People, US, Levi, and “Lies”

People trumped US Weekly this week, scoring a Levi-Bristol split headline some three weeks after US’s Levi-Bristol-back-together cover story.

In an “exclusive” phone interview, an apparently distraught Bristol Palin told People, “It’s over… I broke up with him.” An excerpt, in what might (hopefully) be one of our only block quotes from People:

The final straw was him flying to Hollywood for what he told me was to see some hunting show but come to find out it was that music video mocking my family,” she says. “He’s just obsessed with the limelight and I got played.”

A few points on this.

The first is totally un-journalistic. But for Bristol Palin to be calling Levi Johnston a fame-grabber seems a little pot-kettle-black to me. You know, given the US cover shoot for which she posed with her baby and babydadda last month, and the “exclusive” phone call to People she made this week.

The second is on a bit of unforgivably sloppy reporting. Any diligent reporter on the Levi-Bristol beat knows that the first call you make after hanging up the line to Wasilla is to forty-nine-year-old woman scorned, ex-Levi lover and comedienne Kathy Griffin. Surely, your readers want to know what she thinks of these developments. Kudos to CBS for taking the initiative last month.

And thirdly, and more seriously, remember when Levi told US that he’d told some lies in the press about the Palins? I do, and so does Gail Collins at the Times. In early July, Collins wrote:

At the very least, we need to know which of the gossip he was dishing was true, and which not completely. The part about how Sarah fights a lot with Todd? Or that she never cooks? Personally, all I want to know is whether Levi was being straight when he said that the former governor of Alaska doesn’t really know how to shoot a gun.

Hear, hear!

In light of new developments, will it come out that he was lying about the lying? That he was telling part of the truth, or the whole truth, all along? It’s getting all too much for readers. We need to know. We need clarification. Perhaps we can get those AP-ers who fact-checked Going Rogue onto the case. How else can we sift through Levi’s Vanity Fair piece —so that’s how I get Carter to read my freelance submissions—and his hard-hitting sit-down with Tyra Banks?

A suggestion for incoming Larry King replacement Piers “America’s Got Talent” Morgan’s first booking. Begins with L, and rhymes with meat pie. Sort of.

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Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.