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CNN PRESENTS

Sarah Palin Revealed

Aired September 14, 2008 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My friends and fellow Americans, I am very pleased, very privileged to introduce to you the next vice president of the United States, Governor Sarah Palin, of the great state of Alaska.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN HOST: Blackberries lighting up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't know that much about her.

GRIFFIN: She is the unlikeliest of candidates.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a shocker, an absolute shocker.

GRIFFIN: She is a virtual unknown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is young, dynamic, a fresh face people want to look at.

GRIFFIN: A savvy politician, full of surprises.

SARAH PALIN, (R), GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: I was just your average hockey mom.

GRIFFIN: Who has defied odds her entire life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know too much about her, but maybe that's the good news.

GRIFFIN: The hockey mom has five kids, a lifelong hunter and member of the NRA, a beauty queen who went on to become a small-town mayor, a little known governor who was known for shaking up politics. And now she's the first Republican and only the second female vice presidential candidate ever.

PALIN: Women of America are not finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.

GRIFFIN: To understand why John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate, you must first understand who she is.

Born Sarah Louise Heath in Sand Pointe, Idaho, 1964, the third of four children. Her mother, Sally, a school secretary.

CHUCK HEATH, FATHER OF SARAH PALIN: She is still my little girl.

GRIFFIN: Her father, Chuck, now retired, and a track coach who had to moonlight several jobs, even bartend to make ends meet. When Sarah was two months old, Chuck Heath moved his family to a remote part of Alaska.

Why Alaska?

CHUCK HEATH: Hunting and fishing. I conned my wife and I said we will try it for one year. and when we got up there, we couldn't afford to leave. We didn't have television. We had one radio station and no newspaper. We were isolated. I came up with a fish pole in one hand and a gun in the other and I haven't put them down.

GRIFFIN: Heath would often take his children moose hunting before school. Sarah bagged her first rabbit at age 10. And hunting is a tradition Sarah continues with her children.

CHUCK HEATH: Ninety percent of our food was probably taken from the woods, birds and fish, caribou, moose, sheep, deer.

GRIFFIN: Sounds more like Abe Lincoln you raise here.

CHUCK HEATH: No log cabin.

GRIFFIN: Even at a young age, Sarah was determined.

CHUCK HEATH: When she was 2 years old, we saw stubbornness in her.

GRIFFIN: Wanting a more urban life, the Heaths moved again to the town of Wasilla near Anchorage, Alaska. The Heath kids had a special bond, especially Sarah and sisters Molly and Heather. The three shared one bedroom.

HEATHER BRUCE, PALIN'S SISTER: We needed to be close to each other. And somebody would whisper does anybody feel like "Sleeping Beauty?" And you hear this scuffle and we get into whoever's bet and we would snuggle in there.

GRIFFIN: They did have their squabbles.

BRUCE: The best fights we had were when mom and dad were gone. If something got broken, if somebody got hurt, we usually stopped and made a pact we don't tell mom and dad.

GRIFFIN: Sarah was the reader in the family.

CHUCK HEATH: She read the newspaper more than I did. I grabbed the sports and she would grab the front page.

GRIFFIN: The family was Catholic until Sally Heath took a different path and began ascending the Wasilla Assembly of God, a Pentecostal church. It's a religion where some members practice faith healing and speak in tongues.

At age 12, Sarah was re-baptized, a born-again Christian.

Kaylene Johnson is the author of "Sarah: How a Hockey Mom turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down."

KAYLENE JOHNSON, AUTHOR: Sally brought this family to church and nurtured the faith of her family and children. This is something that Sarah embraced and that she held dear and used and embrace as a moral compass for the rest of her life -- was her faith in god.

CHUCK HEATH: Sally gave them a good background in faith. I gave them a background in outdoor life, sports and discipline.

GRIFFIN: It was on a basketball court where Sarah got her first shot at stardom. She was a starting guard and co-captain of the Wasilla High School Warriors. Nicknamed Barracuda for her aggressive play.

Sarah was very competitive. State runner up, 1982, the Wasilla High School Warriors were again in the championship game Sarah's senior year. In a hard fought battle, Sarah played with a fractured ankle.

