NYT “Too Pushy” to Land Levi Johnston Interview

The Alaska Daily News’s’s Julia O’Malley recently dined with Levi Johnston (father of Sarah Palin’s grandson, Tripp) and Johnston’s entourage, Tank (a private investigator) and Rex (a criminal defense attorney). Some highlights:

[Johnston] did Tyra and Larry King Live and Today. He was photographed shirtless for GQ Magazine. He called a press conference attended by the New York Times. The day after our dinner, he was flying to New York for a photo shoot with Vanity Fair. After that it was California for a cameo for a television show…

I asked if he was nervous when he went on television.

“You go in there, and say the truth, and it’s actually pretty easy,” he told me. “I know pretty much what they are going to ask.”

First, they mainly wanted dirt on Palin and Bristol. Tank, who goes with Levi to all of his interviews, developed a set of signals to help if Levi is having trouble on camera. There’s an array of stock answers. A gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell. I just want to take care of my boy. No comment. And, if it’s really getting uncomfortable, ask Tank Jones.

And then:

It’s not easy to get an interview with Levi. Tabloids are out. Rex turned down The New York Times because they were too pushy. He also didn’t appreciate it when a reporter ambushed Levi with a microphone. “We’re CNN! We’re CNN!” Rex recalled them saying.

“Our position was, ‘We’ll be seeing you. We’ll be seeing you,’ ” he said.

Being selective is part of maintaining mystery around his client, Rex said. He didn’t allow him to sit for too many interviews because there were some parts of the story that wouldn’t be revealed until he writes a book.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.