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Image: Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston
Robyn Beck  /  AFP - Getty Images file
Johnston and Palin, who have a baby boy named Tripp were considering a summer wedding before their engagement ended.
TODAY staff and wire
updated 3/12/2009 11:34:17 AM ET 2009-03-12T15:34:17

Contrary to tabloid reports, Bristol Palin is allowing her ex-fiance to see their 2½-month-old infant son, Tripp, Palin told NBC News.

The daughter of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin issued the statement after PEOPLE magazine confirmed on its Web site a report in the tabloid “Star” that she and the boy’s father, Levi Johnston, had split.

“It is true that Levi and I are no longer together; however, I am absolutely committed to being the best mom to Tripp Easton,” the 18-year-old Bristol Palin wrote in a statement to NBC.

Johnston, 19, told The Associated Press that he and Palin mutually decided “a while ago” to end their relationship. He declined to elaborate as he stood outside his family's home in Wasilla, about 40 miles north of Anchorage.

Palin also said that she was devastated about a report on Star magazine's Web site that quoted Johnston’s sister, Mercede, as saying Bristol "makes it nearly impossible" to visit Tripp, who was born on Dec. 27.

Sharing the caring
Lorenzo Benet, assistant editor of PEOPLE, confirmed in an interview that aired Thursday on TODAY that both Levi Johnston and his mother still have access to the infant.

“They’re still sharing with child care, but he’s no longer there as a regular fixture at the Palin home,” Benet said.

The Star article said that the Palins referred to Johnston and his mother, Sherry Johnston, as “white trash.” Sherry Johnston was arrested in December and charged with selling prescription painkillers.

“We have not been able to substantiate that,” People.com’s executive director, Patrick Rodgers, told TODAY’s Natalie Morales in reference to the “white trash” allegation.

“There have also been reports that she was not allowing Levi’s mother to see the child. We have heard that is not the case, that Levi’s mother was seeing Tripp,” Rodgers added. “It’s obviously very clear that they’re upset. Both of them have come out and said, ‘Don’t believe everything you read.’ ”

“Unfortunately, my family has seen many people say and do many things to ‘cash in’ on the Palin name," said Bristol Palin’s statement, which was issued through her mother’s political action committee. "Sometimes that greed clouds good judgment and the truth."

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Sweethearts in the spotlight
Sarah Palin had just been introduced to the nation as Arizona Sen. John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential campaign when news broke that Bristol, who was then 17, was pregnant and that Johnston was the father. The couple became a fixture on the campaign trail, often seen sitting together while Sarah Palin and McCain addressed rallies. Cameras quickly found Bristol’s name tattooed on Johnston’s ring finger.

As recently as a month ago, Bristol Palin told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren that she and Johnston still planned to get married this summer. She called Johnston a “hands-on dad” who was devoted to his son. Both teens said they were working to finish their high school diplomas through online courses, and Johnston was said to be employed for a time in the Alaskan oil fields. The latest reports say that Johnston is now unemployed.

Rodgers said that the break-up apparently happened “a few weeks ago,” not long after the Fox interview.

Video: Rogers: Bristol’s breakup was ‘mutual’

“It was somewhat common knowledge around Wasilla, the town that they live in,” Rodgers told Morales. “As for why it happened, neither of them has spoken about that, and I don’t know what the actual cause was. We have heard that it was mutual and that Bristol is OK, and that the baby is fine, and that they’re going to try to make it work for their kid.”

Rodgers said the split shouldn’t be surprising. “I think there was pressure on them to remain a couple. If you factor in that her mother is the governor of a state, his mother’s been arrested on drug charges, you can see that pressure is coming at them from all sides,” he said. “We do know that they really made an effort, however, to make a go of it after the birth of their son, and Levi is still seeing Tripp and plans to have a role in the life of this child.”

Morales asked Rodgers what plans Bristol Palin has now that marriage is not on the horizon.

“She’s spoken recently about wanting to get on with college next year. She’s spoken in the past about wanting to be a pediatric nurse,” Rodgers replied. “It’s the very beginning of her life. She’s got a lot to do, but she’s determined to get these things done while she’s raising a baby.

— Mike Celizic, with additional reporting by the Associated Press

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Bristol Palin and fiancé split

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