughters.” And there is evidence that Joe McGinniss did. He wrote about them in his diaries, and published them in 1976.
Palin wrote that she did not know for certain if MacDonald’s insistence that he was smeared were the “words of a murderer or an innocent man wrongfully convicted and then betrayed by a writer who lured the public into complacently accepting a false narrative.”
“I don’t know with 100 percent certainty,” Palin wrote. “But I do know from personal experience that McGinniss is a stone cold manipulative liar.”
After considerable research, Errol Morris describes McGinniss in a way in which he may be better remembered: “a craven and sloppy journalist who confabulated, lied, and betrayed while ostensibly telling a story about a man who confabulated, lied, and betrayed.”