We watched a tape of the game with two former teammates, Jackie Conn and Wanda Bitler.

WANDA BITLER, HIGH SCHOOL TEAMMATE: She was injured and out there giving it her all, 110 percent, working through the pain. She wanted to be out there. It was the last game. She wanted to be an important part of what was happening.

GRIFFIN: Ahead by four points with less than a minute to play, the coach sent Sarah back into the game. Minutes later she was fouled. Her free-throw put the game out of reach.

GAME ANNOUNCER: Sarah's shot is in there. Sarah just iced the game for the Wasilla Warriors.

JOHNSON: In some ways, that's how Sarah put Wasilla on the map for the first time.

GRIFFIN: It wouldn't be the last.

In the hour ahead, Sarah Palin, a PTA mom turned politician.

PALIN: My fellow Americans, come join our cause.

GRIFFIN: A Republican maverick touting herself as a fiscal Rambo, Sarah Palin revealed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The next vice president of the United States, Sarah Palin!

GRIFFIN: Sarah Palin in the spotlight.

PALIN: This is America and every woman can walk through every door of opportunity. GRIFFIN: This isn't Palin's first turn at stardom. Two decades earlier, in 1984, she was at the center of a much smaller stage when she won the Miss Wasilla crown and then Miss Congeniality as runner up at the Miss Alaska pageant.

But for the basketball star turned beauty queen, the pageants were a means to an end.

Older sister, Heather Bruce.

BRUCE: That was a surprise to us. Sarah, who wasn't into fashion and heavy make up and parading herself around in front of people whatsoever, but she heard of the scholarship pageant that provided good prize money. And we all knew we were paying our way through college.

GRIFFIN: Sarah hung up her tiara and left a parka behind and headed off to college with a few friends. She tried two schools in Hawaii, but biographer Kaylene Johnson says they weren't the right fit.

JOHNSON: They just got, believe it or not, tired of no seasons and sunshine.

GRIFFIN: Sarah transferred again to North Idaho College to be closer to her brother, Chuck. In five years she worked her way through five schools, ultimately earning a degree in journalism from the University of Idaho.

Why so many schools?

BRUCE: In a remote state like Alaska sometimes you don't have an opportunity to go college hopping, to shop around for colleges. I don't think it shows she can't make decisions or anything like that. I think it just means that you are trying to find the best environment.

GRIFFIN: By 1987, Sarah returned home in Wasilla, Alaska. To a special friend she met during her senior year of high school.

PALIN: Dad came home from basketball practice and he said -- it was right before school started, and he said, Sarah, there is a new boy in town and he's the best basketball player I've seen in Wasilla, better than -- and he named off some kids. I said, oh, I will have to meet him, the new boy in town.

GRIFFIN: That new boy was Todd Palin, attractive, athletic, charming, a fresh face in Wasilla. Sarah met her match. After Sarah's return from college, the two grew closer.

JOHNSON: Todd, from his fishing boat, had some hand-held radios. And they lived several miles away from each other. They would each sit on the back porch of their homes and talk to each other on the hand-held radios.

PALIN: They did choke. I'm going to show you a couple of highlights from college basketball.

GRIFFIN: Sarah was nurturing a new career at a local TV station.

PALIN: The Iditarod is the biggie, but it's not the only mushing going on.

JOHNSON: She started out as the sports anchor at KTU weekend news and one of the viewers called in and said something to the effect that, well, you have taken out the old guy and replaced him with a bimbo, which she found that highly amusing.

GRIFFIN: At the same time the relationship with Todd was taking off. Fall day in 1988, Heather planned to meet Sarah and Todd at the state fair, but the two never showed up. Instead, they headed to the courthouse and learned they needed two witnesses to be married.

BRUCE: They walked across the street to the pioneer home and asked in the lobby if someone would like to be their witness and a couple of volunteers had to wheel -- had to push the other one in their wheelchair, across the street to the courthouse. I don't think they had rings. I'm not even sure.

GRIFFIN: Sarah's father, Chuck, took the news well.

CHUCK HEATH: They eloped. I thanked them, saying you saved me a lot of money.

GRIFFIN: Almost eight months later, Todd and Sarah's first child was born and they named him Track, after the sports season in which he was born. Over the next four years, four more children would come, Bristol, Willow, Piper and Trig.

