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Sarah Palin’s Library Issue is Now a Campaign Issue

The McCain campaign has released a memo addressing the controversy surrounding Sarah Palin’s involvement, or lack thereof, in a book banning crusade at the Wasilla Public Library.

“A vicious smear has spread across liberal outlets and blogs into the mainstream media…This smear is categorically false and has no basis in fact. It is an urban myth — nothing more.” says the memo.

A response to the memo on Truthdig highlights the fact that “the campaign’s 1,615-word memo on the subject indirectly supports the accusation. As Palin’s mayoral predecessor recalls, “She asked the library how she could go about banning book,” and though the campaign memo says “then-Mayor Palin never asked anyone to ban a book and not one book was ever banned, “

That doesn’t mean that the mayor didn’t ask if she could have books banned.

Here is the memo in its entirety:

TO: Interested Parties
RE: Smear Machine Rolls On: Governor Palin And Library Books

DATE: September 8, 2008

“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.” — Mayor Sarah Palin, December 16, 1996

Over the last two weeks, a vicious smear has spread across liberal outlets and blogs into the mainstream media that as the Mayor of Wasilla, Governor Palin banned several books from the Wasilla City Library. This smear is categorically false and has no basis in fact. It is an urban myth — nothing more. Then-Mayor Palin never asked anyone to ban a book and not one book was ever banned, period.

Please find the facts below:

· As Mayor, Palin never asked to ban a book and no books were ever banned from the Wasilla Library, period. According to the Chairwoman of the Alaska Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee since 1984, there are no records of any books being banned in Wasilla. As the Chairwoman told the Anchorage Daily News this month, she has no record or recollection of discussing threats of censorship with the Wasilla Library Director — who was also the President of the Alaska Library Association at the time.

· When first elected, Mayor Palin asked a rhetorical question of the Wasilla Library Director about the library’s book-challenge policy. It was a rhetorical question — nothing more. As Mayor Palin said at the time, she was merely asking questions about administration policies (the book-challenge policy being pertinent because of the local debate at the time) and that she had no materials in mind when she asked the questions. After these rhetorical questions, no other action was ever taken by her office.

· When Mayor Palin asked these rhetorical questions, Wasilla’s Library Director was working to update the city’s book-challenge policy, and these issues were part of the local debate in the early 1990s — including a contentious book-challenge in Wasilla in 1995. It should not be surprising that the Mayor of Wasilla would ask questions about a policy one of her department heads was working to update. As was reported at the time, “The timing of the issue comes at a time when [the Wasilla Library Director] is trying to get the book-challenge policies of the Wasilla Library and of the Palmer City Library in line with the Mat-Su Borough policy, revised in December of last year.” As the city’s executive, it was only responsible for Mayor Palin to ask about library policies. At the time, the area around Wasilla was engaged in a local debate concerning challenges to books at libraries and the Wasilla library was in the process of reevaluating its book-challenge policy. As the Wasilla Librarian said in 1996, the Wasilla Library did have a book-challenge policy that had been tested in 1995 — before Palin became Mayor.

· Mayor Palin NEVER mentioned any specific books — contrary to the smear emails circulating around the Internet. In the past few days, several reporters have presented the McCain-Palin campaign with lists of books that Mayor Palin supposedly sought to ban. These lists are clearly drawn from smear websites as they are factually inaccurate. For example, one list shown to the campaign by a mainstream news outlet listed the Harry Potter books as supposedly banned by Governor Palin in Wasilla. However, the timing shows this to be completely false: Governor Palin’s involvement in this issue occurred in 1996 and the first Harry Potter book was not published in the United States until 1998.

· Upon taking office, Mayor Palin did ask for several department heads to resign — including the librarian. This was in no way related to Mayor Palin’s rhetorical questions because the librarian ultimately retained her position. The resignations requests were nothing more than Mayor Palin taking over as the city’s chief executive and seeking to have department heads in place who supported her agenda in Wasilla.

Background Information

In A 1996 Interview With The Frontiersman, Then-Mayor Palin Brought Up That She Had Asked The Librarian How She Would Respond To Censorship As Part Of Her “Discussions With Her Department Heads About Understanding And Following Administration Agenda.” “The issue became public last Wednesday, when Palin brought it up during an interview about the now-defunct Liquor Task Force. Palin used the library topic as an example of discussions with her department heads about understanding and following administration agendas. Palin said she asked Emmons how she would respond to censorship.” (Paul Stuart, “Palin: Library Censorship Inquiry ‘Rhetorical,’” The Frontiersman, 12/18/96)

