Republican campaign downplays Palin book-banning inquiry


Of course they are playing it down. They don’t want us to know that she, who doesn’t appear to read much of anything, wants to decide what the rest of us read. For a forty-something year old woman who has been out of the country one time — and that was an “official” visit she didn’t pay for to Iraq to purportedly visit the Alaska National Guardsmen who are fighting a war we shouldn’t be fighting –that person has no business putting her nose in the books anyone else wants to read. She is narrow minded, poorly educated (how could she be otherwise when she attended five colleges in five years), bullish, doctrinaire, rigid, and most of all, dishonest.

GOP campaign downplays Palin book-banning inquiry

By Garance Burke,
Associated Press Writer
September 12, 2008

WASILLA, Alaska –The McCain campaign is defending Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s much-criticized inquiry into banning books at her hometown library, saying her questions were only hypothetical.

Shortly after taking office in 1996 as mayor of Wasilla, a city of about 7,000 people, Palin asked the city’s head librarian about banning books. Later, the librarian was notified by Palin that she was being fired, although Palin backed off under pressure.

Palin’s alleged attempt at book-banning has been a matter of intense interest since Republican presidential nominee John McCain named her as his running mate last month.

Taylor Griffin, a spokesman for the McCain campaign, said Thursday that Palin asked the head librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, on three occasions how she would react to attempts at banning books. He said the questions, in the fall of 1996, were hypothetical and entirely appropriate. He said a patron had asked the library to remove a title the year before and the mayor wanted to understand how such disputes were handled.

Records on the city’s Web site, however, do not show any books were challenged in Wasilla in the 10 years before Palin took office.

Palin notified Emmons she would be fired in January 1997 because the mayor didn ‘t feel she had the librarian’s “full support.” Emmons was reinstated the next day after public outcry, according to newspaper reports at the time.

Still, one longtime library staffer recalls that the run-in made everyone fear for their jobs.

“Mayor Palin gave us some terrible moments and some rather gut-wrenching moments, particularly when Mary Ellen said she was going to have to leave,” said Cathy Petrie, who managed the children’s collection at the time.

Recent outrage has been fueled by Wasilla housewife Anne Kilkenny, whose 2,400-word critique of Palin’s legacy as mayor is widely posted on the Internet. Kilkenny described Palin’s actions as “out-and-out censorship.”

But the McCain campaign, in a statement, said the charge “is categorically false … Governor Sarah Palin has never asked anyone to ban a book, period.”

Emmons, a former Alaska Library Association president who now goes by Mary Ellen Baker, did not return calls seeking comment.

According to the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman newspaper, Emmons did not mince words when Palin asked her “how I would deal with her saying a book can’t be in the library” on Oct. 28, 1996, in a week when the mayor had asked department heads for letters of resignation.

“She asked me if I would object to censorship, and I replied ‘Yup’,” Emmons told a reporter. “And I told her it would not be just me. This was a constitutional question, and the American Civil Liberties Union20would get involved, too.”

The Rev. Howard Bess, a liberal Christian preacher in the nearby town of Palmer, said the church Palin and her family attended until 2002, the Wasilla Assembly of God, was pushing to remove his book from local bookstores.

Emmons told him that year that several copies of “Pastor I Am Gay” had disappeared from the library shelves, Bess said.

“Sarah brought pressure on the library about things she didn’t like,” Bess said. “To believe that my book was not targeted in this is a joke.”

Other locals said the dust-up had been blown out of proportion.

“That was many years ago and Sarah never had any intention to ban books,” said David Chappel, who served as Palin’s deputy mayor for three years. “There were some vocal people in the minority, and it looks like they’re still out there.”

Jim Rettig, a University of Richmond librarian who heads the Chicago-based American Library Association, suggested that lingering quarrel raises issues that are still relevant as librarians prepare to celebrate Banned Books Week later this month.

“Librarians are very committed to the principles of the First Amendment of the Constitution and that means we don’t allow one individual or a group of people to dictate what people can or cannot read,” he said. “Most librarians if they got that sort of a question would be curious as to what the intent of the questioner was.”

© Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

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Anchorage Daily News: “Palin pressured Wasilla librarian”

Let’s hope this article clears up the controversy over Palin’s role in  banning books from the Wasilla Public Library when she was Mayor back in 1996. 

