Thursday, February 23, 2012

UPDATED: Anatomy of a birth hoax: Palin's transition from flat belly to beach ball roundness in just six weeks in 2008

Sarah Palin's public pregnancy lasted only about six weeks, from the time she announced it on March 5, 2008, to the alleged birth on April 18. And thus she faced quite a problem: how to "grow" a baby bump in such a short time without seeming to defy the laws of physics and human anatomy. The following overview shows just how crafty she was in solving that problem.

On March 3, Newsweek interviewed Palin. The videos for the interview show that for at least 10 minutes Palin held the pose we see in this screen shot:

Two days later she would announce she was seven months pregnant. Of course, a woman that far along would not be able to assume that cross-legged, bent-over position for even one minute, let alone 10. But I believe the photo reveals that Palin had by this time made her decision to go forward with the hoax. By bending over like that, with her scarf hanging down, she was able to obscure the view of her belly – a logical objective if she had not yet started to wear padding. (One has to wonder what the Newsweek interviewer thought when told later of Palin's claim.)

When Palin declared she was seven months pregnant on March 5, Wesley Loy of the Anchorage Daily News wrote, "The governor ... simply doesn't look pregnant." I have not seen a picture from that day, but we can assume Palin wore very little, if any, padding. Her strategy at first seemed to consist of wearing a somewhat oversized dark suit jacket with a large flouncy scarf in front.

That certainly seemed to be the case for this Associated Press photo from March 14:

Look closely at Palin's jacket and note how large and long it is. Unfortunately for her, she left the jacket unbuttoned, which meant the camera caught her flat belly – so flat, in fact, that this picture alone constitutes irrefutable proof there was a hoax. But even if the jacket had been closed, she still would not have looked seven months pregnant. Consider the following picture, shot on March 28:

This is the photo the Anchorage Daily News ran as evidence that Palin had to be pregnant along with Julia O'Malley's embarrassing "Make.It.Stop" story of last April 14, which was a pro-Palin response to a paper I had published about the hoax. The jacket is huge, with pronounced shoulder pads; and by wearing it Palin was able to make herself look quite large – but not convincingly pregnant. Women who are close to giving birth have an arch in their back because of the weight of the stomach – but Palin is standing perfectly straight, and no baby bump is evident. She looks like a linebacker, but not a pregnant one. And this was the most convincing photo the newspaper could come up with!

Then, of course, there are the photos from the Alaska State Museum on March 26. Here's one of the most revealing:

Now here is a blowup of Palin's midsection, lightened and with extra sharpening:

The detail is wonderful. She's wearing a black pullover that's clinging to something underneath, and that something looks very much like a lumbar-support belt – although it looks like it has ridden higher than she would want. Here is an example of such a belt:

There are many such belts on the market, but I'm struck by how much this one that I found on eBay resembles what she seems to have on under her shirt.

There very definitely seems to be a "baby bump" under the belt – most likely consisting of foam rubber – but unfortunately for Palin it had ridden too high during the course of the day, and she almost seems to be carrying the supposed baby in her rib cage. And of course that baby bump is nowhere near large enough for someone just 19 days from giving birth. 

And finally here is the famous shot of KTVA's Andrea Gusty interviewing Palin on April 13:

And here is Palin from the Gusty photo, juxtaposed next to the museum shot:

So now, five days before the alleged blessed event, we see Palin almost certainly wearing a maternity empathy belly. We know she's using some sort of prosthetic because it would be physiologically impossible for a fetus to grow that fast, from the flatness we see in the March 14 photo to the roundness on April 13. To the left below is a fake-maternity belly available on eBay, and to the right I superimpose it over Palin's large belly to show how such a prosthetic could have been used:

A newcomer to this issue might say, "Wait a second – wouldn't the the hoax have been obvious to anyone who saw big-belly Sarah, if they had also seen her so much thinner just days before?" The answer surely is yes, but here's where the trickery comes in: very few in Alaska got to see Palin wearing that big-belly maternity prosthetic.

To minimize the number who saw Palin in that getup, everything relating to the Gusty interview had to be tightly controlled. The interview, which was broadcast live, took place on a Sunday evening, after the legislature had finished its session, thus ensuring that the statehouse would be largely empty. In fact, the entire purpose of the interview certainly was to get still shots from the side showing Palin's large belly in profile. Note how carefully Palin was positioned where one hallway ends at another, meaning she could be shot head on by the video cameraman, but from the side by the still camera. The video cameraman shot Palin from the shoulders up, so the large belly was not in evidence in the newscast.

The Gusty interview was a brilliant ploy. The still shots from it, linked as they were to a newscast that aired the week before the alleged birth, constituted absolute proof that Palin looked very pregnant on April 13. And those still shots could be held in reserve, to be produced later if needed to snuff out hoax questions. And, of course, that is exactly how they were used in the fall. (I explore who the other players were in the staging of the Gusty interview here, on pages 11-13. It is likely that only three people witnessed the interview: the video cameraman, the still cameraman, and Bill McAllister, her soon-to-be-named new press secretary.) 

