ANCHORAGE — Gov. Sarah Palin returned to work in her Anchorage office Friday afternoon and spoke out against anonymously sourced stories critical of her behavior on the campaign trail, saying "it’s immature, it’s unprofessional and those guys are jerks."
A pack of local and national media was waiting for Palin, back to work at the governor’s office for the first time since becoming a candidate for vice president more than two months ago.
The governor talked about her future in national politics, if Sen. Ted Stevens should resign, her rocky relationship with Democrats and anonymous criticism from John McCain campaign staffers who claim she went on a clothes-shopping spree with Republican Party money and didn’t know Africa is a continent and not a country.
"If there are allegations based on questions or comments I made in debate prep about NAFTA, about the continent versus the country when we talk about Africa there, then those were taken out of context. And that's cruel, it's mean-spirited, it's immature, it's unprofessional and those guys are jerks if they came away with it taking things out of context, then tried to spread something on national news. It's not fair, it's not right," Palin said.
Much of the sniping by anonymous McCain staffers in media outlets like Newsweek and Fox News in recent days is over the Republican National Committee’s purchase of more than $150,000 in clothes for Palin as well as her family.
"Those are the RNC's clothes, they are not my clothes. I never forced anybody to buy anything. I never asked for anything more than maybe a Diet Dr. Pepper every once in a while," she said.
"It’s just very, very disappointing because this is Barack Obama's time right now. And this is an historic moment in our nation and this can be a shining moment for America in our history. And look what we're talking about again -- we're talking about my shoes and belts and skirts. This is ridiculous. Let's talk about progressing this nation."
Asked if she believes any of the criticism she's now facing is sexist, Palin said she sees a double standard.
"I don't know if anybody's asking Barack Obama, for instance, who did your makeup before you went on stage. But they've been asking me," Palin said.
Palin scolded the news media for its coverage, saying it's hard to have a defense for stories based on anonymous sources, including claimed tension between Palin and McCain camps.
"I know that I know that I know that there was nothing done wrong in the campaign, that John McCain and I have a great relationship, I honor him, I love him, I still wish that he were the president elect," Palin said.
She said she spoke to McCain by phone Friday morning. He was disgusted too, and told campaign staffers to knock off the critcism, she said.
Palin returns to Alaska as another of the state's Republican political juggernauts, Sen. Ted Stevens, waits to see if he’ll keep his job. A jury found Stevens guilty on seven felony counts of lying on his financial disclosure reports Oct. 28. After the verdict, Palin said: "even if elected on Tuesday, Sen. Stevens should step aside to allow a special election to give Alaskans a real choice of who will serve them in Congress."
With Stevens leading by a thin margin after Tuesday’s election, Palin appeared to have changed her mind. His fellow senators will have to decide whether to expel him, Palin said. "That's their baby, they'll have to figure out what to do."
Pressed on whether she is calling on Stevens to resign if his lead holds after absentee ballots are counted, Palin said: "Not after the will of the people has been made manifest via that vote."
If Stevens resigns or is expelled from the Senate, there would be a special election to pick his replacement.
Would Palin run?
"Not planning on that, no, not planning on that. Just being very thankful to get to hustle back to my governor’s office here and get to work as the governor," Palin said.
She noted her administration is in the process of writing a proposed state budget for next year.
"Looking at the price of oil today being so low it’s a good time for our fiscal conservativism to be kicked in full-fledged and remind Alaskans we cannot be spending at the rate that this state has been spending."
Palin said she didn't know if she'd try to go for vice president or president in 2012. She said her presence on the national stage going forward would be about the state, not about furthering her own interests.
"My participation on a national level, it will all have to do with what it is that Alaska needs and how Alaska can progress and contribute more to the U.S.," Palin said.
Palin said she's confident she can still work with Alaska Democrats, despite the bad blood that came from comments such as the one about President-elect Barack Obama palling around with terrorists. She said she has not become partisan.
"I don't know why (anyone would say that) except that I ran for vice president, with a presidential candidate, ran on a ticket...of a party that I've been part of since I was 18. Nothing has changed there, my values, my convictions, my ability to work with Democrats, independents and Republicans all together has never changed."
"So if there's criticism that all of a sudden I've changed and become an obsessive partisan, then it's not accurate criticism."