A man who went on national television and told how family members of former Gov. Sarah Palin were involved in a brawl at an Anchorage birthday party says he was fired from a his job at a local paving company after speaking up. Eric Thompson, who appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" last week, posted a video on YouTube Tuesday seeking work.
He said he hopes his video will "get the word out that the Palins do have a lot of political power and can get you fired for telling the truth."
Thompson said he has no ill will toward the owners of McKenna Bros. Paving, whom he said fired him for giving his account of the brawl.
In the video, Thompson asks for donations to his GoFundMe site and the public's help in finding work. "Within an hour of the airing of my interview on 'Good Morning America,' I was fired from my job for telling the truth about the Palin brawl," Thompson says, addressing the camera.
The video pans to a shot of Thompson holding a cardboard sign reading "Won't Work 4 Palin!" while standing on an Anchorage street.
So far Thompson is the only witness to speak on the record with news media about the house-party brawl on Sept. 6. "I didn't understand what was going to happen, and it just blew up," Thompson said.
In an interview at attorney Kevin Fitzgerald's office on Monday, Thompson gave his account of the evening and what happened once it became a national story. Police said roughly 20 people were involved. Police spokesperson Jennifer Castro confirmed that members of the Palin family were at the party and said alcohol was a factor in the fight. Nobody involved in the fight had wanted to press charges, Castro wrote.
The party was at the home of Korey Klingenmeyer, office manager for McKenna Bros. Paving. About 70 people had gathered to celebrate the birthday of Marc and Matthew McKenna, owners of the company, Thompson said. Todd Palin, a friend of the McKennas and fellow Iron Dog snowmachine racer, was also celebrating his birthday.
The Palins showed up in a stretch limo Hummer around 8:30 or 9 p.m., Thompson said. The family was mingling with other guests, and there didn't appear to be any animosity between partygoers, he said.
Later in the evening, the atmosphere soured, he said. There was a fight, which Thompson said he didn't see, involving the son of a friend and Palin's son Track. Soon after that, Thompson said, he watched as Palin's daughters, Bristol and Willow, marched toward his friend's wife. Klingenmeyer stepped in and asked them to leave, he said. "Hey, this isn't happening. You girls need to go. Get off my property. It's time to go back to Wasilla," Thompson said Klingenmeyer told them. "He's being really, really polite."
At that point, Thompson said, "they take about three steps back and Bristol reaches back and punches him in the face." She hit Klingenmeyer at least six times, he said. "Straight, hard punches to the face."
The homeowner "just kind of pushes her away from himself and she tumbles and falls," he said. Words were exchanged between Todd Palin and Klingenmeyer, he said. A crowd gathered, and the incident quickly deteriorated into a massive "dogpile" fight, Thompson said, although he couldn't see all those involved.
When the crowd split up, the Palin family jumped into the Hummer, Thompson said. Before they left, Track Palin stood outside the Hummer with his shirt off, flipping off the crowd and yelling obscenities, he said. Sarah Palin screamed out of the Hummer, "Don't you know who we are?" he said.
After they left, "the whole party was just like wow, that sucks," Thompson said. A few minutes later, the police arrived.
"Whenever the police show up, the party is over," Thompson said.
Thompson said the incident was "a lot to do with a lot of nothing."
"If anything, I think it just shows you that (the Palins) are normal. Normal people have those issues," he said.
Thompson said 10 people gave witness statements to police.
Thompson recounted the story to several media outlets. He said ABC News had pressured him into talking, saying his name was already in the police report and it was a matter of public record.
"I feel now that I was just exploited and they had their own agenda," Thompson said. "The next thing you know ... it's national news."
Thompson's account with "Good Morning America" aired Friday. Thompson got a call from Matt McKenna that same morning, around 8:30 a.m., he said. McKenna had seen the news clip and told Thompson, "My brother and I can't have this, you're done. Turn in your truck," Thompson said.
"I was like 'Jeez, really?' " Thompson said. "I couldn't understand why it would reflect badly on them.
"I wasn't in the front yard, an employee of McKenna Bros. Paving, punching somebody in the face," Thompson said. "That was the Palins. They did this, not me.
"I feel that maybe they got squeezed," Thompson continued. "Maybe Palins do wield a little more, you know, power. ... Anybody that's ever come against them, they seem to just, you know, find a way to destroy them," Thompson said.
"I've had many people call me and tell me that man, you screwed up, you should have never said anything about them," Thompson said.
Despite losing his job, Thompson said he doesn't hold anything against the McKennas. "Absolutely not," Thompson said. "They're good people. They really are.
"I feel bad for them, actually, because it's come back on them worse than it did on me," Thompson said.
Thompson doesn't plan to pursue legal action against the company. "I don't want to do anything to hurt them," he said. He has retained an attorney simply to deal with the number of media requests he has received.
McKenna Bros. Paving could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Now, Thompson is focused on finding another job, he said. But he might take a vacation first.
"I think I need to go put my feet in the water, get a cold beer in my hand," he said. "Get out of the limelight completely."
As of Tuesday evening, his GoFundMe site had raised nearly $5,000.
Thompson said the video was made at the suggestion of his nephew, who thought it might help raise money for the newly unemployed 56-year-old.
The video was met by some criticism, including from Thompson's son, he said.
"I probably have to agree with (critics), it is kind of weird. ... But at the same time, on the first of the month, guess what? I've got a house payment to pay," Thompson said.
Still, the video was made "pretty much" in jest, he said.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing