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Bristol and Levi's engagement: Why are they back together, and why did they go behind Sarah Palin's back?


An oldie but a goodie: Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin at the Republican National Convention in September 2008. (AP/Paul Sancya) See a Bristol and Levi photo gallery here.


Which was more astonishing about Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston's big announcement on Wednesday:

  • That the most famous teenage parents in America were engaged again, after a year of scorched-earth public bitterness?

  • Or that Sarah Palin reportedly only learned about it from Us Weekly?

    The twin developments launched a slew of conspiracy theories. (Was this for a reality show? Or the 2012 campaign?) But for all the murkiness about how the news came out -- and whether anyone was paid for it -- it may boil down to the fact that families are complicated, and so is love.

    The high school sweethearts, who broke up a few months after the December 2008 birth of their son, Tripp, were interviewed by Us on Saturday in Anchorage, where Bristol Palin now lives. They said they bonded anew when they met three months ago to work out a custody plan.

    "I really thought we were over," Johnston told the magazine. But feelings changed when they went for a walk with their son. Nothing romantic happened then, she told Us -- but later, he texted her saying that he missed her and wanted her back. "I was in shock," she says.

    The 19-year-old mom said that her own mother -- who traded insults with her grandson's father in the national media over the past year, as he posed for Playgirl and dished dirt about the family -- didn't yet know they were planning a wedding: "It is intimidating and scary just to think about what her reaction is going to be."

    Officially, Sarah and Todd Palin's reaction was restrained. In a statement, they noted their daughter is an adult: "We obviously want what is best for our children, but Bristol is ultimately in charge of determining what is best for her and her beautiful son. Bristol believes in redemption and forgiveness to a degree most of us struggle to put in practice."

    Supporters of the former Alaska governor dismissed any notion that the reconciliation was engineered. "It will be highly cynical to look for a political motive in this situation which has brought two young people together," GOP fundraiser Fred Malek told our colleague Jason Horowitz.

    Others doubt a marriage would affect her mother's political future anyway -- except, as University of Virginia politics professor Larry Sabato noted, to neutralize the Levi situation: "If they are together, then he won't reveal any information he has, if he has any." (A producer who was pitching a Levi reality series in March declined to comment about whether the project was still alive.)

    But if Sarah Palin was truly left in the dark about this ... why? Melanie Bromley, the Us reporter who interviewed the couple, speculates that Bristol Palin wanted "to be in control" of the story. "I got the impression that Sarah had laid down the rules for Bristol -- that if she's back together with Levi, [Sarah] wants him to finish his education, and get a job. But she wants to be with Levi now."

    By telling her story "in her own words," as Bromley put it, "she's forcing her mother to hear her side of the story without interruption."

    Well, zing! Some other things about that story:

    Bromley would not say whether the couple was paid for the interview (conducted at a private home rented for the occasion). A reporter from rival People magazine, Sandra Sobieraj Westfall, spent the following day with Bristol and Tripp in Anchorage, for a story in this week's issue. In her interview, which Westfall says was unpaid, Palin did not reveal that she was engaged -- and Johnston declined to participate. Rex Butler, Johnston's attorney, did not return our calls.

    A final mystery: Why get back together? A better question might be: Who else could they date? They've shared a unique experience: small-town teens catapulted to fame by the unlikely convergence of an unplanned pregnancy and her mother's skyrocketing political ascendance.

    Who else could relate to Bristol's life? Who else would ever really "get" Levi? This is why people fall in love.


    This story is an expanded and updated version of Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston engaged, again -- crazy, yes, but here's why it just might work!

    See previously: Levi Johnston's year in video: Much to work out with his future mother-in-law

    See a Bristol and Levi photo gallery here.

  • By The Reliable Source  |  July 15, 2010; 1:03 AM ET
    Categories:  Love, Etc. , Politics  
    Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: This just in...: Rep. Jerrold Nadler in dispute with D.C. cabbie
    Next: Love etc.: Landon Donovan, not a babydaddy

    Comments

    Why are we supposed to care about this? Could anything be more meaningless?

