Palin Donkey Scarf Origins (Sort of) Explained by Photographer

Fashion victim: Palin sports the opposing party's apparel at a rally Max Whittaker / Getty Images

Why Sarah Palin would don a Democratic-themed donkey scarf at at Oct. 21 rally in Reno, Nev., remains the deepest of fashion mysteries, but the photograph of her with said accessory has already become overexposed in the blogosphere.

NEWSWEEK first spotted the devious designs draping the veep candidate on Getty Images' wire services in a series of photos taken by Max Whittaker, a Sacramento, Calif.-based freelancer. A brief Stumper post later, the photo was soon snapped up by hundreds of blogs, including Daily Kos, the Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo and Media Bistro.

Much speculation about the donkey scarf was tossed about the Internets, most of it snark-laden. "Is Sarah Palin This Amazingly Stupid?" was the headline of the Kos post, while the Belfast Telegraph headline chided, "Donkey wrong: Sarah Palin wears 'Vote Democrat' scarf at Republican rally". We may never know why Palin wore that scarf -- the press office in the McCain campaign hasn't returned our calls -- but 11-year photojournalist Whittaker gives us his take on the story:

The Reno event "went down like any other campaign rally," Whittaker says. Palin did not have a scarf on during her speech and wasn't wearing it "at least the first five or ten minutes of working the rope line" afterward. Whittaker worked his way through the post-speech crowd toward Palin and "shot her for about 5 minutes until she was out of my sight, and she had the scarf on the whole time." How did she get it? It's still unclear, but Whittaker notes that in the meet-and-greet-frenzy "it's pretty inconceivable that anything happened beyond someone in the crowd giving her this scarf. I can't see her suddenly pulling it out of her handbag in this rope line." When he went to shoot her a half-hour later for an interview with CNN, the scarf had disappeared, he said.

That there were donkeys on the scarf never registered with Whittaker as he was transmitting his photos to Getty. "I didn't even notice it myself until you guys put it up," he says. "When I saw your blog, I was just like any typical reader who thought, 'That's pretty funny.'"

A strange update: On Oct. 26, the Contra Costa Times reported in its "The Eye" column that the scarf was given to Palin by former Hillary Clinton supporter Linda Williams, of Carmel Valley, Calif., who claimed that she gave up the vintage 70s item to send a message that she was now supporting Palin.

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