As a young mother in a small town, Sarah bonded with Kristin Cole and Judy Patrick. We caught up with them in the local gun club where they shoot, socialize and once threw a baby shower for Sarah.

KRISTIN COLE, FRIEND: We used to get together in the summertime at the Lake Lucille Park, the three of us, and sit on the picnic table and talk about how we were doing, gosh, if any of us need help, what was going on in our lives.

JUDY PATRICK, FRIEND: We were aware of the need to balance our lives. We all had busy careers and we all had futures that we knew were going to be bigger than what we were in at that moment.

GRIFFIN: Todd and Sarah raised their young children and pursued their interests. Todd was a commercial fisherman and an oilman and honed his skills as a champion snow machine racer. That's what they call snowmobiles in Alaska.

Sarah was too busy to continue at the station. She became active in the PTA and worked out in the local gym.

There, she met Wasilla's mayor, John Stein.

JOHN STEIN, FORMER MAYOR OF WASILLA: Elections were coming up and people were being scouted for possible candidacy for the city council. Sarah's name was suggested. She was invited to a meeting and Sarah came in and was presentable and energetic and bright, and everyone said yes, this woman would be a great council person.

GRIFFIN: With Stein's support and the kids in to, Sarah Palin hit the Wasilla campaign trail.

JOHNSON: She went door-to-door to every voter in the community. Sometimes she went door-to-door pulling a wagon with Track and Bristol, and Todd was at her side.

GRIFFIN: Personable, political savvy, Sarah Palin used skills, made a plan and soon won herself a seat on city council. It was the first of many political surprises.

When we come back, Sarah Palin plays hardball in Wasilla city hall. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: Less than 5,000 people lived in Wasilla, Alaska, when Sarah Palin sat on the city council. It was 1996, and she was angry.

Judy Patrick also served on the council.

PATRICK: She was very fiscally conservative and could see that the current administration wanted to build and had plans to build a new city hall, a new library and I think a civic center of some sort.

GRIFFIN: Palin saw it as a wasteful use of tax dollars and decided to go after the mayor's job. The state Republicans took note of this 32-year-old fresh face from Wasilla.

Tom Kizzia reports for the Anchorage Daily News.

TOM KIZZIA, REPORTER, ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS: There was their up- and-coming star and she could see a future for her. They were kind of greasing the skids.

GRIFFIN: John Stein was Wasilla's sitting mayor, Palin's opponent, and the target of a strong Republican campaign.

STEIN: The issues that were brought in were national issues, that is abortion, gun rights, those kinds of things. When we said, whoa, what's this got to do with roads, sewer, library and the museum, they said all politics are local.

KIZZIA: There was a sub-race going on, on her behalf, and talk about her being a Christian mayor. It was time for a Christian mayor.

GRIFFIN: Tom Kizzia said while various people were promoting a Christian candidacy, it was a whisper campaign that Sarah Palin never publicly supported. In the final tally, Sarah Palin received 616 votes; John Stein, 413, despite being a Christian and a Republican.

In four years, Palin had shot from the ranks, from PTA mom to city councilwoman to mayor. One of the mayor's first order of business -- clean house. She purged a number of department heads who wrote an editorial endorsing and supporting Mayor Stein.

JACKSON: It was the bumpiest ride I have ever been on in my life.

GRIFFIN: Among the victims, the museum director and three other department heads who were rehired a few weeks later.

Palin made more waves during the campaign she pledged to cut costs, the local press took aim after she hired a city manager.

Victoria Nagly former editor of the Frontiersman.

VICTORIA NAGLY, FORMER EDITOR, FRONTEIERSMAN: She told us flat out that no, she didn't need to hire a city manager, even though she didn't have administrative experience. She was going do it. We said OK. She said it's not rocket science. So, OK. But she got into office and hired a city manager.

GRIFFIN: Still another controversy.

STEIN: It was relayed by the librarian that Sarah said, what is needed to be done to get books that I find objectionable out of the library? That was horrifying to the professional librarian.

GRIFFIN: We tried to verify former Mayor Stein's claims. Sarah Palin turned down the request for an interview. We also we tried to contact the librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, but we were unsuccessful.