    Posted by: lcarry | July 14, 2010 11:33 PM | Report abuse

    Who said Levi was dumb? Here's a guy who has no high school education, no skills or trade, no job, failed attempt to get a reality show, no money to pay for child support, probably hates the idea of doing any kind of work, --- and on the other hand, the grandmother of his bastard child is a millionaire, national, international celebrity, etc. etc. All he has to do is beg for forgiveness and he's home free on the gravy train. I'm a Democrat - life long Democrat - and I admire Sarah Palin for her guts in fighting the establishment. But if she forgives Levi, that's the clincher, She's dumb, too.

    Posted by: Paaa | July 15, 2010 8:46 AM | Report abuse

    Poor Levi

    Posted by: Lefty_ | July 15, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

    "That the most famous teenage parents in America were engaged again, after a year of scorched-earth public bitterness?"

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    THIS is America's most famous teenage parents? Are you kidding me? A governor's daughter who gets pregnant by a high school drop out?

    Wow. And we wonder why the world views us so dimly. I mean, seriously, we couldn't have found two teenage prodigies that are engaged without having kids before they're 21?

    Posted by: massmedia77 | July 15, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

    Come on people get a grip. I am a mother of a nineteen year old All American Girl {gettin good grades in college and kicking ass on her varsity co - ed sailing team}
    I get it.
    Bristol has her own lecture tour, her own condo, her own baby, her own life now. She wants to share it with the man of her own choosing. She wants it with out Ma Ma Grizzley making every decision or micromanaging the out come. These are two teens that were thrown into an arificial environment that put enormous strains on them. Hell it strains on a Viet Nam veteran ex POW Senator. Add to the mix the most high profile teen pregnancy in the world .....well.....
    No wonder they cracked.
    You have to give Levi props though. He was his own man no matter what. He defied them all. He took on Palin, the whole Republican Party and the Tea Baggers. It is no wonder Bistol finds him attractive. High school degree or no high school degee; job or no job; intellect or no; he did what Bristol couldn't. He broke away. If he stays his own man or not remains to be seen.
    Palin and all her Ma Ma Grizzlies best be careful because apology or not anyone who watches the D List knows Levi's penchant for hunting BAAAAR.

    Posted by: captains2012 | July 15, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

    The only reason why Bristol got together without telling her parents is that she did not want her mother involved.

    IMO I really don't care...

    Posted by: beeker25 | July 15, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

    Bristol Palin appears to have decided that her own college education is not as important as another photo op in some magazines. Of course, why would she value education? It is one topic her mouthy mother never even mentions when she gets on her soapbox. In fact, she supports candidates who want to do away with the Dept. of Education entirely. It is very sad that this family is contributing so often to the dumbing down of America. I fail to see how making money from hate-filled speeches and soap opera lives has anything to do with capitalism. Or did the Recession miss Republicans, who seem to have millions of dollars to throw at Sarah Palin and her various fund raisers?

    Posted by: smgess | July 15, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

    Didn't read the article but opened the page just to rant on the comments section: Who really gives a damn about this? Get a life.

    Posted by: lgood24 | July 15, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

    When your family life is a teenage soap opera playing out in public, you just aren't a credible candidate for high public office. Worse, when you learn family news from a magazine cover, you are reality entertainment, not presidential timber. This episode fits into a hideous stereotype of women not being able to separate their public life from their private life and that private life making them look unstable. Bristol Palin did a disservice to her mother with this magazine stunt. Not that I care much. Sarah set this up by trying to make Bristol a public figure with her spokesperson career, print and TV appearances. But on par with Kate & Jon, The Bachelor/Bachelorette couples and Lindsay Lohan, I mostly want the hot mess that is the Palin family to go away. It's depressing and unattractive.

    But best wishes to these kids for a good life together out of the public spotlight. Put aside your 15 mins. of fame and move on to a contented, productive private life.

    Posted by: cassandra9 | July 15, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

    what can the momma say, HER HUSBAND DON'T WORK EITHER!!!

    hey, this is trash that just happned to be elected governor. the mom in law on meth or is a drug dealer? the kid dropped out of high school didn't he. the daughter did the same, and this lady wants to be president?

    Posted by: oknow1 | July 15, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

    I am of the cynical camp that this has all been engineered by the Palinistas for some type of personal benefit.

    First of all, these two were locked in a bitter custody and child support battle just a few months ago. All of a sudden, he apologizes and is now ENGAGED? Does not pass the smell test.

    I think that Johnston was either paid off or intimidated, given Palin still has many of her cronies within state government, particularly police and regulatory agencies.

    I also am cynical because this is not even two months after Bristol Palin signed with Single Speakers Bureau to give abstinence speeches for $15k to $30k a pop. Given that nobody has bitten that bait, Mommy had to come up with a way to get Bristol some dollars and voila, a magazine cover announcing an engagement. Mommy will get an "agency" fee or "creative works" fee for helping engineer this con; her slutty daughter continues to profit from her stupidity and Levi gets to sidle up to power and money again as well as tap that ass again. Plus, this again reaffirms Palin's evangelical cred: forgiveness, redemption and marriage; therefore Bristol is not a tramp and Sarah is a good mom.

    Also, Palin's REAL AMERICAN STORIES on Fox was a flop and she has shown she cannot even engage intelligently with her own colleagues, Beck and O'Reilly; nevermind a legit interview. This helps divert from her disasterous interviews with O'Reilly on illegal immigration and the BP spill and the fact that her defense fund was judged ILLEGAL.

    The Palins have managed to defy the 15 minutes of fame axiom and have mutated into the Jock Itch of Fame: Just when you think they've faded away, there they are.

    Posted by: Handsome19781 | July 15, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

    I think the younger generation is getting tired of the older generation shoving the ideologies of the past down our throats, both to deny us our own identity and to make sure that they get theirs while we might have to do without.

    Social Security is a good example. Baby boomers are not talking about all of us cutting back equally, they're telling us in the younger generation that we will have to do without. We will either have to wait 5 - 15 years longer to actually retire or that we'll have to give up the guarantee of a public funding and instead be forced to gamble on the oh-so reliable stock market, or both; all the while baby boomers demand that not a single cent be taken from their paychecks, and don't dare touch their Medicare, which even the uninsured in my generation can't have.

    You're just thinking about the children? We don't buy that crap, because we are the "children" and we see that no one is looking out for our well-being except ourselves.

    Posted by: paulflorez | July 15, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

    This is wonderful! Now, these two will attempt to live a private life and stay out of the news... I hope.

    Posted by: lapeache1 | July 15, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

    I only clicked on this story because I could not BELIEVE that this is the most read story today -- with everything going on in the world we care about these 2 pieces of trash.

    Posted by: CAC2 | July 15, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

    I always chuckle when Palin's name comes up and the haters start to go nuts...never fails! For the posters who think the Ms. Palin isn't presidential material because the media has chosen to report on her family/social life, perhaps you've conveniently forgotten the revolving door that are Democrats? Gore's divorce/sex mistress, Chelsea's plastic surgery, Clinton's affair, Edwards out of wedlock kid, Biden's daughter alledged cocaine abuse, the list goes on. We live in a tabloid obsessed world, and the Palin's are no different. Just a few years ago US Weekly was a entertainment magazine similiar to Entertainment Weekly, now its one of the biggest selling rag magazines in circulation because gossip SELLS. I'm not a parent, but I know kids are unpredictable, and Bristol is now an adult, capable of making her own decisions. America seems to have a double standard when it comes to the Palins. Then again, all of the Palin's are making millions, so I wonder who's getting the last laugh?

    Posted by: lawkw | July 15, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

    I am just counting the days before this country turns into the one they showed in the movie "Idiocracy". The movie was made badly but the idea and story are not that much off the mark.

    Posted by: reddy531 | July 15, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

    Congratulations to America's future first family!

