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Sarah Palin’s speculations about him on her Facebook page are “revolting,” said author Joe McGinniss, who has rented a home next door to hers in Wasilla, Alaska, while researching a book about the former vice presidential candidate. McGinniss accused Palin of employing “Nazi”-style tactics.
TODAY contributor
updated 6/1/2010 9:45:44 AM ET 2010-06-01T13:45:44

The man Sarah Palin doesn’t want as a neighbor leaned against the railing of his deck and listened to a litany of accusations against him: voyeur, stalker, Peeping Tom. If you believe the characterizations, TODAY’s Matt Lauer told author Joe McGinniss, they make him out to be pretty creepy.

“Creepy is as creepy does,” the writer replied early Tuesday morning via satellite from Wasilla, Alaska. “If I lived here and did something creepy, if I did what Sarah Palin is suggesting, that would be creepy.”

McGinniss accused Palin of overreacting to his presence and inciting her followers to hatred.

“She has pushed a button and unleashed the hounds of hell, and now they’re out there slavering and barking and growling,” McGinniss said. “That’s the same kind of tactic — and I’m not calling her a Nazi — but that’s the same kind of tactic that that the Nazi troopers used in Germany in the ’30s, and I don’t think there’s any place for it in America.”

New neighbor
McGinniss is writing a book about Palin tentatively titled “Sarah Palin: The Year of Living Dangerously.” He has said the book would begin with Palin resigning the governorship of Alaska in July 2009 and follow her through the ensuing year.

As a biographer, he wants to get close to his subject, and, he said, that meant moving to Wasilla to talk to all those who have known her while she was transforming herself from local girl and beauty pageant contestant into a vice presidential candidate and the de facto leader of the Tea Party movement.

McGinniss was offered a chance to rent a six-bedroom house on Lake Louise for $1,500 a month, he explained. By coincidence, the house is 15 feet from the Palins’ home.

“I would be living in this house if the Palins lived on the moon; fifteen hundred bucks a month for a house in Wasilla. I need to be in Wasilla to do my work,” McGinniss told Lauer.

But he said he has no desire to spy on the Palins or their children.

Slideshow: Sarah Palin: Republican star for 2012? “I don’t care how they behave in their backyard, I don’t care what they do in the privacy of their own home and I don’t care what their children do. I care about what my children do. I couldn’t care less about her kids,” McGinniss said.

“I’m not observing them at all,” he continued. “I’m here to talk to people who’ve known them for 40 years in Wasilla ... My work is not to sit in this house. I need to be out and talking to people. That’s why I’m in Wasilla. I’m in Wasilla because the people who know the Palins best and who can trace the evolution of the phenomenon of what Sarah Palin is — 80 percent of them live here.”

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Unwelcome to the neighborhood
The Palins are not fans of the 67-year-old McGinniss or his writing, labeling him a yellow journalist for a piece he wrote last year for Portfolio magazine about the proposed natural gas pipeline Palin bragged about bringing to the verge of construction. The article reported that the pipeline is no closer to being built now than it was when first proposed a generation ago.

When the Palins found out that McGinniss had rented the house next door, a house that previously had been used as a halfway house for convicted drug offenders returning to society, Sarah Palin took a picture of the author on his deck and posted it on her Facebook page.

“I wonder what kind of material he’ll gather while overlooking Piper’s bedroom, my little garden, and the family’s swimming hole?” she posted.

The picture posted by Palin shows a figure leaning over the deck rail with something held to his face. McGinniss said her posting suggests he’s looking in Palin’s yard, perhaps with binoculars, when, in fact, he was talking on his cell phone at the other end of the deck staring at a vacant lot.

Image: Fence at Palin's Wasilla home
Mark Thiessen  /  AP
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin erected this fence between her lakeside home in Wasilla, Alaska, and the one next door being rented by author Joe McGinniss.
Palin’s husband, Todd, went over to meet the new neighbor, but it didn’t go well. The next day he and some friends turned the 10-foot fence between the two properties into a 14-foot fence. McGinniss would not allow TODAY to take any shots from his deck of the Palins’ house or the fence.

Ominous threats
The Facebook post created a national story and brought the media back to Wasilla, where many residents have had quite enough of the attention. It also raised the hackles of TV host Glenn Beck and Palin fans, some of whom have issued death threats against the author, including a posting on Craigslist speculating where his body will be found.