Although, a 1996 story quotes her, "She was asking me how I would deal with her saying a book can't be in the library. I told her clearly, I will fight anyone who tries to dictate what books can go on the library shelves."

The bottom line was whatever Sarah Palin did or did not want to do in terms of banning a book, didn't happen?

STEIN: It didn't happen. There was an outcry from the more liberal folks in town saying, hold on a second.

Would you say she got the message?

STEIN: I think she got the message because she backed off.

GRIFFIN: Sarah Palin made sweeping financial changes and some may not be what you call fiscally conservative changes. For example, while she cut property taxes, Palin raised the sales tax.

KIZZIA: So the sales taxes were going through the roof and she was able to cut property tax, not by shrinking government. The cost of running the city of Wasilla went way up during the time that she was mayor.

GRIFFIN: Palin improved public transportation and paved roads and beefed up the police force. The mayor gave birth to her youngest daughter, Piper during it all.

JOHNSON: She was only three days old and she was already underneath Sarah's desk. Sarah went back to work straight away.

Sarah Palin ran for a second term. Once again, her opponent, former Mayor John Stein.

STEIN: The specific project issue which I debated her in the 1999 election was the construction of an ice rink or a recreation center for Wasilla.

GRIFFIN: To help cover it, the $15 million price tag of the mayor/hockey mom, issue municipal bonds, in effect, Wasilla borrowed the money. Though Sarah Palin campaigned as a fiscal conservative, her city, for the first time, took on a multimillion-dollar debt.

STEIN: Those were the days where the Democrats were tax and spend. Well, Sarah, you're a borrow and spend, which was a notch more negative than the tax and spend point.

GRIFFIN: Some of this sounds like sour grapes from a guy who really devoted his live to the business of managing government who got unseated by a woman with no experience.

STEIN: Exactly right.

GRIFFIN: The property tax was eliminated, as miniscule as it was.

STEIN: Right.

GRIFFIN: The current mayor says the city is in great financial shape and the police department, which you started, is growing and has gotten stronger.

STEIN: Sure.

GRIFFIN: The one project that you tell me was a questionable bond issue is a good project.

STEIN: Yeah, it is.

GRIFFIN: And she was reelected. She beat you again.

STEIN: No question.

GRIFFIN: Good mayor? You won't say it, will you?

STEIN: No. No. Can't say it.

GRIFFIN: Sarah Palin left her mark on Wasilla, much of it funded through a process called earmarking, members of Congress allocating federal dollars to special projects in their own states. Mayor Palin hired lobbyists to push earmarks through Congress, almost $27 million worth between 2000 and 2003.

It's a practice Wasilla Mayor Diane Keller continues today.

DIANE KELLER: The projects we have lobbied for are meat and potatoes projects for our community, roads, sewer, water projects. Can a community our size afford it all on our own? No, we can't.

GRIFFIN: By the way, Alaska receives more earmarks per capita than any other state. Listen to what John McCain pledges he will do with earmarks.

MCCAIN: The first earmark, pork-barrel laden bill that comes across my desk, I will veto it and I'll make them famous and you'll know their names. You'll know their names.

GRIFFIN: Just ahead, the GOP's rising star takes on her own party.

(COMMERIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: Dedicated mother and mayor, Sarah Palin would soon add mystery to her public persona.

WILLIS LYFORD, GOP POLITICAL CONSULTANT: There was good chatter about her, but people really didn't know that much about her.

GRIFFIN: Willis Lyford served as Sarah Palin's political consultant when she ran for lieutenant governor of Alaska.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN: Your message is either out there, or it's not out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN (voice-over): That was 2001, her first foray into statewide politics.

LYFORD: I remember distinctly the first meeting with her because she came up from behind her desk and she was wearing some sort of turtleneck and leather boots that kind of came up above her knee, and I thought, "Now there is a look you don't often see in a Republican."

GRIFFIN (off-camera): Sarah Palin entered the primary election as the dark horse against more experienced GOP politicians, but emerged from it as the rising star in the Republican party.

LYFORD: We're started in dead last, and by the end we barely lost just by 2,000 votes even though we were heavily outspent.

