Palin's former aide annoyed by portrayal in 'Going Rogue'

The Anchorage Daily NewsNovember 24, 2009 

Former Gov. Sarah Palin's book, "Going Rogue," blames her first legislative director for moves early in her term that helped poison her relationship with state lawmakers. But the ex-aide, John Bitney, calls Palin's account a fabrication and said he wishes his former boss would leave him alone.

"I'm just pilloried right and left and turned into the big bad wolf here for stuff I didn't do," said Bitney, who is now an aide to Valdez Republican Rep. John Harris. "It's like I'm this fictional character that she's decided to make me out to be this sort of incompetent slob."

Palin's lawyer, Tom Van Flein, responded in an e-mail that Bitney and others have been talking about "their perceptions of, and distortions about" Palin for more than a year, since after she was chosen as Sen. John McCain's vice presidential running mate.

" 'Going Rogue' is Sarah Palin's book to set the record straight. It is her right to speak about the events that occurred in her administration and neither Mr. Bitney nor anyone else has the right to stifle that speech," Van Flein said. "The statements in 'Going Rogue' speak for themselves, and it is Sarah Palin's turn to get the truth out there after a year of misrepresentations, half-truths and dissembling by her critics."

Palin's writing about Bitney is her most detailed description yet of incidents that helped shape her relationship with legislators. Her bad blood with top legislators of both parties began not long after she took office. By last spring, relationships with many lawmakers from both parties had soured to the point that feuds with the governor overshadowed much of the other legislative business.

Bitney joins a list of people slammed in the book who are calling it fiction, including McCain's former campaign manager, Steve Schmidt. Bitney, though, has a far deeper relationship with Palin than the others. He was a high school classmate of Palin's from Wasilla who played a key role as an adviser in her successful 2006 campaign for governor.

Palin's dealings with Bitney are described on several pages of her memoir, although he is never named and there are no details of his work on her 2006 campaign. Palin refers to him as "my first legislative director" and he comes in for some of the harshest criticism of anyone in the book. That includes observations on his personal grooming, such as, "He turned out to be a BlackBerry games addict who couldn't seem to keep his lunch off his tie." Later, in describing one encounter to discuss the budget, Palin writes, "The fact that his shirt was buttoned one button off and his shirt tail was poking through his open fly didn't exactly inspire confidence." But Palin's larger point is that Bitney bungled her relationship with legislators.

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