Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has fired back at the former aides of John McCain, calling them "jerks" for circulating unflattering stories about her since the Republican ticket lost its bid for the White House on Tuesday.
The stories, attributed to unnamed sources within the McCain campaign, include claims that Palin, who was the running mate of the Republican Senator, did not know Africa was a continent instead of a country, or which countries are part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), despite touting her familiarity with neighbouring Canada.
Palin asserted that the stories were not true and speculated that they may have originated with campaign staffers who helped her prepare for her debate with Democratic Vice President-elect Joe Biden.
"Those were taken out of context and that's cruel," Palin, who has returned to Alaska, told CNN. "It's mean-spirited. It's immature. It's unprofessional and those guys are jerks if they came away with it, taking things out of context, and then tried to spread something on national news."
The network quoted one source involved in preparing Palin for interviews and the vice-presidential debate as saying "she had not paid attention to a single policy debate that's gone on in this country for 10 years."
Palin told CNN that she remembers having conversations about NAFTA and Africa during her preparations, but that the stories about her "are not true." She said it was "cowardly" for staffers to make claims about her anonymously.
"It's not fair and it's not right," she said.
Two McCain sources were quoted as saying that they were furious about Palin's supposed call on Saturday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, which turned out to be a prank by two radio DJs.
CNN quoted a source close to Palin as saying she had prepared to deliver a concession speech on Tuesday and expected to address the crowd at the Arizona Baltimore in Phoenix.
Several sources were quoted as saying that McCain senior adviser Steve Schmidt told Palin 'no', in part because of built-up anger among some McCain aides who say she had become more interested in her own future than in McCain's election. Palin denies that claim.
There have also been reports of a somewhat distant relationship between McCain and his running mate, CNN said.
"This is so unfortunate and, quite honestly, sickening," Palin aide Meghan Stapleton told the network in a written statement. "The accusations we are hearing and reading are not true, and since we deny all these anonymous allegations, there is nothing specific to which we will respond."
"We have the highest regards for Senator John McCain. Governor Palin was honoured to be chosen as McCain's running mate. And as Governor of Alaska, Palin looks forward to working with President-elect Obama on securing energy independence for America."
On Election Day, Palin denied there was tension. Once back in Alaska, she said she would not respond to individual accusations.
"I won't comment on anyone's gossip or allegations that are based on anonymous sources," she told CNN. "That's kind of a small, evidently bitter type of person who would anonymously charge something foolish like that -- that I perhaps didn't know an answer to a question. So until I know who was talking about it, I won't have a comment on false allegations."
In response to allegations that she was ill-prepared for interviews and debate, Randy Scheunemann, a Palin aide, called her "brilliant" and said she has a "photographic memory."
Despite the acrimony, many McCain aides say they are sad the campaign team dissolved so quickly.