Palin Had No Particular Books Or Other Material In Mind When She Asked The Questions Of The Librarian. “‘I’m not trying to suppress anyone’s views,’ Emmons said. ‘But I told her (Palin) clearly, I will fight anyone who tries to dictate what books can go on library shelves.’ Palin said Monday she had no particular books or other material in mind when she posed the questions to Emmons.” (Paul Stuart, “Palin: Library Censorship Inquiry ‘Rhetorical,’” The Frontiersman, 12/18/96)

Palin: “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.” “Asked who she thought might picket the library, Palin said Monday, ‘Had no one in mind … again, this issue was discussed in the context of a professional question being asked in regards to library policy. 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.” (Paul Stuart, “Palin: Library Censorship Inquiry ‘Rhetorical,’” The Frontiersman, 12/18/96)

Palin Explained Her Questions About Library Book Policy Were “Rhetorical.” “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.’” (Paul Stuart, “Palin: Library Censorship Inquiry ‘Rhetorical,’” The Frontiersman, 12/18/96)

Palin’s Questions Came At A Time When The Library System Was Evaluating Book-Challenge Policies. “The timing of the issue comes at a time when Emmons is trying to get the book-challenge policies of the Wasilla Library and of the Palmer City Library in line with the Mat-Su Borough policy, revised in December of last year. Emmons described the new borough policy as ‘a very good one.’” (Paul Stuart, “Palin: Library Censorship Inquiry ‘Rhetorical,’” The Frontiersman, 12/18/96)

· Wasilla Had Faced A Book-Challenge Case In 1995. “Emmons said the current Wasilla policy, which she described as written in more general terms than the borough’s also worked procedurally in a book-challenge case last year.” (Paul Stuart, “Palin: Library Censorship Inquiry ‘Rhetorical,’” The Frontiersman, 12/18/96)

Palin Said Her Questions Were An Attempt To Familiarize Herself With City Staff And Other Issues Were Discussed. “Monday Palin said in a written statement she was only trying to get acquainted with her staff at the time. ‘Many issues were discussed, both rhetorical and realistic in nature,’ Palin added.” (Paul Stuart, “Palin: Library Censorship Inquiry ‘Rhetorical,’” The Frontiersman, 12/18/96)

The Librarian Told Palin She Would Object To Censorship. “Emmons recalled that in the Oct. 28 conversation she pulled no punches with her response to the mayor. ‘She asked me if I would object to censorship, and I replied, Yup,’ Emmons recounted Saturday. ‘And I told her it would not be just me. This was a constitutional question, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) would get involved, too.’ Emmons said Palin asked her on Oct. 28 if she would object to censorship, even if people were circling the library in protest about a book. ‘I told her it would definitely be a problem the ACLU would take on then,’ Emmons said.” (Paul Stuart, “Palin: Library Censorship Inquiry ‘Rhetorical,’” The Frontiersman, 12/18/96)

According To The Chairwoman Of The Alaska Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee Since 1984, No Books Were Banned In Wasilla. “Were any books censored banned? June Pinell-Stephens, chairwoman of the Alaska Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee since 1984, checked her files Wednesday and came up empty-handed.” (Rindi White, “Palin Pressured Wasilla Librarian During First Term,” Anchorage Daily News, 9/4/08)

· Alaska Library Association Chairwoman: “No Records Of Any Phone Conversations” Regarding Any Potential Censorship Issue In Wasilla. “Pinell-Stephens also had no record of any phone conversations with Emmons about the issue back then. Emmons was president of the Alaska Library Association at the time.” (Rindi White, “Palin Pressured Wasilla Librarian During First Term,” Anchorage Daily News, 9/4/08)

· Palin Critic Anne Kilkenny Said Mayor Palin Never Mentioned Any Specific Books. “Palin didn’t mention specific books at that meeting, Kilkenny said.” (Rindi White, “Palin Pressured Wasilla Librarian During First Term,” Anchorage Daily News, 9/4/08)

Upon Taking Office, Mayor Palin Immediately Took Charge To Shake Up The Old Guard In Wasilla By Asking For Resignations And Reapplications For Several City Department Heads — Including Librarian Mary Ellen Emmons. “Sarah asked the department heads to resign and reapply for their positions. She requested resignations from the police chief, Public Works Director Jack Felton, Finance Director Duane Dvorak, and Librarian Mary Ellen Emmons. The city’s museum manager, John Cooper, already had resigned when Sarah eliminated his position. The new mayor’s startling demand for resignations tested the department heads’ willingness to transfer their loyalties to the new administration. ‘Wasilla is moving forward in a positive direction,’ Sarah said. ‘This is the time for the department heads to let me know if they plan to move forward or if it’s time for a change.’” (Kaylene Johnson, “Sarah: How A Hockey Mom Turned Alaska’s Political Establishment Upside Down,” Canada: Epicenter Press 2008, p. 46-47)

Previously on Book Patrol:
The Wasilla 90 : An Internet Legend is Born

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