Fact Check

Alaskans' Opinions on Sarah Palin

Letters from Alaskans offer viewpoints of Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

Published Sep 7, 2008

Claim:   Letters written by Alaskans offer viewpoints of Alaska governor and vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Status:   Multiple — see below.

Origins:   In the immediate aftermath of the selection of Alaska governor Sarah Palin as the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee came a deluge of Internet-circulated open letters about her, each written by someone claiming a direct or indirect connection to the candidate (e.g., knowing her personally; having lived in the town of Wasilla, Alaska, where Palin served as mayor; or having been a long-time resident of Alaska), and each seemingly attempting to outdo its predecessors in terms of effusive praise or condemnatory criticism of her politics.

The letter which was by far the most widely circulated (and which drew the most media attention) was a critical 31 August 2008 missive attributed to a Wasilla resident named Anne Kilkenny, who said she had known Sarah Palin since 1992:


I am a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. I have known Sarah since 1992. Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a first-name basis. Our children have attended the same schools. Her father was my child's favorite substitute teacher. I also am on a first name basis with her parents and mother-in-law. I attended more City Council meetings during her administration than about 99% of the
residents of the city.

She is enormously popular; in every way she’s like the most popular girl in middle school. Even men who think she is a poor choice and won't vote for her can't quit

smiling when talking about her because she is a "babe".

It is astonishing and almost scary how well she can keep a secret. She kept her most recent pregnancy a secret from her children and parents for seven months.

She is "pro-life". She recently gave birth to a Down's syndrome baby. There is no cover-up involved, here; Trig is her baby.

She is energetic and hardworking. She regularly worked out at the gym.

She is savvy. She doesn't take positions; she just "puts things out there" and if they prove to be popular, then she takes credit.

Her husband works a union job on the North Slope for BP and is a champion snowmobile racer. Todd Palin's kind of job is highly sought-after because of the schedule and high pay. He arranges his work schedule so he can fish for salmon in Bristol Bay for a month or so in summer, but by no stretch of the imagination is fishing their major source of income. Nor has her life-style ever been anything like that of native Alaskans.

[Remainder of letter here.]

This letter was indeed written, as claimed, by Wasilla resident Anne Kilkenny, who explained her motivations for drafting it to a Daily Journal reporter:

Recently, we received a note about the Web post, "Letter from Anne Kilkenny," about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee. We thought for sure it was not really, "a resident of Wasilla, Alaska" who has known Palin since 1992 as the post claims.

So, we checked it out. Kilkenny does exist, and she does live in Alaska. We reached her by phone and asked if she wrote the rather long note that calls Palin "smart" but also questions her abilities.

We asked Kilkenny, "Did you write that letter?" She replied skeptically, "Well, I don't know. Read me parts of it. I'll tell you if it's mine or not."

After we read it to her, she said, "Yes, I wrote that." She sent it out to 40 people, brothers, sisters and friends, on Sunday — two days after U.S. Sen. John McCain announced Palin as his choice. On Wednesday, if you enter Kilkenny and Palin's names on Google, about 200 sites refer to this letter.

Why did she do it? Kilkenny told The Daily Journal she wanted to offer people information and her experiences. She does not flatter Palin, but she said she did vote for Palin when she ran for city council.

"How affirming it has been," she said. "I am pleased to know how idealistic Americans are. They want information not just the politics of destruction."

Another popular entry was this 28 August 2008 letter by Wasilla resident Debbie Frost, which cast the Alaska governor as the "US's answer to [British prime minister] Margaret Thatcher":

Sarah Palin is the US's answer to Margaret Thatcher! Anyone who thinks she cannot handle the job or deal briskly and efficiently with ANY issue, including foreign governments ... well, they haven't met our Sarah.

As an Alaskan resident as well as a resident of Wasilla, AK, where Sarah Palin was at one time Mayor ... I can speak with confidence. Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska is exactly what she portrayed during her introduction this morning and exactly what our US Government needs. She is ethical to a fault (if there is such a thing), a refreshing change to the status-quo and as smart and determined a PERSON (gender really isn't an issue here as far as I'm concerned) as anyone could ask for at the head of government.

