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How Palin Used Facebook to Help Usher in “Post-Truth” Politics | America’s Great Divide | FRONTLINE

A new FRONTLINE documentary traces the use of online misinformation at high levels of the American political conversation back years further than the 2016 election — to Sarah Palin, a former Alaska mayor and the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate.

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“She is the first of a generation of politicians who live in a post-truth environment. She was, and there’s no polite way to say it, but a serial liar,” Steve Schmidt, who helped lead John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and pushed him to choose Palin as his running mate, tells FRONTLINE in the upcoming documentary America’s Great Divide: From Obama to Trump.

“She would say things that are simply not true, or things that were picked up from the Internet,” the former GOP operative, who had also worked as a campaign adviser to President George W. Bush, continues. “And this obliteration of fact from fiction, of truth from lie, has become now endemic in American politics. But it started then.”

This excerpt from the series explores how, as President Barack Obama made health care reform a priority in 2009, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate reemerged — exploiting fear with a new phrase that went viral, “death panels,” and taking to Facebook to spread the false claim directly to her audience.

For the full story, stream “America’s Great Divide: From Obama to Trump” — a two-night, four-hour documentary series on how America’s polarized politics came to be that provides new insights and crucial context for the 2020 election year.

“America’s Great Divide: From Obama to Trump” will be available first, in its entirety, at, at and on the PBS Video App. Stream the full two-part, four-hour series there beginning Mon., Jan. 13 at 6 p.m. E.S.T./5 p.m. C.S.T. The series premieres on PBS stations Mon., Jan. 13 and Tues, Jan. 14 at 9 p.m. E.S.T./8 p.m. C.S.T. (check local listings).

More about “America’s Great Divide: From Obama to Trump”:


Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Abrams Foundation, the Park Foundation, The John and Helen Glessner Family Trust, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation. Past support for FRONTLINE’s YouTube channel provided by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.