GRIFFIN: That campaign propelled her career forward and led her to her first political appointment. Newly elected governor Frank Murkowski asked Palin to serve on the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Palin had to sign off on whether business was being conducted ethically, but she noticed state resources were being used for political gain, so she alerted Gov. Murkowski's office. No action was taken.

In separate cases, Palin filed formal ethics complaints against Randy Ruedrich, chairman of the Alaskan GOP, who was fined, and Greg Renkes, state attorney general, who resigned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Truly, from all Alaskans who are ready for ethics reform...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: Taking on the Republican leadership could have been political suicide.

Best friend, Kristen Cole --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRISTEN COLE: Initially everybody kind of thought, "Oh, boy, the rising star in the Republican party is kind of going to be set aside," and they tried to punish her. She resigned her position, and she was kind of ostracized by the GOP here in Alaska.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: "Take a stand." It's more than a slogan. It means saying no to contributions with strings attached.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN (off-camera): In 2005, Sarah Palin decided to run for governor. Once again she was the dark horse -- this time, her opponent the powerful incumbent Frank Murkowski, her GOP ally who had once boosted her career.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK MURKOWSKI, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: You know, when you were in your position overseeing oil and gas, did you monitor any aspects of the state's regulatory position on the pipeline?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: Alaska's lieutenant governor, Sean Parnell -

SEAN PARNELL, ALASKA LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Her opposition and even some of the Republican party establishment wholly underestimated Sarah Palin.

GRIFFIN: Sarah Palin won the primary...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MURKOWSKI: You've got my support...

PALIN: Thank you.

MURKOWSKI: ... and I'll do everything I can to see that you get elected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: ... and then went on to defeat her Democratic opponent, Tony Knowles, becoming the first female and youngest governor of Alaska.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: ...to the best of my ability, so help me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CNN METEOROLOGIST CHAD MYERS: And welcome back, everyone. I'm meteorologist Chad Myers in the CNN Weather Center. Last hour I didn't have any tornado warnings to talk about. Well, now I do.

We have tornado watches in effect obviously because we know that the spin from what was left of Ike now could put down some tornadoes, and two tornado warnings at this point. One for Nacatosh (ph) County and then the other one for Wynn (ph) and for Jackson.

So two storms here that are still spinning, and we could have more. Even southwest another big storm right there -- even though it's out of the box, it's close enough that it still could be spinning. We get storms that are this strong, you really do have to watch yourself there, so watch out, Jonesboro, and even just about 10 miles south of Natchez in Louisiana. That's where the storms will be now.

Also, the box a little bit farther up the north, but nothing at this point spinning anywhere near Little Rock at least, but if you are in that area, you are in a box. That means that you have the potential for storms tonight.

Looks like Kankakee, you're about to get hit. They're just on the western suburbs of you. That's where the weather is the strongest across parts of the Midwest. And then, now finally into Detroit, moving across, probably over into Windsor, seeing some showers here all the way down, about Downriver, also into Sterling Heights, and that looks like almost moving into Lake St. Clair, so watch out there. I know it's dark -- probably not too many boaters out right now.

Rain showers into Syracuse, but the airports across the Northeast look very good. Here is a map of what's going on with some of these parishes here across parts of southern Louisiana. This is the Sabine River here, Sabine Pass. Look at this thing going all the way up here, 14 feet was the storm surge, and now we are all the way back down to six feet, almost out of flood stage. That some good news for the people of southwestern Louisiana.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Even before Sarah Palin became Alaska's 11th governor, there was one man who was a constant thorn in her side.

This is Mike Wooten, an Alaska state trooper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE WOOTEN, FORMER ALASKA STATE TROOPER AND FORMER BROTHER-IN- LAW OF SARAH PALIN: You know, I love my job and I love this state and those are my priorities -- my kids and my job.

GRIFFIN: But Mike Wooten is also Palin's former brother-in-law, and that relationship is at the heart of what has become the biggest controversy of her short political career. Tom Kizzia has covered the story for the "Anchorage Daily News."

TOM KIZZIA, REPORTER, "ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS": Troopergate was the first smudge on her image as a kind of clean government reformer.

