"Shame on you for writing that article! Shame on you!!!"
"I'm calling you because what you wrote is so politically slanderous. I'm shocked that a woman would do that. You are a disgrace to your gender and your country."
"Yeah, great story. You and your freak publisher. Just quit writing those kinds of stories. It's stupid, it's demeaning. People aren't as stupid as you think they are. Get a different job."
These bon mots are just a sampling of the messages recently left on my home answering machine. Seven others simply hung up. I didn't receive this many phone calls on my birthday. But everyone has a birthday; I was the only one to have a byline on the much-scrutinized Us Weekly story about Sarah Palin. That was me who explained the Alaska governor's grandma predicament, outlined her poor judgment traveling while having contractions with her fifth child and detailed her political controversies. And the whole experience left me reaching for my bottle of extra-strength Tylenol and wishing I had a flask in my office. Call it the latest side effects of being a John McCain supporter.
It's true. I am the Elisabeth Hasselbeck of Us Weekly. During our spirited office debates, it's up to me (along with the office's outnumbered Republicans -- hey, it's New York City) to defend the old man from Arizona, while the Democrats cheer for Barack Obama like he's a Jonas Brother. For months, I've touted McCain's vast experience and his economic policies without a trace of postmodern irony. (The credit -- or, uh, blame -- mostly lies with my parents, the only conservative Jews in Detroit). My take on his VP pick? "I think she's fascinating!" I chirped to my editor in chief early on September 1. "She's a mother of five and she hunts!"
A few hours later, Palin announced that her 17-year-old daughter was knocked up. All I could do was shake my head and sigh at the realization that the original "mom under attack" angle was going to change into a far-more tantalizing story -- and rightfully so. Rule No. 1 when running for the second-most important position in the free world: Never allow yourself to draw comparisons to the Spears family. The day only grew more frustrating as the revelations trickled into my inbox: The vetting process was rushed... Palin got her passport last year... wait, she called her former opponent what?! Oy.
The facts were out there, and there was no way to sugar-coat them. All I could do was address the relevant issues -- and, most importantly, remember the readers' needs. We're a magazine that thrives on babies, intriguing women and scandals. For this particular week, our potential vice president just happened to fit the bill. (Sorry, Angelina).
As I typed away in my cramped Manhattan office, I never expected the article to become a Fox News rallying cry (the jeers were all the more perplexing given that so few people had even read the piece beforehand). Nonetheless, despite the baby-mama dramas -- and the stinging phone calls -- I still feel that McCain would make the best president. And, no, I'm not ashamed of myself. Beep.