WASILLA, Alaska — At 3 a.m. Thursday, Anne Kilkenny went to bed after spending hours answering e-mails from strangers. By 9:15 the next morning, she had 382 fresh ones in her inbox and her phone was ringing steadily with calls from news media from around the world.
That's how it's been the past week for the Wasilla stay-at-home mom turned accidental celebrity. All because of a letter she wrote to friends and family about Sarah Palin.
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The 2,400-word e-mail, circulated on blogs, Web sites and through e-mail chains, has become an Internet hit embraced by many Democrats and Palin critics and attacked by Palin supporters.
Kilkenny's e-mail offers a critique from someone who has known Palin since 1992 and has been observing her up close for many years, long before Palin became widely known even among Alaskans.
"Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a first-name basis," her e-mail begins. "Our children have attended the same schools. Her father was my child's favorite substitute teacher. I also am on a first- name basis with her parents and mother-in-law."
Kilkenny, a registered Democrat, sent the note Aug. 30, the day after Republican presidential candidate John McCain picked Palin as his running mate. She said she sent it to 30 relatives and friends outside Alaska to answer the questions she was getting about Palin. She signed her name and asked that it not be posted, but it went viral across the Internet almost instantly.
Kilkenny said she tried hard to be factual and is careful in the letter to be upfront about what she knows and doesn't know. Her experience comes from being a longtime Wasilla resident and from attending almost every council meeting the first year Palin was mayor.
She said she worked and reworked the letter to add things as people have asked more questions, deleted things that sounded too much like speculation and tried to keep it balanced with both positive and negative information.
"It's not to make her look bad. It's not to make her look good. It's just to make her what she is," she said.
In the letter, she lauds the former mayor as smart, hard-working and savvy. But, she says, far from being a fiscal conservative, Palin left Wasilla in debt, was intolerant of "divergent opinions" and "has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help."