FACT CHECK: Did Sarah Palin Say, ‘I Can See Russia From My House’?

David Sivak | Fact Check Editor

Political commentator Ana Navarro poked fun at Sarah Palin Monday, saying the former vice presidential candidate once claimed to be able to see Russia from her house.

Verdict: False

Comedian Tina Fey made the remark while impersonating Palin on Saturday Night Live (SNL). The Christian Science Monitor ranks the expression “I can see Russia from my house!” as one of the top 10 political misquotes of all time.

Fact Check:

After Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos appeared on “60 Minutes” Sunday, pundits roundly criticized her ability to answer pointed questions on school performance.

 

“I had not seen a TV interview so cringe-inducing, since Sarah Palin saw Russia from her backyard,” Navarro chimed in over Twitter.

Navarro compared the segment to Palin’s first major interview after being added to the Republican presidential ticket in 2008.

Except Navarro repeats an oft-misquoted version of what Palin actually said.

Back in 2008, ABC News traveled to Alaska to interview Palin, who served as governor at the time. “Let’s start, because we are near Russia, let’s start with Russia,” said ABC anchor Charlie Gibson in a series of questions on national security.

Gibson asked Palin what insights she had gained because of her state’s proximity to Russia.

“They’re our next door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska,” Palin responded.

According to Slate magazine, that’s true – two islands, Big Diomede and Little Diomede, that fall on either side of the maritime border with Russia are visible to one another on a clear day, and the Russian mainland can be seen from high ground on St. Lawrence Island.

“I’m giving you that perspective of how small our world is and how important it is that we work with our allies to keep good relation with all of these countries, especially Russia,” Palin continued.

Two days later, SNL mocked the interview, with Fey (as Palin) saying, “I can see Russia from my house!”

The quote went viral, and eventually it became synonymous with Palin herself.

Palin sat down for a series of interviews with CBS anchor Katie Couric later that month in which Palin struggled to answer why Alaska’s proximity to Russia gave her the foreign policy chops necessary to serve as vice president.

“Well, it certainly does because our – our next door neighbors are foreign countries. They’re in the state that I am the executive of,” said Palin.

Her performance in these interviews was widely panned by conservative and liberal critics alike.

“That exchange was so startling it ricocheted across the Internet several hours before it appeared on CBS and was picked up by rival networks,” read a piece in The New York Times.

Palin laughed off the interviews on the campaign trail. “I was just trying to give Tina Fey more material – job security for Saturday Night Live,” she told an audience at a rally shortly thereafter.

Navarro did not respond to a request for comment.

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David Sivak

Fact Check Editor

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