Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Sarah Palin's fall from media stardom

By Howard Kurtz, CNN
updated 12:36 PM EST, Mon January 28, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Howard Kurtz: Four years ago, Sarah Palin's name electrified the media
  • Fox has dropped Palin as a commentator; she no longer generates buzz, he says
  • Palin failed to occupy a major role in news commentary at Fox, Kurtz says
  • Kurtz: Palin has talked about broadening audience for her views

Editor's note: Howard Kurtz is the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources" and is Newsweek's Washington bureau chief. He is also a contributor to the website Daily Download.

(CNN) -- There was a time, as she emerged from the rubble of the 2008 campaign, when Sarah Palin was the hottest cultural figure in America.

People loved her. People hated her. She had transcended the narrow bounds of politics to become a larger-than-life figure, the woman portrayed by Tina Fey, the mama grizzly from Alaska. Every journalist in the country knew that if you put Palin's name in an online headline or television segment, your clicks and ratings would soar.

Howard Kurtz
Howard Kurtz

Little wonder that Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes rushed to sign her as a million-dollar-a-year contributor and built a modern studio for Palin in her Wasilla home.

By the time word trickled out Friday that Palin's contract would not be renewed, the reaction was a collective shrug. Her moment had passed. And therein lies a lesson -- about the fleeting nature of fame but also about the nature of media commentary.

News: Palin speaks out after leaving Fox

The exiled-politician-turned-pundit has been a growing staple of cable news. CNN began the tradition by returning Pat Buchanan to "Crossfire" in between his presidential runs. MSNBC is packed with such Democratic figures as Al Sharpton, Ed Rendell and Howard Dean.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



And for a time as the 2012 campaign approached, the Fox payroll included no fewer than four potential presidential candidates: Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Palin. The former vice-presidential nominee was both newsmaker and news commentator, staging a New Hampshire bus tour in the summer of 2011 to flirt with the idea of making a White House bid, though it was all for show.

But Palin never quite had the impact of, say, a Karl Rove as a Fox talking head. She became something of a one-note wonder, jabbing at President Barack Obama for failing to deliver on the hope-y change-y thing but reluctant to challenge her fellow Republicans, especially after Mitt Romney rolled to the nomination.

2012: Palin pokes fun at self on 'Today'
2012: McCain says Palin was right choice

It wasn't clear what Palin stood for. She also reflexively jabbed the media (except for Fox), seemingly more interested in settling scores than driving an agenda. As Palin appeared from Alaska with less frequency, she became less a part of the national conversation.

The future seemed limitless in 2009, when Palin wrote a book that was a monster best-seller and starred in a TLC reality series about Alaska. Her daughter Bristol would become a "Dancing With the Stars" celebrity (though this would prove to be a mixed blessing). And the former half-term governor was a force in the 2010 midterm elections, even while holding forth on Fox.

A low point came after the Gabby Giffords shooting, when some commentators unfairly tried to link Palin to the tragedy by noting that her political committee had (unwisely) put out a map with the contests involving the Arizona congresswoman and other Democrats marked with crosshairs.

Against the advice of Ailes, Palin lashed out in a Facebook video, accusing critics of a "blood libel" and sparking a debate over whether she was likening herself to centuries of anti-Semitism against Jews.

By 2012, tea party fervor had faded, and the GOP had moved on from the Palin era. The movie "Game Change" depicted Palin as a temperamental and ignorant candidate who wasn't much interested in learning. And Fox itself, after parting company with Glenn Beck, edged away from the hard right. During the Republican National Convention, Palin complained one night that Fox had canceled her appearances.

When her three-year deal was up, Ailes offered Palin a new contract -- but at a fraction of her seven-figure salary. It was a lowball offer, and both sides agreed to an amicable separation.

In an interview with Breitbart.com, Palin talks about broadening her audience, saying: "I know the country needs more truth-telling in the media, and I'm willing to do that."

Palin still has a passionate following and can still make news with a single Facebook posting. But for Fox News, at least, her market value had clearly plunged, and a divorce was inevitable.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Howard Kurtz.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
updated 7:23 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:54 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
updated 2:39 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT