Sarah Palin

The former Alaska governor’s split from Fox News highlights the fade of the Tea Party as well as her own diminishing role.

By Jill Lawrence
Updated: January 27, 2013 | 12:48 p.m.
January 26, 2013 | 9:23 a.m.

The news that Sarah Palin will no longer be a paid contributor to Fox News puts an exclamation point on the end of an era, or at least a chapter, in U.S. political history. She could land somewhere else, and she still has her Facebook friends, but it’s hard to imagine she’ll find a more visible or influential platform than Fox.

The former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee has been fading from the scene for some time, as she inadvertently highlighted when she complained on Facebook during the Republican convention in August that the network had canceled her scheduled interviews that night. Her brother, Chuck Heath Jr., told Alan Colmes last week on Fox Radio that his sister is “kind of laying low right now,” though he wouldn’t or couldn’t say when asked why.

Once the face of an energetic and politically potent Tea Party movement, Palin is leaving Fox at a time when polls show the Tea Party at an all-time low in both membership and favorability. Her departure also coincides with calls by some leading Republicans for their party to stop saying things that erode the GOP brand and turn off voters in droves.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said bluntly this week at a Republican National Committee meeting in Charlotte that the GOP needs to stop being “the stupid party,” and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said he agreed. The two were talking in particular about losing Senate candidates Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana, both of whom made inflammatory (and in Akin’s case, flagrantly ignorant) comments about rape.

But Palin, with her flamboyant rhetoric, has stoked her own disproportionate share of controversies. This is the woman who, after all, coined the term “death panels” to describe discussions between patients and physicians about end-of-life treatment (killing a bipartisan proposal for Medicare to reimburse doctors for having those talks); who complained of a “blood libel” against her by “journalists and pundits” after the Tucson shooting rampage that injured Gabrielle Giffords (the phrase historically relates to the charge that Jews murder children to use their blood in religious rituals); and who last fall accused Obama of “shuck and jive” in his statements on the killings of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Benghazi (a racist term dating from slavery days).

Former secretary of state Colin Powell ripped Palin, though not by name, for the shucking-and-jiving remark. He said that and a characterization of Obama as “lazy” (by former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, also not cited by name) played into negative stereotypes of blacks and laid bare a “dark vein of intolerance” within some parts of the GOP.

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