Sarah Palin's birther problem resurfaces: Was her pregnancy with Trig a hoax?

Sarah Palin holds her infant son, Trig, as she stands on stage with her husband, Todd, during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., Sept. 3, 2008. (Photo: Susan Walsh/AP)Sarah Palin holds her infant son, Trig, as she stands on stage with her husband, Todd, during the Republican National …With billionaire businessman Donald Trump eying the White House (and taking second place in a recent Public Polling Survey of possible republican candidates), his resurrection of the Obama birth certificate controversy is shining a light on something GOP contender Sarah Palin would prefer to keep private: whether 2-year-old Trig is her biological son-or her grandson.

It's an issue that first came up days after Arizona Senator John McCain emerged as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, and Palin was on the short list for the VP spot. In March 2008 Palin, then 44 and the governor of Alaska, announced to her shocked staff that, in spite of her barely-there belly and pre-pregnancy wardrobe, she was seven months pregnant with her fifth child. Trig was born, a month early, on April 18; McCain asked Palin to be his running mate in late August. The pregnancy-hoax rumor was squashed on September 1 by the McCain campaign's awkward announcement that Palin's teenage daughter, Bristol Palin, was five months pregnant (and, therefore, couldn't have given birth to Trig in April).

But now, Northern Kentucky University professor Bradford Scharlott has taken another look at the news reports, photos, and other documentation. His investigation, published on, concludes that Sarah Palin's pregnancy with Trig was a hoax-and his argument is pretty interesting.

Business Insider has a synopsis of Scharlott's investigation; here are some of his main points:

  • Palin's father has said (and she has confirmed) that her water broke while in Texas for convention. She waited more than 20 hours and took two flights (with a layover in Seattle in between) back to Alaska before getting medical attention. Todd Palin didn't mention the fact that the governor was in labor or that they were coming back early when he emailed three of her aides after her speech, and Alaska Airlines flight crew didn't notice she was pregnant, let alone in labor (according to news reports, aides said that her contractions "let up enough for her to travel on Alaska Airlines back to Alaska in time time to deliver her second son.")
  • Though it was a month early and she knew her child had Downs syndrome (which can cause many medical complications, including congenital heart problems and gastrointestinal blockage), once back in Alaska, Palin decided not to go to the nearest hospital, which was just 6 miles away from the airport in Anchorage. Instead, the Palins drove another hour to the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center in Palmer, Alaska, which does not have a prenatal intensive care unit.
  • The press release Palin sent out announcing Trig's birth did not say where he was born.
  • The hospital where they later said Trig was born did not list him among the babies born that day.
  • Statements made by Palin's family doctor (who is not an obstetrician) seem to contradict Palin's assertion that the doctor delivered Trig, or that she even handled Palin's pre-natal care.
  • When Palin returned to work three days after Trig was born, she was no longer sure about when her water broke. Her biography, "Going Rogue," gives yet another time frame.
  • In photos taken on March 14, 2008, and on March 26, 2008, Palin's abdomen is noticeably flat. Yet photos taken just two weeks later show her with such a round belly that she can barely clasp her hands in front of it.
Some have argued that the fact that Trig has Downs syndrome is enough proof that he was born to an older mom and, as such, must be Sarah Palin's biological son (and not her daughter's, or her son's girlfriend's). Though the risk of having a baby with Downs syndrome is much higher for older mothers, young moms-even teenage moms-do give birth to children with the genetic disorder, too: One in 1,250 babies born to mothers age 15 to 19 has Downs syndrome, compared to 1 in 100 babies born to 40-year-old mothers (the rate jumps to 1 in 25 for mothers who are 45 or older).

Does it seem odd that a 44-year-old woman who is pregnant with her fifth child would wait around in a hotel for 10 hours after she goes into premature labor at 35 weeks, attend a big stressful event, and spend 10 more hours on two different flights and a layover while in active labor before bypassing the closest hospital in favor of traveling another hour to give birth without an obstetrician at a much smaller one that didn't have a NICU to deal with complications from what she already knew could be, by several different definitions, a high-risk birth?


The real question is: Why does it matter? It's been nearly three years. Trig isn't running for public office. Is the media just bashing a special-needs kid because his mom happens to be a Republican icon? Or are they implying that pregnancy and parenthood affect Palin's ability to hold public office?

No one is bashing Trig or the fact that he has special needs (in fact, if he isn't Palin's biological son, she's done a pretty wonderful thing by claiming him when many people would balk at the idea of raising a child with Downs Syndrome). And Trig isn't running for office, but his mother has, more than once, and says she may again. And that's why it matters.

In response to questions about his eligibility to serve as President, Barack Obama released a Certification of Live Birth. That's different from a Certificate of Live Birth, of course, which offers more information (and there's plenty of controversy about that), but the certification does show all of the pertinent details-including the parents' names, and the date, hour, and city or town in which the baby was born (click here to see it yourself)-that Palin refuses to verify.

Like marriage certificates (which Palin once insisted a republican opponent release to prove he was married, since his wife kept her name), birth certificates are restricted by law in Alaska-they become public records 100 years after they're issued and can only be requested by the person whose name is on the certificate, or his or her parents, before then. But there's no reason why Palin can't put the matter to rest right now, by releasing a copy of Trig's birth certificate.

No one really cares whether she's his biological mom or not-that doesn't have anything to do with her ability to govern. But the possibility that she's lying in order to cover up a situation that contradicts her public stance on an issue, or that reflects poorly on her as a public figure? That does.

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