Reports of a brawl involving former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and her family last weekend in Anchorage, Alaska have created quite a media frenzy in recent days.
The initial story was broken on Tuesday by journalist Amanda Coyne, who runs a website dedicated to covering politics in Alaska. Coyne started the site in 2013 after leaving the Alaska Dispatch, a news organization she co-founded and which later merged with the Anchorage Daily News newspaper.
The details that have come out from Saturday night’s party have been almost as jumbled and chaotic as the party itself. Witnesses have said Sarah Palin was there along with her husband, Todd, and other members of their family. Police have confirmed that “some of the Palin family members were in attendance” but have declined to say what their role was or what exactly transpired. Investigators continued to look into the incident this week.
Coyne stands out as the person who has provided the most detailed picture of what happened that night, quoting several eyewitnesses in a lengthy post published on Thursday. But as other news outlets have jumped into the fray, TPM has pulled the most concrete details together, along with our own reporting, for a look at what has come to be known as the “Palin Brawl.”
At least two named sources said the Palin family was at the party and members of the clan were involved in two altercations that night. Both eyewitnesses reported seeing the former Alaska governor herself at the scene. In addition, Coyne spoke to an anonymous source who said Sarah Palin became physically involved in the second altercation.
On Friday, TPM spoke to a neighbor, James Sarafin, who lives on the same street where the party took place. He said he didn’t see much and described the people who live at the house as generally “good neighbors.”
The retired lawyer said he never saw the Palins but he did see the stretch Hummer limousine they reportedly arrived in. Saturday’s party was so loud, Sarafin said, he “could hear the music thumping through the walls of our house.” He looked out at one point and said there were about “20, 25 people out there” who were “mobbing around the front of my house.”
“It was probably after midnight when I heard a bunch of shouting outside,” he told TPM.
The party was held at the home of a man named Korey Klingenmeyer, according to Coyne’s report. It was thrown to celebrate the birthdays of twin brothers Matt and Marc McKenna, who run a paving company in Anchorage where Klingenmeyer worked along with another man named Eric Thompson.
Thompson spoke on-the-record to Coyne about the party and the chaos that later ensued, and he later also spoke to ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“It was a really nice, mellow party,” Thompson told Coyne. “Then it turned into the Jerry Springer show.”
Thomspon told the Alaska journalist he saw two girls walking around the party wearing sunglasses, which he found odd since the party was at night. He told Coyne his wife said the girls were Sarah Palin’s daughters, Bristol and Willow Palin.
The Palins had arrived earlier in the night in a stretch Hummer limousine, and Todd Palin also happened to be celebrating a birthday that night, the man told Coyne.
Shortly after everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to the McKenna brothers and Todd Palin, the chaos began.
Coyne spoke to multiple witnesses who agreed to talk on the condition of anonymity and apparently saw the first of two physical confrontations begin.
The first one involved Sarah Palin’s son, Track Palin, who apparently became upset about the presence of his sister Willow’s ex-boyfriend, Connor Cleary, according to Coyne’s report.
Witnesses told Coyne that the Palin son started the fight and that Cleary’s father, Steve Cleary, moved in to try to break it up. That’s when Todd Palin jumped into the mix and allegedly tried to choke the other father, according to the Alaska journalist’s report.
Thompson told the journalist that the fight eventually subsided and that the Cleary family gathered near him after it was over.
Soon, he said, he saw the two Palin daughters walk straight toward Conor’s mother, Melissa Cleary. But before they could get there, the host of the party, Klingenmeyer, tried to intercept them.
Coyne wrote that Thompson and other witnesses saw what happened next. According to Thompson, Bristol “stood straight up, brought her arm back and cold-cocked him right in the face.” She allegedly punched Klingenmeyer six more times before he pushed her aside.
“It was an assault if I’ve ever seen one,” Thompson told ABC News. “It wasn’t a light punch either. She was really hitting him. I’m surprised he just sat there and took it.”
Todd Palin arrived again as the second confrontation broke out, according to Thompson.
The report of Sarah Palin’s involvement in the second confrontation was based on a single anonymous source who spoke to Coyne. The source said the former Alaska governor was “nearly crawling on top of people” during the second melee in an attempt to get into the mix, all while screaming and shouting profanities.
Thompson told “Good Morning America” the ex-governor was yelling “Do you know who I am?” during the commotion, but he stopped short of saying she became physically involved in the fight.
After the second fight was broken up, Thompson told ABC News, the Palins were asked to leave.
Another eyewitness, neighbor Charles Fryer, told the Alaska Dispatch News that he also saw Sarah Palin at the party but that he didn’t know who was involved in the fights.
“I’m too old to fool with that stuff,” Fryer told the Dispatch News.
In her report, Coyne wrote that the Palins got back into the Hummer but didn’t leave until after Track was reportedly seen standing with his shirt off in front of the house, flipping off other departing partygoers.
The Anchorage Police Department told TPM in a statement on Thursday that officers were called to the party a little before midnight because of a “verbal and physical altercation taking place between multiple subjects.” The statement said “alcohol was believed to have been a factor.” A spokeswoman also confirmed members of the Palin family were at the party but did not say whether they were involved in the altercation.
The police were still investigating the fight as of Thursday and no charges had been filed.
The Palins have not released a statement about the ordeal. However, Palin made two Facebook posts that weekend. One, early on Saturday morning, hours before the party took place, mentioned that she had spent time speaking at a faith-based event in Houston.
A second post on Sunday, long after the party was over, said she had been traveling recently but wanted to wish her husband a happy 50th birthday: