The author of the book Sarah Palin reportedly tried to have removed from her hometown library blasted back Saturday evening, saying the Alaska Governor had a "small-town mind," was an enemy of intellectual freedom and a "disastrous choice" for vice president.
"I rather suspected one of my books might be the one she targeted," said Michael Willhoite, author of "Daddy's Roomate" and several other children's books. "I can tell you right now, Ms. Palin is a very good mother and everything. But she is my mortal enemy. She is one of the enemies of the First Amendment and I can hardly [organize] my thoughts here, I am so offended by this."
Reached by phone, Willhoite was ultimately not surprised he had once been Palin's target. In fact, he admitted to being "strangely flattered" that he was "on her list."
"I wasn't on Nixon's enemies list," he said, "I was too young for that."
After all, Willhiote has been at the center of religious conservative complaint ever since his work - which is about a young boy discussing his divorced father's new, gay roommate - was first published in 1989. The book was the no. 2 "most frequently challenged book" between 1990 and 2000, according to the American Library Association. But that didn't make him any less critical of Palin, who he saw as a dangerous politician, both on issues of press and literary freedoms as well as gay rights.
"I don't think Ms. Palin will care for me, but that is fine," said Willhoite, who is openly gay. "I don't really care for her, not at all. I think John McCain made a disastrous choice. Unfortunately she seems to be doing well in the polls but I would think the honeymoon period will be ending soon."
On Sunday, the New York Times fleshed out rumors that as mayor of Wasilla, Palin had asked the town's librarian to remove certain books from the library's shelves. Citing contemporary news accounts and witnesses - including Palin's predecessor, John Stein, and her former campaign manager, Laura Chase - the paper reported that:
[I]n 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book "Daddy's Roommate" on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. Chase and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.
"Sarah said she didn't need to read that stuff," Ms. Chase said. "It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn't even read it."
"I'm still proud of Sarah," she added, "but she scares the bejeebers out of me."
Palin, in an interview before the Times' article, dismissed the charge that she had fired the town's librarian for banning books as an "old wives' tale." The McCain campaign, too, has called the entire matter a smear attack on the vice presidential candidate.
"This is categorically false. The fact is that as Mayor, Palin never asked anyone to ban a book and not one book was ever banned, period," McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers said.
Asked how he feels about his book being thrust back into the political fire 19 years after it first caused waves of outrage, Willhoite fancied himself quite fortunate.
"The fact is my book did very well in the first years of publication," he said, "and the lot of the reason it did as well as it did is because of the challenges from the right."
But Willhoite expressed a sense of shock that a vice presidential candidate could harbor such positions, even if he predicted that issues of books and censorship would no longer be on Palin's radar.
"To tell the truth I don't think it is something she will attend to," he said. "There will likely other more damaging things she will attend to. As a mayor of a small town she was attending a small town issue for small town minds. She has a small town mind, you see."