- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2008

Top advisers and aides to John McCain’s presidential campaign are going on the record to defend Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin from the barrage of anonymous accusations - some smacking of sexism - that have slammed into the Republican vice-presidential nominee, particularly since the election.

“I can say on the record that all this is way overblown and some of the stuff I’ve read in recent days, whether it’s about Governor Palin or our Mr. McCain campaign staff, is fictional,” Mark Salter said in an e-mail response to questions posed by The Washington Times.

But Mr. Salter, who was Mr. McCain’s closest aide, speechwriter and biographer, did not respond to specific questions about accusations made in several press venues by unnamed campaign staffers attacking Mrs. Palin’s character and intelligence.

Several Republicans said the intent appeared to try to shift blame for the ticket’s performance from aides and advisers to Mrs. Palin and put into question her future on the national political stage.

Steve Schmidt, the campaign’s chief strategist, defended Mrs. Palin in an e-mail exchange with The Times concerning, among other articles, a Newsweek report that at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., Mrs. Palin had greeted Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Salter in her hotel room while “wearing nothing but a towel, with another [towel] on her wet hair.”

“The towel story categorically is not true,” Mr. Schmidt told The Times in the course of telephone and e-mail exchanges over the weekend.

Charles L. Black, a close friend and senior adviser to Mr. McCain, said “no” to four of the following five questions posed to him by The Times:

• Did she go “rogue” by refusing to tell anyone in the campaign she intended to talk up Barack Obama’s ties with Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers?

• Did she direct staffers to buy on their credit cards clothes for her and/or her husband and/children? If so, did the McCain campaign find out only after aides asked for reimbursement?

• Did she chat on the phone with a Canadian radio-show host who claimed to be French President Nicolas Sarkozy?

• Did she have a concession speech ready to read on election night?

• Did she not know that NAFTA was an agreement among the U.S., Mexico and Canada?

“Answer to all of this is no, except she was victim of hoax perpetrated by Canadian talk radio re Sarkozy,” Mr. Black said. “Even then, she said nothing wrong in the call. We think she did an excellent job and added a lot to the ticket. ‘We’ includes John McCain.”

The press made much of the towel story as if it were a shockingly risque incident.

But Jane Abraham, co-founder of Team Sarah and general chairman of the Susan B. Anthony List - a nonprofit group that supports pro-life female candidates - told The Times that candidates and their campaign staffers, traveling together constantly and always pressed for time, tend to regard one another as family.

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