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Geoffrey Dunn

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Palin's Evangelical Base Slaps Down Bristol

Posted: 02/21/09 03:37 PM ET

There are ironies, and then there are real ironies. In the aftermath of Bristol Palin's candid interview with Greta Van Susteren this week about teen abstinence, one of mom Sarah Palin's chief support groups -- right-wing evangelicals who promote abstinence -- tore into Bristol over her comments on Fox News that "abstinence is unrealistic."

In a statement entitled "The Cold Hard Facts Melt Myth That Abstinence Is Unrealistic," the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA), an organization dedicated "to serve, support and represent individuals and organizations in the practice of abstinence education," issued a rather harsh and direct response to Bristol's claim:

During Sarah Palin's recent vice-presidential bid, her unmarried teen daughter Bristol's pregnancy became a hot campaign topic. As a follow-up report on this compelling human interest story, Fox News Commentator Greta van Susteren, asked Bristol Palin about abstinence. Bristol shared her view that "abstinence is....not realistic at all." It is suspect that media, seemingly devoted to science based research, is quick to claim Bristol Palin's experience as proof positive that abstinence education for all teens should end...

The NAEA statement concluded:

While Bristol's story makes for an interesting human-interest story, her comment should not be the basis to form public policy on the complex issue of teen sex especially if we look at the facts regarding the teen sexual activity.

I'm not going to touch NAEA's implied reference to Fox News with a ten-foot pole. But only weeks after Sarah Palin said "leave my kids alone," her biggest "news" promoter, Van Susteren, sneaks into Alaska behind Palin's back for a ratings-grabbing interview with Bristol. And then a conservative Christian group goes after her daughter.

Where's Palin's vituperative comeback at Van Susteren or the NAEA?

Her silence says truck loads.

I've written more than two dozen pieces on Palin since she was picked to ride shotgun with John McCain, and I've never once mentioned Bristol and her pregnancy. But now that Bristol is 18 and coming forward with public interviews of her own about issues such as teen-pregnancy and abstinence, I felt compelled to point out the irony of this new attack on Bristol and the hypocrisy of Palin's silence.

Moreover, this is not the first time that the NAEA has used Bristol's pregnancy to advance its own cause. Last September, Valerie Huber, the executive director of NAEA, invoked Bristol's pregnancy in an op-ed piece for USA Today pushing the abstinence myth.

The governor was silent then, too.

I don't pretend to be an expert on teen pregnancy. But for the record, I think Bristol was spot-on in her comments about abstinence. If Sarah Palin's evangelical base really wants to confront teen pregnancy, they'd be smart to listen to Bristol Palin and others in her shoes and absorb some of their real-life wisdom.