Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Sarah Palin's fall from media stardom

By Howard Kurtz, CNN
January 28, 2013 -- Updated 1736 GMT (0136 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Howard Kurtz: Four years ago, Sarah Palin's name electrified the media
  • Fox has dropped Palin as a commentator; she no longer generates buzz, he says
  • Palin failed to occupy a major role in news commentary at Fox, Kurtz says
  • Kurtz: Palin has talked about broadening audience for her views

Editor's note: Howard Kurtz is the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources" and is Newsweek's Washington bureau chief. He is also a contributor to the website Daily Download.

(CNN) -- There was a time, as she emerged from the rubble of the 2008 campaign, when Sarah Palin was the hottest cultural figure in America.

People loved her. People hated her. She had transcended the narrow bounds of politics to become a larger-than-life figure, the woman portrayed by Tina Fey, the mama grizzly from Alaska. Every journalist in the country knew that if you put Palin's name in an online headline or television segment, your clicks and ratings would soar.

Howard Kurtz
Howard Kurtz

Little wonder that Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes rushed to sign her as a million-dollar-a-year contributor and built a modern studio for Palin in her Wasilla home.

By the time word trickled out Friday that Palin's contract would not be renewed, the reaction was a collective shrug. Her moment had passed. And therein lies a lesson -- about the fleeting nature of fame but also about the nature of media commentary.

News: Palin speaks out after leaving Fox

The exiled-politician-turned-pundit has been a growing staple of cable news. CNN began the tradition by returning Pat Buchanan to "Crossfire" in between his presidential runs. MSNBC is packed with such Democratic figures as Al Sharpton, Ed Rendell and Howard Dean.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



And for a time as the 2012 campaign approached, the Fox payroll included no fewer than four potential presidential candidates: Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Palin. The former vice-presidential nominee was both newsmaker and news commentator, staging a New Hampshire bus tour in the summer of 2011 to flirt with the idea of making a White House bid, though it was all for show.

But Palin never quite had the impact of, say, a Karl Rove as a Fox talking head. She became something of a one-note wonder, jabbing at President Barack Obama for failing to deliver on the hope-y change-y thing but reluctant to challenge her fellow Republicans, especially after Mitt Romney rolled to the nomination.

2012: Palin pokes fun at self on 'Today'
2012: McCain says Palin was right choice

It wasn't clear what Palin stood for. She also reflexively jabbed the media (except for Fox), seemingly more interested in settling scores than driving an agenda. As Palin appeared from Alaska with less frequency, she became less a part of the national conversation.

The future seemed limitless in 2009, when Palin wrote a book that was a monster best-seller and starred in a TLC reality series about Alaska. Her daughter Bristol would become a "Dancing With the Stars" celebrity (though this would prove to be a mixed blessing). And the former half-term governor was a force in the 2010 midterm elections, even while holding forth on Fox.

A low point came after the Gabby Giffords shooting, when some commentators unfairly tried to link Palin to the tragedy by noting that her political committee had (unwisely) put out a map with the contests involving the Arizona congresswoman and other Democrats marked with crosshairs.

Against the advice of Ailes, Palin lashed out in a Facebook video, accusing critics of a "blood libel" and sparking a debate over whether she was likening herself to centuries of anti-Semitism against Jews.

By 2012, tea party fervor had faded, and the GOP had moved on from the Palin era. The movie "Game Change" depicted Palin as a temperamental and ignorant candidate who wasn't much interested in learning. And Fox itself, after parting company with Glenn Beck, edged away from the hard right. During the Republican National Convention, Palin complained one night that Fox had canceled her appearances.

When her three-year deal was up, Ailes offered Palin a new contract -- but at a fraction of her seven-figure salary. It was a lowball offer, and both sides agreed to an amicable separation.

In an interview with Breitbart.com, Palin talks about broadening her audience, saying: "I know the country needs more truth-telling in the media, and I'm willing to do that."

Palin still has a passionate following and can still make news with a single Facebook posting. But for Fox News, at least, her market value had clearly plunged, and a divorce was inevitable.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Howard Kurtz.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 21, 2014 -- Updated 0730 GMT (1530 HKT)
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2322 GMT (0722 HKT)
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2147 GMT (0547 HKT)
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1544 GMT (2344 HKT)
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT