Palin Documentarian John Ziegler Speaks Out About 'Game Change' and Backstabbing Failures

NewsBusters readers know John Ziegler as the documentarian that created the fabulous "Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected and Palin Was Targeted."

With the release of HBO's Palin-bashing film "Game Change," I had an e-chat with Ziegler to discuss his impressions of the movie and how it relates to today's politics:

NEWSBUSTERS: The media are predictably all abuzz with HBO’s “Game Change.” First, tell us what you thought of it?

JOHN ZIEGLER: I thought it was technically well done and entertaining. I also think it was exaggerated and inaccurate at times, though, over all, I think it provides a fairly fair "big picture" representation of what happened. Of course, it is totally absurd that the film doesn't even deal with the Obama campaign - which actually won and is obviously far more relevant today - and that truly "left wing" docudramas are allowed to get away with so much more than supposedly conservative ones like "The Path to 9/11" and "The Kennedys."

NEWSBUSTERS: As someone that spent a great deal of time with Sarah Palin creating your documentary “Media Malpractice,” what complete falsehoods did you identify in the film?

ZIEGLER: There are probably several, but I think one that I can provide special insight into deals with the notion that Palin thought that we were in Iraq because it attacked us on 9/11. The evidence is overwhelming that this is false.

This myth began on September 11th, 2008, just after she was named the VP nominee (and after the conversation in the movie appears to have occurred) when Palin made a speech at her son's Iraq deployment ceremony. She made the statement that they would "defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans."

The Washington Post turned that into "Palin Links Iraq to 9/11," but that is not what she meant. As a "clarification" above the article added later indicates, what she really was referring to was al Qaeda in Iraq, which was the primary enemy at the time.

Interestingly, I anticipated this topic coming up during Palin's first interview after "Game Change" the book came out, and I prepped Palin on the facts pretty darned well. She thanked me for doing so, but unfortunately when Bill O'Reilly did indeed ask the question she basically booted it. I was very frustrated and disappointed by that.

I also don't think that she was nearly as obsessed with SNL and Tina Fey as the movie portrays as I showed her many of those clips which she clearly had never seen before.

NEWSBUSTERS: McCain and Palin despite not seeing the film have bashed it as coming from biased and unnamed sources. Who do you think the book’s sources were and were they impartial or did they have an axe to grind?

ZIEGLER: It is very clear that Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace were the primary sources, and that even if what they said were true, their betrayal of trust is so incredible that they should never be allowed to work in politics again and should be shunned by all conservatives. This is especially true since they backstabbed Palin at a time when she still could have been very viable politically, and they needlessly and selfishly harmed her, the Party and the movement.


NEWSBUSTERS: Speaking of that, my major disappointment with the film was that McCain-Palin advisers Schmidt and Wallace despite the campaign’s failure and their eventual backstabbing of the candidates they represented were heralded as heroes. What do you know about Schmidt and Wallace, and what can you tell us about them?

ZIEGLER: I know Schmidt a little bit and I hate his guts. He blatantly lied to my face when he was running the Schwarzenegger reelection campaign here in California. His three great claims to fame are giving us Arnold's disastrous second term, preventing Rev. Wright from becoming a campaign issue, and ending any hope of Sarah Palin making a political comeback. Gee, thanks Steve. The fact that he is a "hero" in all of this tells you everything you need to know about how badly broken our political system is.

As for Wallace, I have never met her, but my wife, who has really good intuition about these things, strongly thinks that she and Palin didn't get along because they are both extremely attractive women and that it was a toxic mix from the start. Then, once it went bad, Wallace obviously had an incentive to throw Palin under the bus.

NEWSBUSTERS:. How might this film impact Sarah Palin’s future?

ZIEGLER: I actually think this movie is great for her career. She is no longer a political figure, but a media figure. She has no need to appeal to the middle anymore because she will never seriously run for political office again. Her fans will only think more highly of her now, because if they even watched it, they will only believe the good parts and not the bad. In their minds the fact that she is still being attacked by the "left," means that she is still relevant. It creates the misperception that she is still a political figure which is the basis for her business/media career.

So this movie is a big winner for her career. She really only needs to appeal to 3-5 percent of the adult population, and this fits right into her narrative/appeal to those people. Bizarrely, getting attacked is now sometimes the best thing that can happen to someone in this celebrity obsessed culture.

NEWSBUSTERS: How do you see the film impacting the GOP presidential race?

ZIEGLER: I don't see how it impacts the GOP race. That is already over, its just that no one in the media has an incentive to tell people that Mitt Romney is going to be the nominee. The real media bias there is that the media went out of its way to help Obama avoid a contested convention when there should have been one in 2008, and here they are trying to create one for Romney in 2012.

NEWSBUSTERS: How might the film impact the election in November?

ZIEGLER: Only in that it, along with the entire Palin experience, does limit what Romney is able to do with his VP pick. He can't take any risks/flyers, and this might eliminate Marco Rubio as the pick because if it goes badly, the narrative will be "here we go again" with a desperate VP pick intended to excite the base.

I did think it was interesting that the film made it clear that Rev. Wright could/should have been deadly and that Obama was basically a media creation. That can't hurt.

NEWSBUSTERS: What revelations from your movie “Media Malpractice” as well as your knowledge of Palin were either misrepresented in the film or badly overlooked?

ZIEGLER: Wow. I could write a whole book about that. I will just say that the movie underplays how horrendously unfair the media coverage of Palin really was and, therefore, how she had every right to be furious and emotionally impacted by it all. The real travesty of the entire Palin affair is that most of what the media said about her was untrue, but it forced her, in order to survive, to eventually become the caricature that they created of her.

She quit her job to stay famous and get rich; she changed her political beliefs to appeal to the Tea Party; she did a reality show to make money; she pretended to run for president for attention, and; she endorsed someone for president with no chance of winning who represents many things she claims to be against while seemingly having an incentive for Obama to win so she remains relevant.

As the movie says, Sarah Palin could have been the next Ronald Reagan, but the media killed her off, and the Republican establishment went along with it. I just wish we would all admit that's what happened, try to learn from it, and move on.

Thanks John.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.