Anchorage Daily News 


TOWN MAYOR: She wanted to know if books would be pulled.

By RINDI WHITE
rwhite@adn.com

(09/04/08 01:49:40)WASILLA — Back in 1996, when she first became mayor, Sarah Palin asked the city librarian if she would be all right with censoring library books should she be asked to do so. According to news coverage at the time, the librarian said she would definitely not be all right with it. A few months later, the librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, got a letter from Palin telling her she was going to be fired. The censorship issue was not mentioned as a reason for the firing. The letter just said the new mayor felt Emmons didn’t fully support her and had to go.  Emmons had been city librarian for seven years and was well liked. After a wave of public support for her, Palin relented and let Emmons keep her job.It all happened 12 years ago and the controversy long ago disappeared into musty files. Until this week. Under intense national scrutiny, the issue has returned to dog her. It has been mentioned in news stories in Time Magazine and The New York Times and is spreading like a virus through the blogosphere.
 

Emmons had been city librarian for seven years and was well liked. After a wave of public support for her, Palin relented and let Emmons keep her job.
It all happened 12 years ago and the controversy long ago disappeared into musty files. Until this week. Under intense national scrutiny, the issue has returned to dog her. It has been mentioned in news stories in Time Magazine and The New York Times and is spreading like a virus through the blogosphere.

The stories are all suggestive, but facts are hard to come by. Did Palin actually ban books at the Wasilla Public Library?

CONFRONTATION WITH PALIN

In December 1996, Emmons told her hometown newspaper, the Frontiersman, that Palin three times asked her — starting before she was sworn in — about possibly removing objectionable books from the library if the need arose. Emmons told the Frontiersman she flatly refused to consider any kind of censorship. Emmons, now Mary Ellen Baker, is on vacation from her current job in Fairbanks and did not return e-mail or telephone messages left for her Wednesday.

When the matter came up for the second time in October 1996, during a City Council meeting, Anne Kilkenny, a Wasilla housewife who often attends council meetings, was there.

Like many Alaskans, Kilkenny calls the governor by her first name.

“Sarah said to Mary Ellen, ‘What would your response be if I asked you to remove some books from the collection?” Kilkenny said.

“I was shocked. Mary Ellen sat up straight and said something along the line of, ‘The books in the Wasilla Library collection were selected on the basis of national selection criteria for libraries of this size, and I would absolutely resist all efforts to ban books.'”

Palin didn’t mention specific books at that meeting, Kilkenny said.

Palin herself, questioned at the time, called her inquiries rhetorical and simply part of a policy discussion with a department head “about understanding and following administration agendas,” according to the Frontiersman article.

TEST OF LOYALTY

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. 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.Books may not have been pulled from library shelves, but there were other repercussions for Emmons.

Four days before the exchange at the City Council, Emmons got a letter from Palin asking for her resignation. Similar letters went to police chief Irl Stambaugh, public works director Jack Felton and finance director Duane Dvorak. John Cooper, a fifth director, resigned after Palin eliminated his job overseeing the city museum.

Palin told the Daily News back then the letters were just a test of loyalty as she took on the mayor’s job, which she’d won from three-term mayor John Stein in a hard-fought election. Stein had hired many of the department heads. Both Emmons and Stambaugh had publicly supported him against Palin.

Emmons survived the loyalty test and a second one a few months later. She resigned in August 1999, two months before Palin was voted in for a second mayoral term.

Palin might have become a household name in the last week, but Kilkenny, who is not a Palin fan, is on her own small path to Internet fame. She sent out an e-mail earlier this week to friends and family answering, from her perspective, the question Outsiders are asking any Alaskan they know: “Who is this Sarah Palin?”

Kilkenny’s e-mail got bounced through cyberspace and ended up on news blogs. Now the small-town mom and housewife is scheduling interviews with national news media and got her name on the front page of The New York Times, even if it was misspelled.

 


Find Daily News reporter Rindi White online at www.adn.com/contact/rwhite or call 352-6709.

 

 

Copyright © Mon Sep 8 15:35:44 EDT 20081900 The Anchorage Daily News (www.adn.com)