GRIFFIN: For five years, Trooper Wooten and Palin's sister Molly were married, but their marriage ended bitterly in 2005, and ever since they have battled over custody of their two children.

GRIFFIN (on camera): How do you feel about just having all of your life plastered in newspapers and TVs and now picked up nationally?

WOOTEN: It's definitely not very easy. It creates a lot of stress, that's for sure.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): In the beginning, Palin had only glowing words to say about Trooper Wooten. In this letter then Mayor Palin wrote that she was impressed with his integrity, work ethic, community spirit and trustworthiness and that "it is an honor to know Mike."

GRIFFIN (on camera): Was there ever good time with you - I mean at one point you were a member of that family.

WOOTEN: You're absolutely right. I was a member of that family, and I have some very cherished memories of those times. There was a lot of good times.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): But the good times ended after Mike Wooten and Molly divorced. By August 2005, Palin was firing off e-mails to the head of the state troopers describing Wooten's "unethical and illegal actions that reflect so poorly on the troopers," including threats to her family.

Palin's father, Chuck Heath, doesn't like discussing it, but did tell us --

CHUCK HEATH, FATHER OF REPUBLICAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE SARAH PALIN: Yes, that - Troopergate -- that is a real hurtful thing in our life and what's happened. All I will say about that is, sometime look at the guy's record. That's all I want to say about that.

GRIFFIN: And so we did look into Trooper Wooten's record, and it's not pretty.

GRIFFIN (on camera): The headlines about you -- Tasered a stepson when you were a Taser officer, shot a moose illegally, two separate incidents where somebody saw you drinking in a car, driving. True?

WOOTEN: Let me take those on one at a time and explain those to you.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Yes, Wooten admits, he did Taser his stepson, but he insists his stepson asked him to do it.

WOOTEN: I didn't shoot him with Taser with an actual live cartridge and shoot him with the probes and that kind of situation that some people have made this out to be. That's not the case at all.

It was a training aid that he was hooked up to -- just little clips -- and it was as safe as I could possibly make it.

GRIFFIN: Wooten admits he killed a moose in violation of state law, but he justified it because his wife had the actual permit.

As for drinking and driving his patrol car while on duty?

WOOTEN: No.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Didn't happen?

WOOTEN: Didn't happen.

GRIFFIN: Those witnesses...

WOOTEN: I -

GRIFFIN: ... lying?

WOOTEN: I don't know why they would say that. It didn't happen.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): But there were other charges. Palin told police that she heard Wooten rage against her sister and threaten to kill her father.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Did you threaten to kill your father-in- law?

WOOTEN: No, I did not.

GRIFFIN: You didn't say you were going to put an "f-ing" bullet in his head?

WOOTEN: No, I did not.

GRIFFIN: So those people that say they heard that are lying?

WOOTEN: I didn't threaten him, and I never threatened anyone, for that matter.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Despite Mike Wooten's numerous transgressions, he was given just a five-day suspension, but his boss, Walt Monegan, the commissioner of public safety and the state's top cop, was fired.

And that's why Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is still to this day under investigation. At the heart of the matter, did Palin as governor abuse her power by trying to have her ex-brother-in-law fired? Records show she believed Wooten was too dangerous to be a state trooper, but others allege she was just settling a family score. John Seer (ph) is Wooten's union rep.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think that we get to go back four years or more and try to demonize an officer and try to get an officer fired because of an ugly divorce -- and I think that is what this is about.

GRIFFIN: And what about Commissioner Monegan? Gov. Palin says she fired him because he was slow to act on her budget initiatives. But that's not how Monegan sees it. He told our producer in a phone interview...

WALT MONEGAN, FORMER ALASKA COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC SAFETY: I believe I was fired because I did not fire Mike Wooten.

GRIFFIN: He admits he was never told to actually fire Wooten, but he says he was under intense pressure from Palin's staff and her family to do just that.

In the latest twist on Friday afternoon, Alaska lawmakers voted to subpoena Palin's husband Todd, a dozen of her aides and some phone records. Still Palin insists she did nothing illegal and would never use her power to fire Wooten.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Commissioner Monegan was not terminated because of concerns about Trooper Wooten, and I stand by that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: When we come back, the controversy grows when Sarah Palin is thrust front and center on the national stage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN (voice-over): August 2008, the morning after Barack Obama's stirring speech at the Democratic convention. The news media was buzzing, but less about Obama and more about John McCain's impending announcement of a running mate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE ANCHOR: The top contenders former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, as well as Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: Thousands of miles from Ohio and a world away from the political mainstream, Alaska governor Sarah Palin had been quietly escorted onto a private jet.