The local newspaper, The Frontiersman, wrote an editorial that contained a message to the author: “Those who are fond of Joe McGinniss might remind him (if he doesn't already know) that Alaska has a law that allows the use of deadly force in protection of life and property.”

This, McGinniss said, is not how he envisioned things. He was under no illusions that the Palins would welcome him, but he hoped they could peacefully coexist.

“I moved here and didn’t tell anybody outside my family that I was moving here,” McGinniss told Lauer. “I wanted to tell the Palins personally, face-to-face, and then hopefully work out with them some accommodation where we could all live peacefully, if not with great friendship, over the course of the next three months or so.”

Video: Meet Sarah Palin’s controversial new neighbor

He accused Sarah Palin of overreacting to his presence.

“Sarah, hysterically, puts up this Facebook page with all sorts of ugly innuendo, which, frankly, is revolting, the things she has caused people to say about me. She has created all the publicity. I didn’t expect any publicity at all,” McGinniss said.

Good fences, good neighbors
In a statement to NBC News, Sarah Palin said that the author “has a right to pursue his subject, I suppose, and certainly has a right to live wherever he wants, but my family also has a right to expect privacy, and hopefully to enjoy peace this summer. Good fences do make for good neighbors. The fence is now up, and I hope that we can enjoy peace.”

McGinniss would like that, but, he said, the episode shows Palin’s remarkable ability to inspire emotions in her supporters.

Lauer asked McGinniss if he wouldn’t behave the same way that the Palins did if the situations were reversed and they moved next to him to write a book about him.

No, the author said. “I would go over and shake hands and maybe give her a plate of cookies and say, welcome to the neighborhood.”

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Video: I’m not spying on Palin, says writer next door

  1. Closed captioning of: I’m not spying on Palin, says writer next door

    >>> and if you're not delighted,

    >>> we're back now at 7:41. wasilla , alaska, is home to former alaska governor and former vice presidential candidate sarah palin . now it is home to one of the most talked about fences in the country, one that separates palin 's home from a best-selling author who moved right next door while writing a book about her. we'll talk to him exclusively in a moment. but first, nbc's janet schamlian is in wasilla . janet , good morning to you.

    >> reporter: hey, matt, good morning. the house behind me is where author joe mcginnis did thes has moved in for the summer. maybe 30 feet to my right, maybe less, is the reason he moved here. sarah palin 's home, the subject of his upcoming book. so this just good, immersive journalism or is it stalking? there are opinions on both sides of the fence. memorial day in wasilla , a time when neighbors often picnic and barbecue together. but for sarah palin and her new neighbor, there were no such plans. palin lives in the house with the large windows. to the left, now lives a best-selling author joe mcginniss .

    >> they are the most interesting neighbors i have so far.

    >> reporter: mcginniss is writing a book about palin and what he says is an effort to know his subjects, he's gotten physically close, renting the home right next door.

    >> is this a chapter in your book, living next door to sarah palin ?

    >> well, it could be -- it could well be. it could well you. it certainly gives me an insight into her character that i only had in the and tract before.

    >> reporter: palin is not happy about it. she posted a picture of mcginniss on his deck on her facebook page asking, wonder what kind of material he'll gather while overlooking piper's bedroom, my little garden and the family's swimming hole ? and while palin is not talking to her new neighbor, she is talking about him to glenn beck on fox news.

    >> you better leaves my kids alone.

    >> reporter: mcginniss says the rental house was an offer he couldn't refuse. $1,500 a month for six bedrooms on the water and just 15 feet from his subject. so what account author actually see from his rental? we can't show you. mcginniss is not allowing any photos of the palin 's home from his property, out of respect, he says, for their privacy. it has all put tiny wasilla back in the spotlight. at the local diner they serve a breakfast with a side order of opinion.

    >> you got to expect that and deal with it. real simple.

    >> reporter: if they do make good neighbors, everything should be fine. when mcginniss moved in, the palins added on to their fence. it is now 14 feet tall. and in an ironic twist, mcginniss had to add privacy measures of his own to keep out sig sightseers. the fence between the two properties some are calling the great wall. as for the palins, there haven't been many sightings othver the past few days. perhaps they've taken a summer rental of their own.

    >> in wasilla this morning, joe mcginniss is with us this morning exclusively. good morning.

