Jan 16, 2020
Sarah Palin Won’t Have Joe McGinniss To Kick Around Anymore
Yesterday, at age 71, author Joe McGinniss passed away after a battle with prostate cancer. It was one of those “hey wait WHAT” moments that makes its way across Twitter swiftly and you’re not even sure you believe it after checking Wikipedia.
McGinniss was a provocateur his entire career. If there was a controversial exciting book-length journalism thing that happened in the last 45 years or so, Joe McGinniss was likely at the heart of it. He was famous for going to great lengths to get close to a subject and, in the process, bending or outright stomping on (depending on who you ask) the rules of ethical journalism.
It does not matter how old you are. Joe McGinniss wrote an important book during your lifetime. He cuddled up to Roger Ailes to write about Nixon’s successful 1968 run for president in The Selling of the President.
McGinniss had fly-on-the-wall access for Nixon’s victorious run. Nixon had learned his lesson from his 1960 loss to John F. Kennedy. In ’68, he put together a team of advisers to mold his television image, including 1960s TV hit “Laugh-In” head writer Paul Keyes, former CBS executive Frank Shakespeare, ad man Harry Treleaven and a producer named Roger Ailes, who had been working for former big-band singer Mike Douglas’ daytime talk-variety show.
Side note: the very best part of writing about Roger Ailes, even in passing, is always always working in the Mike Douglas show thing.
Writing about a presidential campaign from an on-the-ground perspective had already been done, thanks to Theodore White’s hagiographic book about John F. Kennedy a few years previous, but McGinniss wasn’t in it to shower Nixon with love. He pretty much lied his way into everyone’s good graces to write an utterly unflattering portrait of the behind-the-scenes campaign machinations.
Nixon aides were apparently unaware, or unconcerned, that McGinniss’ heart was very much with the anti-war agitators the candidate so despised. […]
McGinniss was far from the only writer to notice Nixon’s reinvention, but few offered such raw and unflattering details. […] It revealed Nixon aides, including Roger Ailes, disparaging vice presidential candidate Spiro Agnew, drafting memos on how to fix Nixon’s “cold” image and debating which black man — only one would be permitted — was right for participating in a televised panel discussion.
Several years later, McGinniss became interested — some might say obsessed — with the Jeffrey MacDonald case. MacDonald was a Green Beret who was convicted of murdering his entire family in a particularly gruesome Manson-esque way back in 1970. McGinniss took the gig and told MacDonald he thought he was innocent in order to get close to him. In 1983, the finished product of years of working with MacDonald, Fatal Vision,was published, and it was as much a tale of MacDonald as it was McGinniss’s feelings about MacDonald.
“Fatal Vision,” published in 1983, became one of the most widely read and contested true crime books. McGinniss wrote not just of the case but of his own conclusions. He had at first found MacDonald charming and sincere but came to believe he was a sociopath who’d committed the killings while in a frenzied state brought on by diet pills.
Everyone in journalism had Feelings about this, and if you went to J-school from about 1988 onward, you either had to read Fatal Vision or Janet Malcolm’s takedown of the book, The Journalist and the Murderer,which argued that reporters can’t lie their faces off in order to get close to their subject.
The MacDonald case became Joe McGinniss’s claim to fame and cross to bear for most of the rest of his life, with lawsuits and thinkpieces and counter-thinkpieces galore.
MacDonald sued in 1987, alleging McGinniss had tricked him by pretending to believe in his innocence, and he received an out-of-court settlement of $325,000. […]
While MacDonald remained in prison, insisting on his innocence, the case was revisited in books, essays and opinion pieces. Jerry Allen Potter and Fred Bost defended MacDonald in “Fatal Justice,” published in 1997. Filmmaker Errol Morris, a MacDonald backer, came out with the book “A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald” in 2012.
In 2012, almost 30 years after the original book, McGinniss published Final Vision,his final writing on MacDonald that was nothing but 75 pages of I WAS RIGHT, DAMMIT. But can you blame him for wanting the last word over something that had consumed him his entire life?
If you are a youngish person or not a true crime sort of person, you don’t know McGinniss for the MacDonald kerfluffle, but you definitely know him for his Kitty Kelley-like book on Sarah Palin, The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin.Did you read that book? We did not read that book, but we remember the hilarity of the whole thing like it was yesterday.
McGinniss, in classic McGinniss fashion, actually RENTED A HOUSE next door to the Palins, forcing Todd to build a rickety-looking twelvety-foot fence to keep McGinniss’s lyin’ pryin’ eyes off his fambly. It didn’t help, because McGinniss still published a book that talked all about Sarah Palin black man sexytime, according to people that read the book who are not us.
Publishing sources familiar with the contents of author Joe McGinniss’ highly-anticipated book “The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin” have revealed shocking secrets that will impact her decision to enter the 2012 presidential race.
In the book, which will be published on September 20th, McGinniss claims Sarah had a steamy interracial hookup with basketball stud GLEN RICE less than a year before she eloped with her husband Todd.
Sarah hooked up with the NBA great, then a 6-foot-8 junior at the University of Michigan when he was playing in a college basketball tournament in Alaska in 1987, the book says.
Sizzling AND sexy! Palin huffed and puffed and said she was going to
blow McGinniss’s house down sue his pants off, but never did, thus depriving us of the joy of the depositions in a defamation lawsuit where Sarah had to prove she did not have sex with that black man, nosiree.
Rest in peace, Joe McGinniss, although if there is a heaven above, McGinniss is probably already getting close to St. Peter and figuring out how to get some serious shit-stirring about Jesus going.