Sarah is no naive 'small town mayor' — she just *started out* there. BTW, as Mayor of Wasilla<, she brought this 'small town' through a lot of GOOD changes and left it at the end of her term having grown to the 4th largest CITY in Alaska — a lot of growth and a stronger economic base than ever before. She has EXECTUTIVE experience *running a government* (something NONE of the other candidates can actually boast, even John McCain) as Governor of Alaska and got there by defeating the *incumbent* Republican Governor, who was definitely part of the 'old school' and who WAS very much in the pocket of the big oil companies. We in Alaska wanted change — and we got it in the person of Sarah Palin! [Remainder of letter here.]

Yet another letter, this one attributed to Butch King, a "lifetime Alaskan" who is also a proprietor of the Wildman Lake Lodge, attempted to answer (positively) the question of "Who is Sarah Palin?":

Many of our friends are asking us "Who is Sarah Palin?" Of course, as Alaskans, Kathy and I are extremely proud of her. We just want to let you know that Sarah "Barracuda" Palin is a straight shooting, hard charging, get it done gal. She knows when to listen, how to analyze the facts and how to make a decision, then implement the plan. She doesn't do a poll before jumping in with both feet like too many of the Washington types. She has little legislative experience because she has always held the EXECUTIVE position; in private life, as mayor of Anchorage 's largest bedroom community or more recently as Governor of our State. She is a smart, attractive home grown Alaska girl with excellent moral and family values. She can see what needs to be done and does not hesitate to get it done.

One of our State's major problems is that its Capital is in Juneau, 500 miles from the nearest road and 800 air miles from the population base which is Anchorage, Wasilla and Fairbanks. Our legislature and most of the State government is in Juneau and they ALL behave like a bunch of freshmen in a college town. It has been this way since Statehood in 1959. When Sarah moved to Juneau, so did accountability and responsibility When the oil revenue started flowing and a barrel of North Slope Crude hit $23.00, these people began spending money like drunken sailors. You can only imagine what was happening when oil hit $100.00 a barrel, about the time Sarah took command. My wife Kathy has first-hand experience with this fiasco, as her father and also her ex-husband were Alaska Legislators who served in Juneau as Senators, Senate President, or members of the State House for a combined period spanning nearly three decades.

About the time Sarah took the HELM as Governor of Alaska, about half of the State legislature was in the pocket of big oil companies or contractors doing big projects for Native Corporations around Alaska, all funded by State oil revenue. Alaska government was nothing but a good old boys club riding the perpetual wave of prosperity. This filtered down from the legislature, through the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Labor and even spilled in to the Public Safety who are supposed to "preserve and protect".

[Remainder of letter here.]

Another entry, attributed only to an "Alaskan" named "Jackie S." (we haven't yet determined the author's true identity), cast Governor Palin as an environmentally unfriendly "redneck":

As an Alaskan, I am writing to give all of you some information on Sarah Palin, Senator McCain's choice for VP. As an Alaska voter, I know more than most of you about her and, frankly, I am horrified that he picked her.

The most accurate description of her is redneck. Her husband works in the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay and races snow mobiles. She is a life time member of the NRA and has worked tirelessly to allow indiscriminate
hunting of wildlife in Alaska, particularly wolves and bears. She has spent millions of Alaska state dollars on aerial hunting of these predators from helicopters and airplanes, dollars that should have been spent, for example, on Alaska's failing school system. We have the lowest rate of high school graduation in the country. Not all of you may think aerial predator hunting is so bad, but how anyone (other than Alaska
wolf-haters, of which there are many, most without teeth), could think this use of funds is appropriate is beyond me. If you want to know more about the aerial hunting travesty, let me know and I will send some links to informative web sites.

She has been a strong supporter of increased use of fossil fuels, yet the McCain campaign has the nerve to say she has "green" policies. The only thing green about Sarah Palin is her lack of experience. She has
consistently supported drilling in ANWR, use of coal-burning power plants (as I write this, a new coal plant is being built in her home town of Wasilla), strip mining, and almost anything else that will unnecessarily
exploit the diminishing resources of Alaska and destroy its environment.

[Remainder of letter here.]

Last updated:   13 September 2008

  Sources Sources:

    Schultz, Susy.   "Alaska Resident Writes About VP Nominee Palin."

    The [Illinois] Daily Journal.   4 September 2008.

    White, Rindi.   "Palin Asked Wasilla Librarian About Censoring Books."

    Anchorage Daily News.   4 September 2008.

    The Nation.   "The Word from Wasilla."

    4 September 2008.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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