KIZZIA: I think she has always had feeling about Washington being her ultimate goal, but who would have thought that it would happen this fast?

GRIFFIN: Noon, Aug. 29, 2008.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA, 2008 REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The next vice president of the United States...

GRIFFIN: It was a political shocker.

MCCAIN: ... Gov. Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): You know, I don't know much about Sarah Palin...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (off-camera): Frankly, I am pretty surprised that they decided to go with the Alaskan governor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN (on camera): You know, I've got to tell you, Chuck. This almost seems like it's made up that your daughter is a vice presidential candidate.

HEATH: I couldn't believe this was happening to my little girl, you know? Completely blindsided.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): But controversy quickly followed. Palin's unmarried 17-year-old daughter Bristol was pregnant, a significant concern for any mother and especially a social conservative. The press pounced while her family and friends, like Judy Patrick, winced.

JUDY PATRICK: In the best case, it's a private matter, and to have something like that just go all across the world basically, I thought that that was really tough.

GRIFFIN: Palin quickly fired off a statement saying Bristol had her unconditional love and support. Close friend Kristen Cole --

COLE: She handled it exactly like we knew she would, because as parents you don't abandon your child just because they make a bad choice, for heaven's sakes.

GRIFFIN: Palin, devoted mother, savvy politician, kept her stride and continued running. For Palin and McCain, the road to Washington went through Minneapolis, the Republican convention and the biggest speech of Sarah Palin's life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: and the next vice president of the United States, Sarah Palin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: Palin would have to overcome criticisms and controversy and prove that she was the right choice for vice president.

Back in Alaska, her biggest fans held their breath.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Were you nervous?

HEATH: Yes, I was nervous. I was nervous up to the time she got up there. A lot of people hoped she would fall flat, but we have a lot of faith in her, and she's never let us down ever.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Six years ago Sarah Palin was the mayor of tiny Wasilla, Alaska, population 5,000. Now she steps out of obscurity and into an arena filled with 20,000 new admirers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: I accept the call to help our nominee for president to serve and defend America...

GRIFFIN: A barracuda with a clutch free throw,...

PALIN: ... and I accept the challenge of a tough fight in this election.

GRIFFIN: ... a beauty queen with an irrepressible personality.

PALIN: You know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.

GRIFFIN: Sarah Palin knocked it out of the park - the interest immediate, McCain's campaign instantly energized.

MCCAIN: Don't you think we made the right choice for the next vice president of the United States?

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: And Palin's Christian values scored high marks from social conservatives. PAT ROBERTSON, RELIGIOUS BROADCASTER: We weren't quite sure what his values were, but now he is saying loud and clear, "This is what I want," and we are delighted.

GRIFFIN: Strong faith, according to her pastor, Larry Kroon, is Palin's guiding force.

LARRY KROON, PASTOR, WASILLA BIBLE CHURCH: She really cares about people, she really cares about her God, and it doesn't get in the way of anything. I think it enhances her.

GRIFFIN: And that's what church folk back home and across the country relate to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: It was so cool growing up in this church and getting saved here, getting baptized here...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: In the days after the big speech, Sarah Palin left Minneapolis and hit the stump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Thanks to the skill and the valor of our great troops, the surge in Iraq has worked.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): But she kept her distance from the press, waiting for more than a week to do her first TV interview on ABC.

PALIN: You can't blink. You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we are on -- reform of this country and victory in the war. You can't blink. So I didn't blink then even, when asked to run as his running mate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: The same day Palin watched as her 19-year-old son Track deployed to Iraq.

For the next few weeks and possibly the next few years, America will pore over Palin's experience, faith, family, politics and problems. Palin's believers are convinced she is only beginning to make history.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she'll be nominated, she'll win and then she'll go on to be the first woman president.

GRIFFIN: But first --

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will be honored to accept your nomination for vice president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

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