Because only a few people saw Palin in the big-belly prosthetic, it is not surprising that when Lisa Demer of the Anchorage Daily News put together the newspaper's story about the alleged birth, she wrote that "Palin never got big" during her pregnancy with Trig, which the Gusty photo would contradict. Demer clearly never saw Palin wearing the prosthetic. 

Palin also wore the empathy belly when giving her speech in Dallas on April 17, as press photos reveal. But those photos were shot from a distance, with Palin facing the camera, so the extra-large size of her belly was not so apparent. I imagine Todd and Sarah shooed away any photographer who tried to get a closeup.

It should be noted that when Palin was truly pregnant in the past, she did indeed get as large as a normal woman would, as shown by this picture of a much younger Palin (the woman wearing the red shirt) in one of her first pregnancies:

Thus Palin was able to pull off the hoax during her six-week pregnancy by wearing clothing that disguised how slender she truly was, by using padding, and by pretending that she did not get very big during the pregnancy. On page 191 of Going Rogue, Palin writes: “Before we knew it, I was seven months along. I hadn’t put on a lot of weight and with winter clothes and a few cleverly draped scarves, no one saw my girth or suspected I was pregnant.” The idea that Palin, a 44-year-old mother of four, could have been pregnant for seven months without putting on much weight is an obvious whopper. 

But Palin managed to have her cake and eat it too. In addition to claiming she did not gain much weight during her pregnancy, to explain her small or nonexistent baby bump through most of the six-week pregnancy, she also managed to get pictures of herself looking roundly pregnant by wearing an empathy belly in staged shots with Gusty. And those shots, when posted to Flickr anonymously in September, may have saved her spot on the ticket as John McCain's running mate by snuffing out rumors about the hoax. 


  1. "One has to wonder what the Newsweek interviewer thought when told later of Palin's claim."

    Actually there's an answer to that question. The interviewers name was Karen Breslau and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano was also sitting there. Breslau was asked about the incident:

    "At the time, I didn't know that Palin, clad in a loose, dark dress, was seven months pregnant with her fifth child. An aide called me the next day to tell me that Palin would be announcing the pregnancy at home in Alaska and that she had wanted me to know as a courtesy. She was sorry she hadn't mentioned it the night before."

  2. Brad! This is a TERRIFIC summary of the proof of the hoax: the photos.

    Message to anyone new to this issue: It is very easy to get lost in the quagmire of red herrings that surround this hoax. Don't do it (until later). First try to decide: is it possible for a woman to have a flat profile 5 weeks before her delivery of a 6+ pound baby? In other words, how can the Mar 14 and Mar 26 photos be explained except in terms of a hoax?

    Main point: Palin was not pregnant with Trig, as stated. Whether you admire SP or not, she still was not pregnant. Whether you think the hoax was perpetrated altruistically to save face for a family member, or as a cold-blooded calculation in an attempt to sway an election, it is still a hoax. A hoax concerning a very important part of SP's brand (Mom, anti-choice stance, "family values," etc). A hoax that took advantage of a Down syndrome baby for political gain.

    Other candidates in presidential elections have had far lesser transgressions examined in the press. But the Palin Birth Hoax has been blacked out in the mainstream media. That in itself is a HUGE problem. Repubs have recently identified women's reproductive issues as a big part of their platform: so why do they ignore this major deception, this election hoax of unprecedented proportions (esp when we add in the enablers, esp the big-time ones like McCain and his senior staff).

    Yes, President Obama said we should leave children and the families out of it. Let's do that. Let's concentrate only on the flat profile of Sarah Palin revealing via unimpeachable photos that she was not pregnant as stated; that Palin has lied about this pregnancy up to this present moment; that the press will not cover it. This is not about the Palin family. It is about this particular giant lie by a VP-candidate Sarah Palin who has been documented to be a compulsive and unapologetic liar in four recent uncontested books.

    Here are my two favorite links for photo evidence of the faked pregnancy:

  3. Everyone, pay attention to the March/April photo side by side comparison. In March, her breasts are way larger than her 7th month belly. IMPOSSIBLE. Even girls with very large breasts would not have breasts larger than their 7 month pregnant bellies. Then viola, a few short days later, the belly is way bigger than the boobies. If her uterus grew that quickly that fast, Sarah would be deathly ill in an ICU somewhere and the damn thing could have burst.

