"I thought that was going to be the extent of the controversy," she tells Oprah

By Hilary Shenfeld
Updated November 16, 2009 01:30 PM
Peter Kramer/AP; UPI Photo/Landov

When Sarah Palin was first selected to be John McCain’s vice presidential candidate, she thought the biggest secret that would be discovered was the fact that she once got a D in a college course.

“I thought that was going to be the extent of the controversy,” she said Monday on The Oprah Winfrey Show, in the first of a series of interviews centered around the publication of the former Alaska governor’s autobiography, Going Rogue.

But when an even more pressing issue was revealed – the pregnancy of her teenage daughter Bristol – the McCain campaign didn’t allow Palin to address the situation as she would have liked. “This is not to be glamorized,” she said. “This is not to be emulated I didn’t want that message getting out there that we were giddy happy to become grandparents.”

VIDEO: Sarah Palin Says Levi Is Welcome at Thanksgiving
Palin, 45, realized the pregnancy “might be an issue, but that it could show some realism in an American life, in a normal American family.”

Bristol was quite “devastated” and “embarrassed” that the world knew of her pregnancy, and Palin told Winfrey she was “naÏve” to think the media would leave her kids alone. She said she respected Barack Obama when he told the press that the candidates’ children should be off limits.

Levi’s Path ‘Heartbreaking”

As for Levi Johnston, the father of Bristol’s baby who is set to appear fully nude in Playgirl, which Palin termed “porn,” Palin said, “It’s kind of heartbreaking to see the road he is on right now.”

She said the 19-year-old hasn’t seen his son much lately because “he’s kind of on a media tour right now,” but that he is welcome at the family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Bristol, she said, is doing “an amazing job,” as a mother, living at home while going to college and working, and is trying to set an example to her sisters and other young women that “there are consequences to unprotected sex. She is saying, “Girls, wait,'” Palin said.

On the issue of her own pregnancy with son Trig, who has Down’s Syndrome, Palin told Oprah that she gained an understanding of women contemplating abortion. “It was easy to understand why a woman would feel that it’s easier to just do away with some less than ideal circumstance, to do away with the problem,” she said. But it solidified her own pro-life stance, she said. “There are less than ideal circumstances in our lives. It’s how we will react to them,” she said. “And make the most of what we’ve been given. What I have been given is a gift.”

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She knew for three weeks about the pregnancy before telling husband Todd. “He had probably a better reaction than I did,” she said. “I was much more frightened,” wondering why did this happen? Why God? And he said, Why not? Why not us?'”


During the interview, Palin also talked about her experiences on the campaign trail, saying she “didn’t blink” when asked to be the vice presidential candidate. “I felt quite confident in my abilities, in my executive experience,” she said. When chosen, “I felt like, wow, John McCain is a maverick. He’s all about empowering women. He is all about equality. He’s about the everyday working class individual who can succeed in this country and he chose someone who reflects that.”

Palin didn’t think her infamous interview with Katie Couric – in which she could not come up with the name of a single newspaper that she read – was a defining moment of the campaign, though admitted that she didn’t prepare much for it “because it was supposed to be light-hearted, fun, working mom speaking with working mom and the challenges we have with teenage daughters.” Instead, she said, she was instantly “annoyed with her badgering questions” and didn’t do well. “If people only know me from that interview, I don’t blame people for thinking I was not qualified, that I was ill-prepared,” she said.

But she doesn’t blame herself for losing the election. “The reason we lost is because the economy tanked,” she said. “People were sincerely looking for change Our ticket was perceived as status quo.”

Palin had wanted to give a concession speech but was denied the opportunity. “I was disappointed that we didn’t take one last opportunity to remind Americans that all of us together need to move be able to move forward,” she said.

After the Election

She told Winfrey that after the election loss, she left the Alaska governor’s office because she knew she wasn’t going to run for a second term and that a horde of opposition researchers were scouring her records. “My state of Alaska was being hampered by my presence there,” she said. “I wasn’t able to get up there and talk about issues that were important to me or an ethics violation would be filed.”

She was cagey when asked if she planned a presidential run in 2012, saying, “I don’t know what I’m going to be doing then.” She also didn’t completely answer when Winfrey asked if she planned to host a talk show. “Oprah, you are the queen of talk shows,” Palin responded. “There’s nothing to worry about.”

As for reports that Winfrey, a staunch Obama supporter, had snubbed Palin by not having her on the show until now, Palin – who embraced Winfrey when she made her entrance – said that she hadn’t been all that aware of the issue at the time. “It wasn’t the center of my universe,” she said. “I thought, well it’s her show, its’ her baby. She can do whatever she wants to do.”