    BRISTOL 2028 !!

    Posted by: thebump | July 15, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

    Sarah/Drug dealing MIL 2012
    Bristol/Levi 2028
    Trigg/Trip 2038

    Just in case you are wondering all on republican ticket party for the merit....woo..hoo...way to take back your country

    Posted by: reddy531 | July 15, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

    ...ah, the return of the Alaska Hillbillies. Heartwarming, really.

    Posted by: dubya1938 | July 15, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

    Call me "highly cynical" but Sarah Palin didn't learn about this from US News.

    More likely Mr. Johnston's 15 minutes of fame were rapidly waning and he wanted back in the Palin fold. He got a big paycheck to apologize and the hand of his baby momma.

    Only dead fish go with the flow and Mr. Johnson will again be a big fish in a small pond and this whole thing stinks like rotten fish.

    Posted by: arancia12 | July 15, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

    Social Security is a good example. Baby boomers are not talking about all of us cutting back equally, they're telling us in the younger generation that we will have to do without. We will either have to wait 5 - 15 years longer to actually retire or that we'll have to give up the guarantee of a public funding and instead be forced to gamble on the oh-so reliable stock market, or both; all the while baby boomers demand that not a single cent be taken from their paychecks, and don't dare touch their Medicare, which even the uninsured in my generation can't have.

    You're just thinking about the children? We don't buy that crap, because we are the "children" and we see that no one is looking out for our well-being except ourselves.

    Posted by: paulflorez |
    _____________________

    Allow me to translate. Waaaaaaaaaa, waaaaaa, waaaaaah.

    I'm a boomer and my parents "didn't understand" me and I "don't understand" you.

    Here's one thing missing from your looong whine: I earned what I have.

    You should try it.

    Posted by: arancia12 | July 15, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse

    Then again, all of the Palin's are making millions, so I wonder who's getting the last laugh?

    Posted by: lawkw |

    ______________________

    I am. I get to make fun of the Red Queen and you because she doesn't get a dime from me.

    Posted by: arancia12 | July 15, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

    Well, I, for one, am happy for them. Love conquers all. Good news. The world is full of such horror stories, nice to see these two are back together and will get to parent their little boy together.

    Posted by: maddymappo | July 15, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

    Why are they back together?

    Jerry Springer was running short of material and wanted to do an Alaskan trailer-trash special.

    (According to the State Police, Wasilla is the Crystal Meth capital of Alaska. Not only that, but... "Sherry Johnston, the mother of Bristol Palin’s baby daddy Levi Johnston, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one count of possession with intent to deliver the prescription painkiller oxycodone. She will be sentenced in November under a pre-approved deal that has her serving five years in prison, with two years suspended.")

    Posted by: WhateverHeSaid | July 15, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

    My suspicion is that Bristol is pregnant again, and the only way for Sarah to save face is if THIS time, she's actually married first.

    Predict there will be an "early" birth!

    Posted by: Xlnt | July 15, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

    Nobody would've ever heard of these morons if it weren't for John McCain.

    Thanks a million, Gramps.

    Posted by: HughBriss | July 15, 2010 10:41 PM | Report abuse

    Congrats to the two, make that three, of them. I hope they have a healthy family life together. I give them both props for leading their lives independently. Stepping into adulthood is seldom easy but these two were put on display during their tumultuous time. Now, it seems like they've regrouped. Good luck going forward.

    Posted by: Tourist | July 16, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

    And what about that little bastard (or should I say 'LOVE-CHILD') they produced in 2008?
    See Deuteronomy 23:2.

    Posted by: alzach01 | July 17, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

    All of this is for a bigger reason and I think someone wants to be a politician, or in the political family. Sarah Palin is going somewhere in politics, and could be a republican nominee for president or some other high ranking office. Levi wants in! It does seem to me that his family background is not as good as Bristol's, he is looking to be somebody off of them and not just the baby daddy! Wait and See, they are his meal ticket!

    Posted by: GucciGirl | July 18, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

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