Alex Massie

The African (Beauty) Queen

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Oh dear. I been had. Then again, pretty much everyone else was fooled too. Remember the amusement - the frightening hilarity, you may say - occasioned by Sarah Palin's apparent African confusion? Country or continent? Well, it turns out that the whole brouhaha was an elaborate ploy, cooked up with some flair and wolfed down by greedy hacks and bloggers everywhere.

It was among the juicier post-election recriminations: Fox News Channel quoted an unnamed McCain campaign figure as saying that Sarah Palin did not know that Africa was a continent.

Who would say such a thing? On Monday the answer popped up on a blog and popped out of the mouth of David Shuster, an MSNBC anchor. “Turns out it was Martin Eisenstadt, a McCain policy adviser, who has come forward today to identify himself as the source of the leaks,” Mr. Shuster said.

Trouble is, Martin Eisenstadt doesn’t exist. His blog does, but it’s a put-on. The think tank where he is a senior fellow — the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy — is just a Web site. The TV clips of him on YouTube are fakes.

And the claim of credit for the Africa anecdote is just the latest ruse by Eisenstadt, who turns out to be a very elaborate hoax that has been going on for months.

Ooops. Sorry governor.

UPDATE: Perhaps the hoax is also a hoax? Alan Jacobs says, in the comments: "Alex, my understanding, having read about this matter for the past couple of days, is that the story is not a hoax: that is, some still-unnamed McCain aides really did tell Carl Cameron that Sarah Palin didn't know what countries are in NAFTA, etc. "Eisenstadt" simply claimed falsely to be the source for those statements."

This is Sarah Palin's great gift: anything is belieivable and everything remains in a permanent state of flux.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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