Palin’s Speechwriter Undone by Nasty Messages

Source asks for cash

Daily Caller reporter Jonathan Strong has quite the scoop this morning—a series of direct Tweets from Palin speechwriter and domestic policy adviser Rebecca Mansour to an unnamed source. The contents are far from banal.

In the messages, Mansour calls Red State editor-in-chief Erick Erickson “a total douchebag” and a “Greasy dumb ass with a talent for self-promotion.” She says she wants to “go Medieval” on Joe McGinnis, the author who moved next door to the Palins in Alaska. And on Bristol? Well, take a look at this:

Sent in the aftermath of Bristol announcing to Us Weekly she was planning to marry Levi Johnston, Mansour wrote, “I wish they were the Cleavers too. But it’s life.”

“Two words: Patti Davis. Okay three more: Ron Reagan Junior. Two more: Billy Carter. Doesn’t your family have one?” Mansour said.

“She will hold her at arm’s length. Even Thatcher was never able to disown her screw up son Mark. It’s a Mom thing,” Mansour wrote.

What makes this a bit more than a stock-standard flash-in-the-pan scandal are two interesting stories behind the Mansour tweets. The first comes at the end of The Caller story, as Strong recounts how The Caller approached Mansour for comment, and how Mansour changed her story. At first, she denied sending the tweets. And then…

TheDC then took steps to authenticate whether the messages were real, including logging into a Hotmail account that received email announcements from Twitter with the content of the direct messages in them. Two forensic computer analysts verified that the emails had been sent from Twitter’s servers after searching the message source code for signs of forgery.

Presented with this evidence, Mansour changed her story from an initial denial to anger (“this is really kind of skeezy”), bargaining (“can I just appeal to you to leave the Bristol stuff alone?”), and sadness at the consequences of her words (“this is going to destroy my reputation simply because people will say, ‘why were you sending a direct [message to a Palin activist]?’”).

Finally came the boilerplate.

… rather than answer questions about the context of the messages, Mansour sent a short statement saying the messages were part of “personal private conversations between myself and someone who I thought was a friend.”

In an interesting twist, Ben Smith at Politico has now revealed that the same unknown source who provided the tweets to Strong also approached Smith, presumably first. He or she wasn’t offering his stash for free, though. Here is part of the e-mail that the source sent to Smith, which Smith has put up on his blog.

“Does Politico pay for exclusives? Cause I’m looking to sell. I have 122 direct messages from Sarah Palin staffer Rebecca Mansour,” the person emailed, eventually sending along sample direct messages identical to a couple the Caller posted. They were forwarded from the account of one improbably named Toki de la Vega, a contributor to some pro-Palin sites, though there was a man’s name attached to one of the tweets as well.

Smith writes that he counter-offered with lunch and “undying gratitude.”

And then:

“Sorry, Ben, but it’s going to take more than a happy meal and a hand shake to get me to betray someone’s confidence. Only freshly printed 100 dollar bills help me get over feelings of guilt,” wrote the emailer, who continued, “Would it violate some fake journalistic ethics and standards to get me in contact someone who does pay? I know that the thought of blogging about this is making your panties wet. The topics range from Chuck Hagel to Ricky Hollywood and everything else in between. It’s a f***ing blogger’s gold mine.”

The e-mailer sounds like a suitable verbal sparring partner for Ms. Mansour.

It’s important to note that Tucker Carlson, co-founder and editor of The Caller, told Smith that his website did not pay for the exclusive that eventually went to them. And the e-mailer confirmed to Smith that this was also the case.

When I asked Jonathan Strong whether this Deep Tweet had asked for money at any stage, he told me, via e-mail, “The source never asked for money.” Carlson also told me, “He never asked, and obviously we never would have paid.” And there is no reason to distrust The Caller here. They have a knack for getting their hands on this kind of material. Strong was the reporter, after all, behind the outlet’s Journolist series last year, as well as a report this year that embarrassed former China ambassador and GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman by publishing his adulatory e-mails to president Obama.

If the source was after money, though, I know someone who probably would have been delighted to fork over some of those crisp hundreds. Starts with M and rhymes with Lansour.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor. Tags: , , , , , ,