As John McCain lost the presidential race, his running mate and her family were just getting started on their TV domination. Bristol appeared twice on “Dancing With the Stars” and landed her own Lifetime docuseries. So when she debuted on “Teen Mom: OG” Season 7 in October, she was already well-versed in reality-TV cameras — which made it all the more surprising when she recently posted a scathing statement about her portrayal on the show, which wrapped up last Monday.
“No matter how bad @teenmom tries to portray my ‘life' ..... my babies, my family, my close friends, they know the TRUTH. I’m a pretty great mom, work my a-- off, show up, and hustle every day to give my kids a pretty great life,” she wrote on Instagram, adding that producers just wanted “Jerry Springer BS” and drama. “Every week is a continued disappointment with their inaccuracies and false narratives. . . . Don’t believe everything you see on TV.”
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If I cared what people thought of me, I wouldn’t be here today - let’s be real. I’ve stood strong and held it down for my kids since day one. No matter how bad @teenmom tries to portray my “life” ..... my babies, my family, my close friends - they know the TRUTH. I’m a pretty great mom, work my ass off, show up, and hustle everyday to give my kids a pretty great life. @mtv doesn’t want to talk about faith, show work ethic, or juggling three kids alone, they don’t want to show the humble process of starting over after a divorce, building a career, or any real life issues. All they want with my little segment each week is some fake fill-in Farrah Abraham/Jerry Springer BS, and it’s simply not true. Don’t get me wrong - I’ve said some mean things and learned a lot the last several months - but the life I’ve built for my kids is NOT sitting around talking about baby daddy drama. Every week is a continued disappointment with their inaccuracies and false narratives. I hate getting all emo on you guys but I’ve kept quiet for too long about it. Don’t believe everything you see on TV.
Her ex-husband, Dakota Meyer (they share two young daughters, Sailor and Atlee) was heavily featured on the series, which focused on their bitter divorce that was finalized late last year. Meyer also made his displeasure with the show known on social media, calling the series “trailer trash” that ignored “what the true struggles of parenting are.”
So, what went wrong? Mostly, it seems like extreme naivete on the parts of Palin and Meyer — whether willful or genuine, hard to tell — about what an MTV reality show is supposed to be. The whole point is drama. MTV reportedly paid Palin $250,000 for the season. (An MTV publicist said Palin, Meyer and “Teen Mom” producers were unavailable for interviews for this story.) If a network is shelling out that much for name recognition to bring viewers to a reality show, of course they’re going to zero in on the most scandalous details.
This was apparently news to Meyer, who shared many thoughts about the series on his YouTube channel. Last week, one fan asked if he regretted letting the MTV cameras into his home. Meyer, a military veteran and Medal of Honor recipient whose struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder was highlighted on several episodes, said he can’t decide whether he regrets it, as he didn’t enjoy being on the show but has received positive messages from fans.
“Honestly, I’ve never had anybody with ‘Teen Mom’ ever be anything but great to me. Except the editors — they suck,” Meyer said. “Everybody from the crew, I love them, they’re like family to me. . . . I’ve never had a problem with any of them. Except the editors. I would love to catch them on the street somewhere.”
His editor anger stems from the fact that, again, reality shows are produced for maximum drama — and Meyer and Palin, who got married in 2016, provided plenty. And the show’s editors spliced together all of it.
The premiere included a disturbing fight between the couple while they were still together, as they talked about the effect of Meyer’s PTSD on their marriage. Palin accused Meyer of using his anxiety to justify saying cruel things to her, while Meyer said Palin wasn’t sufficiently supporting him after what he had been through in Afghanistan, where he saw fellow servicemen die in front him.
The next episode found them reaching the conclusion that their marriage wasn’t working, with a heartbreaking scene in which Meyer confessed that, similar to how he felt when he couldn’t help save his teammates in Afghanistan, he felt like a failure in their marriage.
“You’re not a failure at all,” Palin protested.
“I mean, we’re quitting on our marriage. The only people that are going to suffer is our kids,” he responded.
“I think that they would suffer even more if we sat here and continued to try to do this relationship. It’s not a good situation,” Palin said.
Afterward, things turned ugly as they were filmed separately through the majority of the season. Palin was furious when she returned to their Austin home from Los Angeles (where Tripp competed on “Dancing With the Stars: Juniors”) and Meyer had moved her belongings into a separate bedroom. They fought over custody schedules and money. Palin was disappointed that Meyer didn’t make more of an effort to stay in touch with Tripp.
While Meyer took their daughters to his native Kentucky to visit his parents, the Palin family often made cameos to support Bristol. One episode turned into a sort of Levi Johnston redemption (he’s had his share of unflattering headlines) during a trip to Alaska. Palin marveled that Johnston — now married with two daughters — split the cost of Tripp’s plane ticket for the first time.
Palin and Johnston’s now-friendly relationship was a stark contrast to how her relationship with Meyer was portrayed. Their issues culminated in several disastrous conversations in the finale. Meyer accused Palin of performing for the cameras, and Palin countered that she wanted to film their interactions so he had accountability. Palin stormed off after Meyer called her a “compulsive liar.” (Meyer later apologized for that comment, writing on Instagram, “Looking back and seeing my behavior does not represent the man that I strive to be.”)
Clearly, neither Palin nor Meyer felt these scenes represented them fairly, especially because so many centered on them fighting.
“Why don’t you come show the real side of being a single parent? Of getting up in the morning, trying to get the kids out the door before you gotta go to work, and working 10, 12 hours a day,” Meyer said in a lengthy YouTube rant. “It’s such bull . . . 'cause it’s about the drama, and they have so much good that they could do. They have so many people who are watching, and they could truly make a difference. But they’re not.”
There’s a simple reason the producers don’t want to feature those scenes: It wouldn’t make for very compelling TV. However, the show did get into some weightier topics in the two-part reunion that concluded last week, as MTV enlisted famed TV personality and addiction specialist Dr. Drew to interview the contestants.
In the first part, Dr. Drew grilled Palin about the difficulty of divorce. In the second, Dr. Drew asked Meyer about his PTSD and discussed how Meyer shutting down emotionally made Palin feel like she had been “abandoned.”
The intimate conversation was difficult to watch, but it led to Palin and Meyer sitting together, forging a fragile peace. (In a YouTube video, Meyer said he and Palin’s relationship has improved since the reunion.)
“There’s so much good here, and all this horribleness seems misplaced,” Dr. Drew said, turning to Meyer. “Could you ever get back together with Bristol?”
“I’ll never get married again,” Meyer said.
Dr. Drew tried with Palin: “Could you see being with him again? Or is there too much water under the bridge?”
“I would never get married again,” she said.
Dr. Drew quickly signed off after that, yet there’s no denying he brought closure — although there’s no word whether either of them will be back for another season.
(This post has been updated.)