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Monday, September 22, 2008
Who Said Palin Wanted to 'Burn' Books?
Topic: Media Research Center

In a Sept. 22 NewsBusters post, Tim Graham claimed that "Brent Bozell's latest culture column explored how liberal nitpickers landed in Alaska and quickly jumped to conclusions that any right-wing, Jesus-loving politician must be a book-burner." But despite Bozell's mention of "'anti-censorship' activists, perpetually filled with visions of a trash can full of burning books" and an "imaginary book-burning torch," there's no evidence whatsoever that anyone accused Sarah Palin wanted to "burn" books.

Further, in his column, Bozell misleads on the question from Palin that led to the book-banning (not "burning") criticism of her. Bozell writes that "Palin dared to ask the town librarian what would happen if anyone objected to an inappropriate book. She merely inquired," but that's not how the librarian, Mary Ellen Eammons, and others in Wasilla, Alaska, put it:

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.

Bozell doesn't mention that the church Palin attended at the time she was mayor, the Wasilla Assembly of God, did show interest in censoring books, particularly one written by a local minister called "Pastor, I Am Gay."

Bozell also misleads a bit on the fight in Nampa, Idaho, about whether the books "The Joy of Sex" and "The Joy of Gay Sex" should be generally available in the library or hidden in an office and released only to those specifically requesting them. Bozell wrote that "parent activist, Randy Jackson, was stunned to hear in 2005 that these books were lying around on the library tables for any child to page through." We've highlighted the word "hear" to point out that the evidence against the book is hearsay: As the Idaho Statesman reported, "Randy Jackson began campaigning to remove the two books from Nampa's library after a friend's teenager saw the book 'The Joy of Gay Sex' on a library table in late 2005."

Nevertheless, Bozell huffed: "Immediately, one wonders: Who were the two who felt it appropriate to display this garbage in a public library, in front of children?" But Bozell offers no evidence that the library itself displayed the book.

Posted by Terry K. at 3:28 PM EDT

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