    >> morning, matt. i wish you were here. before we even start, i need to correct something that i think janet probably was just simply misinformed about or didn't understand. i'm standing on this porch right now where the palins took a picture of me surreptitiously they photographed me standing on my own porch. what she said on her facebook page is i was overlooking their garden and swimming hole and their bedrooms or whatever. the fact is i was at the other end of this porch. i don't know if your camera can pan down there. i was at the other end as far away from the palin home i could get. i was leaning over the fence looking into the vacant lot next door. what i was doing was talking on the cell phone.

    >> i wonder if she was referring to what you were doing during that --

    >> i want to correct that right away.

    >> i just wonder if governor palin wasn't referring to what you were doing at the moment the photo was taken but what you could do from that deck. let me -- for every guy at a diner like the guy we saw in janet 's piece who said, hey, the palins are public people and they've got to get over it, there are people on the other side of the coin who -- and joe , they say this is a little creepy. how do you respond to that?

    >> well, you know, creepy is as creepy does. if i lived here and did something creepy, if i did what sarah palin is suggesting that i moved here because i had some desire to do, that would be creepy. the fact is, i would be living in this house if the palins lived on the moon, matt. $1,500 a month for a house in wasilla ? i need to be in wasilla to do my work.

    >> it's just coincidental you're in the house next door and not there simply to observe them?

    >> i am not observing them at all. i'm here to talk to people who have known them for 40 years in wasilla . if i was on the other side of the lake, if i wanted a place that i could afford to stay, that my family could come out. my wife is coming out the day after tomorrow and my daughter, one of my daughters, my three grandchildren are coming out the first week? july. i wanted a place where they can enjoy a little reactionation while i was doing my work. my work is not to sit in this house . i'm only in this house now because i'm doing the kind of work that palins are forcing me to do. i need to be out and talking to people. that's why i'm in wasilla . i'm in wasilla because the people who know the palins best and who can trace the evolution of the phenomenon that sarah palin is -- 80% of them live here.

    >> i'm happy to hear you're not there to observe them. because from that close proximity, you wouldn't be observing them in any form of natural state. would you? i mean, after all, if you get to look at them now, you're looking at them knowing that you're looking at them. so they aren't going to be behaving naturally, i would imagine.

    >> i wouldn't know how they behave. i don't care how they behave in their backyard. i don't care what they do in the privacy of their own home and i don't care what their children do. i care what my children do, i care what my grandchildren do. i couldn't care less about her kids.

    >> you've obviously gotten some strong criticism from people over on fox news. i'm sure you're not surprised by that. but words like stalker, voyeur, peeping tom , you know, is this -- does this all fall into the category, joe , of any press is good press, especially when you're perhaps trying to raise some interest in an upcoming book?

    >> no, matt. i'll tell you exactly why and i'll tell you how all this came about. i moved here and didn't tell anybody outside my family that i was moving here. i wanted to tell the palins directly, personally, face to face , and then hopefully work out with them some accommodation of where we could all live peacefully, if not with great friendship over the course of the next three months or so until labor day . sarah hysterically puts up this facebook page with all sorts of ugly innuendo, which frankly, is revolting, the things that she has caused people to say about me. she has created all the publicity. i didn't expect any publicity at all.

    >> it's more than revolting. the reaction -- i'm not talking about governor palin , but the reaction has gotten a little bit scary. there have been death threats against you. the fbi's involved. wasilla , alaska state police . there was a craigslist posting that asked a question of where in the woods your body would be found over the weekend. the local wasilla newspaper published an editorial that read, "those who are fond of joe mcginniss might remind him if he already doesn't know that alaska has a law that allows the use of deadly force to protect life and property." any regrets to all this? do you wish you just rented a different house ?

    >> no. you know what actually what i've learned from that, what you just recited, it's very informative. i think it is probably a lesson for the american people of the power that palin has to incite hatred and her willingness and readiness to do it. she has pushed a button and unleashed the hounds of hell, and now they're out there barking and growling. that's the same kind of tactic -- i'm not calling her a nazi, but that's the same kind of tactic that the nazi troopers used in germany in the '30s. i don't think there is any place for it in america.

    >> i also want to mention, there are two sides to every story. let me just ask you this, joe . if the shoe were on the other foot and she were writing a book about you and moved in next door, would you build the same fence they built? glue know what i would do? i would go over and shake hands and maybe give her a plate of cookies and say, " welcome to the neighborhood ."

    >> joe mcginniss , thanks for your time this morning. i appreciate it.

    >> thank you, matt.

    >>> still ahead, finding cash in


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