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Joe McGinniss says his book shows Sarah Palin's public persona is untrue

Her husband says it is "full of disgusting lies," says McGinniss has a "creepy obsession"

"The Rogue: Searching for The Real Sarah Palin" comes out in stores on Tuesday

CNN obtained a copy of the book, which relies heavily on unnamed sources

CNN  — 

The author of a scathing book about Sarah Palin defended himself Monday against blistering criticism, claiming the former Republican vice presidential candidate and her family “march right up to the border of inciting violence” to protect their image.

“The Palins have intimidated so many people for so long in the Wasilla (Alaska) area that it’s very hard to find people willing to talk about them,” said Joe McGinniss, referring to the Palins’ hometown, where he rented a house last summer. “They scare people. They threaten people.”

His book, “The Rogue: Searching for The Real Sarah Palin,” will hit bookstands Tuesday. It is a merciless review of Palin’s personal life and meteoric rise from the mayor of a small Alaskan town to a national conservative icon. CNN obtained a copy of the book – which relies heavily on unnamed sources – last week.

The former Alaska governor has told Fox News that McGinniss, who moved into the home next to hers in Wasilla last year, “needs to get a life.” Her husband, Todd Palin, was less guarded, blasting the account as “full of disgusting lies, innuendo and smears.”

“This is a man who has been relentlessly stalking my family … to harass us and spy on us to satisfy his creepy obsession with my wife,” claimed Todd Palin.

But in an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan Monday, McGinniss insisted that, “Todd seriously cannot believe that I had an obsession with his wife.” He said that he was about to move into an apartment in Anchorage, Alaska, when “the house was offered to me” by someone he didn’t know.

“I think it’s pretty wonderful” to live in that house, said McGinniss. “It would have been weird if I said no.”

McGinniss accused Sarah Palin of “inciting … hatred with the lies” about him on her Facebook page and in conversations with conservative media personality Glenn Beck. The author denied ever peering over the fence to look at the Palins, and was especially vehement in denying Beck’s claims he was stalking Palin.

Most of the criticism, he said, comes “from people who haven’t read” the book. Even so, McGinniss claimed that he’d already received many death threats.

“Last summer I was threatened over and over and over again,” he said. “People were threatening my wife, they were threatening my grandchildren.”

In the interview, McGinniss said that his book examines how Palin has risen as a political star while claiming that “her image and persona are entirely false.”

Among other things, the book cites an unnamed friend who claims she once snorted cocaine off an overturned 55-gallon oil drum while on a snowmobiling trip. As for Todd Palin, he “did coke with us all,” former friend John Bitney says in the book. “He was on the end of the straw plenty.”

Bitney was fired from his position as Sarah Palin’s legislative director when she was governor of Alaska because he “dared to embark on a romantic relationship with the estranged wife of a friend of Todd’s,” McGinniss writes in the book.

McGinniss also repeats an allegation – first made by the National Enquirer – that Palin had an affair with Brad Hanson, one of her husband’s former business partners. He said he’d “substantiated’ the account “by talking to many, many people.”

Hanson denied the charge in a statement last Thursday, calling it “a complete and outright lie.”

Another tidbit: Palin had a sexual encounter with former NBA star Glen Rice in 1987, before she was married. Rice played for the University of Michigan at the time.

“She freaked out afterward,” McGinniss quotes a source in the book as saying. “The thing that people remember is … how completely crazy she got” over the fact that she had sex with an African-American man. “She was just horrified. She couldn’t believe that she’d done it.”

McGinniss told CNN that Rice, who had a “crush on Sarah Palin,” denied that she’d freaked out about the encounter, which McGinniss said that he included to address claims she was racist.

McGinniss states that, as governor, Palin fired roughly two dozen state employees who had formed a coalition known as the Diversity Group. “Her distaste for people of color … became manifest,” McGinniss asserts.

“Sarah just isn’t comfortable in the presence of dark-skinned people,” Bitney says in the book.

McGinniss also cites unnamed friends in characterizing Palin as a sub-par mother.

“From the start … Todd was the parent,” one source says in the book. “When he was home, he changed the diapers. He fed the kids. Sarah never lifted a finger.”

The Palins aren’t alone in blasting McGinniss’ book. New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin called most of it “dated, petty and easily available to anyone with Internet access.” Maslin accused the author of using his time living near the Palins “to chase caustic, unsubstantiated gossip,” often attributed to unnamed sources such as “a friend” or “one resident.”

McGinniss’ other notable books include “The Selling of the President” in 1969 – a critical review of Richard Nixon’s first successful presidential campaign – and “Fatal Vision” in 1983 about Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, a military physician who was convicted of murdering his wife and children. McGinniss also wrote a book about Alaska, titled “Going to Extremes,” in 1980.

In her review, Maslin complained that McGinniss spent too much time writing about his own day-to-day experiences and not enough on detailed research.

Noting that McGinniss’ book includes a comment by one source concerning the condition of the Palins’ toilet, Maslin wrote: “A journalist as seasoned as Mr. McGinniss surely knows what these details will do to his credibility regarding the book’s more serious claims.”

Right or wrong, the book has thrust McGinniss into a media spotlight that continues to follow Palin despite the fact that she is no longer in public office and has not announced a campaign for the White House in 2012.

There is even a “Doonesbury” connection to the latest Palin drama. Garry Trudeau, the celebrated creator of the long-running comic strip, last summer developed a story line with one of his stock characters – fictional Fox News TV journalist Roland Hedley Jr. – moving next door to McGinniss in Wasilla to spy on his spying on the Palins.

McGinniss subsequently contacted Trudeau and the pair came up with a way to release tweet-sized advance excerpts of the book in “Doonesbury,” this time via a pre-publication copy of the manuscript of “The Rogue” that lands in the fictional Hedley’s hands.

The “Doonesbury” story line has Hedley’s boss warning him to protect fellow Fox contributor Palin in his coverage of the book, and Hedley tweeting misleading depictions of the real excerpts.

Several newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, decided against running the installments of “Doonesbury” that involve the Palin book. A note from Tribune Editor Gerould Kern said it was done because the comics “do not meet our standards of fairness.”