The press is stirring up rumors of a near-divorce between Sarah Palin and her husband Todd but it looks like the "lamestream" media missed the joke.
Today's evidence stems from a 2007 e-mail Palin *reportedly sent to Todd titled "Marital Problems." At the time, the then-Alaska governor had been taking flak for her role in deciding the level of taxes on oil profits while her husband worked at BP in a production job. It was a conflict of interest story and she sent the following email to Todd. “So speaking of... If we, er, when we get a divorce, does that quell 'conflict of interest' accusations about BP?”
Rimshot anyone? Not quite.
Based on that sentence alone—which includes go-to comedic email tropes like the ellipsis and "er"— The Huffington Post ran the headline "Palin Emails Reveal Marital Problems." New York magazine went with "Sarah Palin Seemed Pretty Close to Divorce in 2007" and The Daily Beast splashed "Palin Emails Show She Considered Divorce."
The phrase "if" not "when" we get a divorce is clearly the focus of everyone's attention, but if you read the sentence through the lens of media rumors that the Alaskan duo were headed for splittsville, it's not hard to imagine the line as a witty nod to both scandals in one tight sentence. Since we're clearly getting a divorce, at least we're off the hook for corruption. It's actually quite pithy in that respect!
Divorce rumors have dogged the Palins for years. The couple formally dismissed the rumor in 2009 via a Facebook posting by spokeswoman Meg Stapleton. "There is no truth to the recent 'story' (and story is the correct term for this type of fiction) that the Palins are divorcing. The Palins remain married, committed to each other and their family, and have not purchased land in Montana (last week it was reported to be Long Island)," read the post.
In 2010, the Palin camp had to address the rumor again when a tabloid report circulated that the couple reached a $20 million divorce settlement. A chuckling Sarah Palin dismissed the rumor in an interview with People:
"I call Todd on the cell phone [from the grocery checkout] and I say, 'Todd, you won't believe this cover!' And he says, 'Twenty million? Write me a check,' " Palin recounts. "He's good about laughing some of that stuff off."
Again, she's joking. Sure, it's possible today's unearthed e-mail was a genuine statement about the Palins' marital disarray, but more likely, it's an example of Palin's sense of humor. In any case, this is just the first report stemming from the release of 17,736 records on Thursday by the Alaskan government. With the type of candor on display in the documents so far ("I can't take it anymore," she wrote at one point about her job as governor), if there's an actual case for marital disarray, it will surely come out. Until then, these reports are a joke.
*Update: Strengthening the case that Palin was joking, our Atlantic colleague Molly Ball notes that the Palin e-mail was actually sent to Frank Bailey, Palin's colleague, not her husband, as was previously reported. Check out Bailey's reply to the Palin e-mail: "VERY funny!"