Former staffers and confidants close to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin during her 2008 campaign for vice president pushed back Wednesday against the upcoming HBO movie Game Change—a dramatic account of the ’08 McCain-Palin ticket based on the book of the same name—saying it was wildly inaccurate, mean-spirited, and vicious.
“To call it fiction gives fiction a bad name,” said Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s top foreign policy adviser in the 2008 campaign, during a Wednesday conference call with media.
Game Change, due to air on March 10, will focus on the choice of Palin as vice-presidential candidate and the ensuing conflicts in the McCain campaign. The film is being produced by prominent Hollywood Democratic donors.
Steve Schmidt, one of McCain’s top campaign strategists, is reportedly a key figure in the film, and a key source for the book. Schmidt and Palin’s relationship has been rancorous.
Schmidt offered a withering depiction of Palin in a 2010 60 Minutes segment previewing the release of the Game Change book.
On the conference call, the former Palin staffers shot back, saying Schmidt was an “incompetent, unprofessional” strategist and had “a congenital aversion to the truth.”
“[Schmidt] was abusive. He was abrasive. And he was nothing short of a world-class bully,” former Palin spokeswoman Meg Stapleton said.
The staffers said they had little if any input in the book, written by journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann.
“I talked to Halperin twice and tried to push back against the emerging narrative, but that was not reflected at all in the book,” Scheunemann said.
The staffers called Halperin and Heilemann’s depiction a “false narrative cobbled together by people who simply weren’t there.”
Schmidt has since signed a contract with MSNBC.