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Levi Johnston: My Family's Not White Trash

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, John McCain's running mate in last year's presidential race, is a new grandmother.

But a war of words is escalating between her camp and Levi Johnston, the father of Tripp, the baby Palin's teenage daughter, Bristol, had in late December. Levi and Bristol have broken off their engagement.

On "The Tyra Banks Show" earlier this week, Johnston said Sarah Palin almost certainly knew the two teens were having sex before Bristol got pregnant, and he admitted the obvious -- that they didn't always practice safe sex.

Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez sat down with Johnston Tuesday night -- and it appears the bad blood in this family feud is getting thicker.

Johnston insists the Palins won't let him take Tripp out alone. He says he was heartbroken he and Bristol split -- and the campaign contributed to the breakup. He also says the Palins are lying about him and his family.

Johnston told Rodriguez, "We're not cashing in on their name, you know. I'm just trying to get my side of the story out there and letting people know who I am."

Asked what the biggest misconception about him is, Johnston said, "Probably that my family's white trash."

And he said Tripp already means the world to him, remarking, "Tripp's everything to me. He's my little boy. I don't know what I'd do without him. When I hold him, it's an amazing feeling. I just shake, you know?"

Was having Tripp a mistake?

"Not at all," Johnston replied. "No. I wouldn't call any baby a mistake. I mean, I love him more than anything. I wouldn't trade him for the world."

But now that he and Bristol have split up, Johnson continues to say, he isn't allowed to have private time with Tripp, even though he once lived in Sarah Palin's house.

Palin's camp says he never lived there, and Johnston is lying about the former living arrangements.

But he's fighting back.

Rodriguez laid it right on the line, observing to Johnston, "Sarah Palin, through a spokesperson, has denied a lot of the things you're saying. So, either you're lying or Sarah Palin is lying. Which is it?"

"They said I didn't live there," Johnston said. "(They say) I 'stayed there.' I was like, 'OK, whatever you want to call it' -- I had all my stuff there. So, if you wanna call it 'staying there,' that's fine."

"You had all your things there -- toothbrush, pajamas -- stayed there every night?"

"For awhile, yeah. So..."

"So, they're lying," Rodriguez said, summing up his statements.

"Yeah," Johnston confirmed.

Mercede Johnston, Levi's sister, backed him up, telling Rodriguez, "He was living there. I hadn't seen him for two months. He lived there. They can't say, 'Oh, no, he just stayed.' That's an absolute lie."

What was Sarah Palin like when times were good between Levi and Bristol, Rodriguez asked Levi.

"She was great," Levi recalled. "She treated me like a mom. I would look at her like a second mom. I think she'd do anything for me, at the time. And now, I don't know."

Levi says things changed after baby Tripp was born, and when Palin returned to Alaska after losing the election.

"I can go over there whenever I want and see my baby," Levi explained, "But, nine-times-out-of-ten, I'm not allowed to take him, and it's not as comfortable going over there anymore with that family sitting down on the couch. It's awkward. I don't know. They just, like, they don't think of me the same way anymore."

He continued, "I don't wanna go over there every day and sit there when her family's there and try and play with my baby. I want to be able to take him and do what -- our own thing with my family."

"You ever think they feel you're not good enough for her?" Rodriguez probed.

"Yeah, probably," Johnston conceded.

"How does it feel to see your son go through this?" Rodriguez asked Levi's mother, Sherry Johnston.

"It's very devastating," Sherry answered, dabbing at her eye with a handkerchief.

Mercede says she got the impression the Palins were snobby: "I mean, look what they're doing. They're lying, trying to save themselves when they're the ones that asked for it. They brought him to the campaign. They should have known what was coming. They can't turn around and try and take it back now."

How did Levi feel when he learned he was going to be a father?

"I was extremely happy. We just got up and we hugged, and I was really scared, too."

How did Bristol tell him?

"She called me up and said she had some big news. She came over and she just kind of -- fooling around -- finally came out and told me -- so then we went upstairs. I was stoked, and told my mom" who, he says, "was crying. She was happy. She's always talked about that day."

But Sarah Palin "wasn't as excited as my parents were. She -- they weren't mad, I don't think, (they) didn't give me that impression, but they definitely weren't excited at the same time."

Tripp, says Levi, is "starting to giggle and do all -- rolling over, that kind of thing. ... He's getting exciting. I can't wait for him to start talking!"

"I want Levi to be able to teach him how to hunt and fish and play hockey, like his dad did," Sherry says. "I know how much Tripp means to him, and when he was born -- I never expected the natural father instinct to come out of him -- and then to hold that little baby with no fear whatsoever..." even changing diapers without hesitation! "He was ready. I was shocked. I really was."

Levi says he's come to believe that, if Sarah Palin hadn't run for vice president, he and Bristol might still be together: "I think all the media, and all the drame that comes with her running for that made a big impact on us."

"Did you get your heart broken?" Rodriguez inquired.

"Yeah, I did," Levi admitted, "but I got an amazing little boy out of it."

Levi says he hopes he and Bristol can be friends, but they'll never be a couple again.

And while the 18-year-old can't see himself getting married anytime soon, he says he wants to have a few more kids -- when he's older.

He says he's working odd jobs to try to earn some money for Tripp until he can get a career going -- perhaps as an electrician, like everyone else in his family -- or perhaps all the publicity he's been getting will lead to a modeling or acting gig, which he'd be open to.

His family says they hope the custory dispute over Tripp doesn't land in court -- because it's likely almost any judge in Alaska would side with the Palins.