Joe McGinniss tells his side of the story about becoming Sarah Palin's neighbor

By David Weigel
Saturday, May 29, 2010

According to Joe McGinniss, the offer to rent the house next to Sarah Palin's came because the landlord trusted him to respect the former governor's privacy.

"She was talking to this mutual friend of ours and said, 'I've got to find someone we're comfortable with. My biggest concern is the Palins' privacy, especially the children,' " McGinniss said Friday evening from his Wasilla, Alaska, house, in one of his first interviews on the subject. "So this mutual friend said, 'Well, you know, I think you're in luck. Joe McGinniss is going to be coming back here, and you couldn't find a better guy, just the right sort of person to move in and guarantee their privacy.' "

But upon learning of her new neighbor, Palin accused McGinniss of moving into the house to spy on her family. "Wonder what kind of material he'll gather while overlooking Piper's bedroom, my little garden, and the family's swimming hole?" she wrote on her Facebook page.

Palin also called in to Glenn Beck's radio talk show to discuss McGinniss. "He's an odd character, if you look at his history, and the things that he's written and the things he's been engaged in," she said.

Her allies quickly took up the issue. Beck, another conservative icon, called it "really creepy" that the author had moved in next door, and others accused him of stalking Palin.

McGinniss had maintained a public silence through it all, but Friday, he agreed to talk to a handful of reporters by telephone. He said that he simply hadn't anticipated Palin's response.

"I would term this hysterical," he said.

McGinniss returned to Alaska to continue work on his Palin biography, but a room at the Best Western, not far away, would have been prohibitively expensive. The rental house, though, was only $1,500 a month. Sold.

Although McGinniss was new to the neighborhood, he wasn't new to the Palins. He had written a Portfolio piece about her leadership and a critical Daily Beast piece on her book tour for her memoir, "Going Rogue."

But he'd hoped to keep things civil and introduce himself anew when he first came across Palin and her husband, Todd.

" 'I wanted to say, 'I'm writing this book, but I hope we can just get along as good neighbors, and after that, you'll never hear from me again,' " McGinniss said. "That's basically what I told Todd on Monday when he came over. He didn't really want to hear that.

"He took off on how my Portfolio piece was a bunch of lies, and a smear, and all this and all that, and he said, 'You going to be putting the microphones in now, and the surveillance cameras?' I said, 'Listen, you don't know how lucky you are that I'm renting this place because that's exactly what's not going to happen as long as I'm here. I won't see you, you don't see me, this will be fine.'

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