Sarah Palin appeared at a California political conference this week to spar about Donald Trump, the future of the GOP, and the 2016 horserace with hard-boiled Democratic operative James Carville. Politicon, billed as a combo Coachella-Comicon for politics, hyped the odd couple as one of its premiere events, and attendance and press coverage were high.
After a short speech about Trump, Palin settled into a chair opposite Carville in front of a predictably hostile crowd in Pasadena. She had anticipated this, posting on Facebook that she was headed into the “lion’s den” to deliver some truth from real America.
But the headline coming out of the event was not about Carville or Palin or Trump, but a 10-year-old boy who, depending on the news outlet, “stumped,” “destroyed,” “humiliated,” “ruthlessly served” the former governor with a question about Trump’s sexism.
The only problem is that’s not exactly how it went down.
Let’s start with the kid. Yes, I’m the meanie who’s going to point this out. The L.A. Times reports the young questioner was Adam Chernick. The first four Google results for him are “Adam Chernick— IMDb,” “Adam Chernick— YouTube,” “Adam Chernick— SAG-AFTRA,” and “Adam Chernick TV Commercials.” This doesn’t mean Chernick is ineligible to lob a question at Q&A or that he’s not a smart kid with organic political ideas and preternatural poise. But he is also a child actor in the L.A. area, which seems worth mentioning when he asks a news-making question on stage of a national news figure. He is a “regular 10-year-old” with no public speaking experience in the same way Shannon Watts is a “regular mom” with no political experience.
He was also invited on stage to confront Palin face-to-face in a way no other questioner was at this event. Sure, he’s cute, but one suspects Carville might have thought or known the youngster would put on a show and make a potentially viral moment.
“You were saying,” Chernick said, “that you hated the countries that didn’t treat women right and that you didn’t want to be part of the U.N. for that,” he said. “How come you’re endorsing Donald Trump?”
The best question @Politicon panel @JamesCarville VS @SarahPalinUSA was asked by a kid. #Politicon2016 #Politicon pic.twitter.com/K1B2kDU8y0
— Chris Gore (@ThatChrisGore) June 26, 2016
Chernick referenced Trump’s statement about Megyn Kelly after the fall Fox debate— “blood coming out of her wherever”—pressing Palin to explain her support for him.
Palin’s answer was mostly drowned out by the crowd’s approving roars for Chernick, but she offered a clarification— “I don’t think I said I ‘hate’ countries”— and a tautology— “Donald Trump isn’t sexist. If he were, I wouldn’t be endorsin’ him.”
These are not superb answers, and the broad question about Trump’s sexism is a fair one now, just as it was when Kelly asked it. But Chernick equated atrocities and genuine institutionalized sexism in countries where women can’t drive or own property or are forcefully made to marry and honor killed with the GOP nominee saying mean things. Whatever you think of Trump, these are not equal.
All of the headlines about this interaction imply that a question from a 10-year-old should be easier to field than one from an adult, but that’s not true either. You can’t fact-check a 10-year-old without looking like a first-class ass.
Palin was quite reasonably expecting questions from Carville, about as hard-nosed a political activist as one can find, and other adults.
Chernick is enjoying quite a bit of national coverage and partisan swooning over his face-off with Palin. Here’s hoping he’s as effective a wunderkind for the Left as C.J. Pearson and Jonathan Krohn were for the Right.