The Palin Family Brawl Was Funny, Until It Wasn't

Bristol Palin's tearful description of what happened changed the equation.

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Until this week, the Palin family “brawl” that went down last month at an Anchorage house party last month has been treated like an excellent tabloid story with just enough political relevance to be covered by non-entertainment media outlets.

But with the release of audio featuring a teary Bristol Palin describing the fight — and the owner of the house allegedly dragging her on the ground — right-leaning outlets are correctly noting that the whole situation isn’t quite as funny as the media has portrayed it.

The conversation began in earnest when The Daily Caller’s Matt K. Lewis wrote that he’d been “mildly amused” by the “rich hillbillies” narrative of the fight, until he read a transcript of the audio of Bristol Palin’s account to the police. According to Palin:

A guy comes out of nowhere and pushes me on the ground, takes me by my feet, in my dress—in my thong dress, in front of everybody— “Come on you ****, get the **** out of here, come on you slut, get the **** out of here.” I don’t know this guy.

“IF this is true … then Bristol Palin was physically, verbally — and possibly even sexually – assaulted by a man,” Lewis argued. “Anyone who is concerned about a ‘war on women’ — but not disturbed by this report — is clearly biased.” Whether Palin's account is accurate, or, as some witnesses have claimed, she threw the first punch(es) doesn't change the fact that what she is describing is not funny.

What really stirred up the defense of Bristol Palin was a clip on “CNN Newsroom” when anchor Carol Costello introduced the audio of Bristol describing the events. Palin curses profusely during the snippet, but she’s also crying. Costello calls it “quite possibly the best minute and a half of audio we've ever come across – well, come across in a long time anyway.”  Later, she said her "favorite part" of the audio was a long bleeped-out portion. Costello has since apologized. 

The CNN segment was picked up by NewsBusters (a conservative answer to Media Matters for America), HotAir, the Heritage Foundation’s The Daily Signal, and other sites. “Costello clearly has such contempt for the Palins that she apparently gets off on harm coming to the Palins,” argued The Right Scoop.

Bristol Palin weighed in on her personal blog, writing “how can a reporter call this the best audio she’s ever come across?” John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary, tweeted:



It wasn’t just CNN — USA Today’s entertainment site went with the headline: “Listen to police audio of Bristol Palin sobbing after big brawl.” And when Lewis appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Thursday morning, host Mika Brzezinski admitted that they’d covered it as a joke, too.

An explanation, but not an excuse, for the near-obsession with the fight is that Bristol Palin isn’t just the daughter of a politician, but a reality star in her own right. She had her own Lifetime reality series “Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp,” appeared on two seasons of “Dancing with the Stars,” and graced the covers of US Weekly and People in stories about her personal life. That fact that her mother was Alaska's governor and nominee for vice president of the United States made the story newsworthy, as did such details as Sarah Palin shouting “Do you know who I am?” or someone in the crowd shouting “this isn’t some damned hillbilly reality show!”

The New York Times reported that:

[S]everal witnesses said the trouble started when Track Palin, Mrs. Palin’s son, confronted a former boyfriend of his sister Willow and a fight broke out. Before long Mrs. Palin’s husband, Todd, who also races snowmobiles and was also celebrating a birthday (his 50th), was said to have gotten involved in the fighting.

Later, according to witnesses, Bristol Palin, one of Mrs. Palin’s daughters, threw several punches at the owner of the house where the party was being held.

The result was a brawl said to involve about 20 people. In the end, the Palin family was ordered by the homeowner to leave, witnesses said.

And yet, there was a point when this stopped being funny — when the media finally started treating Palin like a person, not a reality TV villain. 

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