Watch CBSN Live

Sarah Palin Builds Fence as Joe McGinniss' Son Denies "Stalker" Claim


Updated May 28, 8:40 a.m. ET

On Tuesday, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin wrote a sarcastic note on her Facebook page complaining about the fact that nonfiction author Joe McGinniss had moved into the house next door.

Palin complains that McGinniss, who is writing a book about her, will likely be unfair. She also casts his behavior as creepy: "Wonder what kind of material he'll gather while overlooking Piper's bedroom, my little garden, and the family's swimming hole?"

At the end of the post, Palin wrote that her family is planning to build a tall fence to keep McGinniss from seeing much of anything. It appears she has kept that promise, as you can see above by this picture from the AP.

Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren, who is known to be friendly with Palin, also posted a photograph on her blog of the new fence, which Van Susteren suggests is "to protect against the 'Wasilla Stalker.'"

Meanwhile, McGinniss' son shared with Politico's Ben Smith an email in which he wrote that "no one is stalking anyone."

Joe McGinniss, Jr. wrote to a Palin supporter that "a woman was renting her house and sought out the author because the Palins had crossed her (owed her money for renovations she had done at their request and never paid her for). So she knew McGinniss was writing the book and found him and offered him the house."

McGinniss, Jr. also defended his father's move.

[I]f you were writing a biography of Tiger Woods and had the chance to move in with him, or his pool house, or rent next door or down the street from him -- it would be journalistic malpractice not to. As a writer, you go where the story is, get as close as you can to it. People who write about politics, campaigns, they travel with the candidates, stay in the same motels, ride the bus, eat breakfast, hang out any and everywhere they can to get access. It's pretty basic. We want to read the work of someone who is as close to their subject as possible. That's called reporting.

McGinniss, Jr. added that his father is "not stalking or peeping or peering or meddling. He's simply fulfilling his obligations to his publisher and his readers and himself -- to get as close to the subject of his book as possible."

As Smith notes, Palin claims that her family unsuccessfully tried to rent the house first out of concern about "something like this happening."

Palin has repeatedly maligned McGinniss, calling him an "odd character" on Glenn Beck's radio show and complaining on Facebook of the "bizarre anti-Palin administration oil development pieces that resulted in my Department of Natural Resources announcing that his work is the most twisted energy-related yellow journalism they'd ever encountered." After Palin's complaints, Beck threatened to boycott McGinniss' publisher.

McGinniss is the largely-respected if sometimes controversial author of "The Selling of the President" and other books; the primary piece that so upset Palin is here. According to Washington Post blogger David Weigel, "no one has ever challenged the facts" in McGinniss' pieces on Palin. The working title of McGinniss' new book is reportedly "Sarah Palin's Year of Living Dangerously."

Wasilla Mayor Verne Rupright said that McGinniss met with him to tell him he was researching his book and moving next door to Palin, the AP reports.

"I was a little surprised by it, but I said, 'That's fine,'" Rupright said. "I thought that was a courtesy he paid, and probably the right thing to do."

In a piece discussing McGinniss' move to the house, Slate's Jack Shafer wrote that he "admire[s] his determination to get the story and have no problems, ethically or morally, with him getting as close to his subject as possible--even if his technique seems a little stalkerish."

He writes:

Compared with the journalistic investigation that I assume McGinniss has commenced of his subject, sharing a property line with her is trivial. Right now I'll bet that McGinniss or a research assistant is combing the complete Palin paper trail of court filings, property records, tax assessments, and official documentation of her governorship and mayoralty, including e-mails. High on the stack will be the Palins' 1040 and other financial documents she disclosed as a vice-presidential candidate. He'll run Palin's name through every database he can find. And if there is a legal way to obtain Palin's telephone records, school records, and even her medical records, McGinniss will get them.

It's called legwork, it's called immersion journalism, and it doesn't look pretty. But it should come as a surprise to only naive newspaper readers that every day journalists treat the subjects of investigations the way McGinniss is treating Palin.