  4. Also, to any new visitors:
    Sarah states that this pregnancy was induced and delivered by Cathy Baldwin-Johnson. Dr. CBJ is a family practice physican who had delivered three babies the previous year. In order for a FP MD to care for High risk obstetrical patients, she needs to practice doing just that: there is no evidence she had the requisite continuing education and clinical hours performing c-sections in order to be a family practice physician who delivers high risk pregnancies.She did 3 vaginal births in a year! Most OBs do that in a day people! ADDITIONALLY, MatSu regional hospital does not deliver high risk pregnancies, not even normal twin births.MatSu is not equipped for high risk births. Since Palin was induced, there was ample time to get her transferred to Anchorage to deliver Tri-G , were she actually pregnant, at a faciliy with a NICU and newborn special physicians. MatSU has no NICU or newborn intensivists.
    Sarah was high risk because of her age, history of TWO previous miscarriages, carrying a DS fetus and premature rupture of membranes (with which she was flying transcontinental for hours).
    From a technically medical regulation and standards viewpoint, this story is just that, a story. It is impossible to have taken place. It is a narrative. The ridiculousness of it needs to be repeatedly examined and shouted from the rooftops. It did not happen. Now WHY is it being allowed to go unchecked?

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  6. Great pictures Amy1. Thanks for keeping up the exposure Brad. It is so frustrating to have this woman continue to benefit from this incredible hoax. Shocking that it has not been widely exposed. I certainly hope one day the truth will come out.

  7. Brad have you seen this about the emails? BilM in form!

    from: McAllister, William D (GOV) Sent: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 7:35 PM To: ''; Leighow, Sharon W (GOV); ''; Nizich, Michael A (GOV) Subject: Re: Governor Palin

    Lisa, Allow me to intervene in a completely off-the-record way: I never anticipated the depths of sleaze that your paper would come to countenance. That the governor would have to prove maternity to you is perhaps the most despicable idea ever peddled by an organization that once had Pulitzer Prize status (and that now won't even staff the legislative session). This is a disgrace, an outrage and a damnable injustice. Stop forcing us to spend state time to respond to this trash. We will not participate in your continued self-debasement as a news professional. Your inquiries about this are hereby permanently rejected, and your arrogance will have us discussing if we want to have anything to do with the ADN at all. Do not reply, unless it's to offer a sweeping apology. Off the record, Bill

    Sent using BlackBerry

    1. Thanks Crystal,

      I've been posting this link a couple times at Po-Gates. I made sure to give you the credit for the find.

  8. ON the record NOW. Good find, CWL.

  9. @CWL. Brings to mind the expression, "If the law is on your side, argue the law. If the facts are on your side, argue the facts. If neither is on your side, call the other side names."

  10. Brad, discussion over at http://sarahpalinhasaserpentsheart
    suggests Audrey could be behind Fred's book.

    Can't you convince her to let you publish it if she and "Fred" have changed their minds?

  11. Brad, here is ANOTHER great find, from somebody on IM:

    Now why would Sarah have a email stating the Gutsy photo was "shopped"?
    I'm having a hard time using this "cloud" so I hope crivila west will get them up soon.
    Morgan a photographer who had a blog did a analysis shortly before she took down her blog in 2009.
    I don't know how to find the headers to this and the person who posted anon just posted this.

  12. Ok sorry it looks like that was a report that Patrick sent to Andrea Gutsy...
    And I think he will blog about it today.
    It so hard to navigate ADN's system... grrrrr!

  13. @CWL. Actually her name is Gusty, though Gutsy would fit if she were in on the hoax.

  14. I imagine Andrea Gusty was used. She was probably astute enough to figure out what was going on, when she saw Palin in the orca-whale getup and noticed that McAllister was directing the cameramen (still and video) where to stand, and so forth. But what was she going to do?. She was just a young reporter and she had been lured in with a plum: an exclusive interview with the guv at the end of the legislative session.

  15. Professor Scharlott- I'm wondering. If the lumbar support belt was what she was wearing under her clothes... did she have it buckled in front? I mean, were I to fake a pregnancy, I'd wear it so it buckles in back but is slightly larger in front. But in the previous photocs, you point out some mysterious light object showing through the front of her abdomen. Maybe that's the buckle.

    And of course, if one was to wear it as described in the directions that undoubtedly come with the thing, it would buckle in front so the wearer could remove it and reapply it more conveniently, and the larger area would support the low back.

  16. Ivy: Nice catch! Yes, the shiny thing I point out in the previous post looks exactly like the end of a metal bracket thru which the belt slides. I'm sure that's what it is. I think the belt is facing forward, the way it was meant to be used. The front of the one I pictured seems to match up nicely with what's on Palin's stomach. It is contoured to fit a stomach.

  17. I agree that Andrea was prob used. As a reporter, I would think she would want (like most of us here) to know the truth about the hoax, and therefore she would read up and know everything we do, if not much more! And yes, as a youngster she would have few options in a place as corrupt as AK. Look how the ADN was treated. Maintaining deniability is essential.

  18. Ivy, I take that back: I now think the belt is turned around. That would be better for her because the overlapping velcro part would be in back.

  19. What *I* don't get is that none of the legislators ever said anything re. her big-belly picture vs her 'regular' appearance...

    Re. the picture at the museum...: Somehow I seem to remember that she had lipodissolve injections done around that time (yeah, right - you do those while pregnant...), and that it is usual after the procedure to wear some kind of cummerbund-style belt