Sarah Palin didn’t try to ban list of books, article says


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News that Sarah Palin made inquiries about banning books shortly after becoming mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, has quickly been followed by speculations of what books she might have targeted.

Lists of books have been circulated in blog comments and via e-mail. They haven’t been reported in papers like The Times because there is no evidence that they are accurate.


In fact, one widely circulated, very long list (which appears, among other places, on’s comment string and has been disavowed by the website’s owner) is obviously false because it includes four books that had not yet hit shelves when Palin became mayor in 1996 — ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,’ ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,’ ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,’ all by J.K. Rowling.

The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, the local Wasilla newspaper, has reposted a 1996 article covering the censorship inquiries that Palin put to local librarian Mary Ellin Emmons. This piece clearly states that ‘Palin said Monday she had no particular books or other material in mind when she posed the questions to Emmons.’ That should put an end to the inaccurate lists that are circulating.

Here’s what the Valley Frontiersman says: ‘Emmons said Palin asked her outright if she could live with censorship of library books. This was during a weak [sic] when Palin was requesting resignations from all the city’s department heads as a way of expressing loyalty.’

The article continues: ‘ ‘This is different than a normal book-selection procedure or a book-challenge policy,’ Emmons stressed Saturday. ‘She was asking me how I would deal with her saying a book can’t be in the library.’’

Palin described her inquiries as ‘rhetorical’ and told the paper, in a written statement issued in 1996, that ‘she was only trying to get acquainted with her staff at the time.’

Rhetorical? Well, OK ... if she says so. Still, it seems like an odd getting-to-know-you question to me.


— Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman