Levi Keith Johnston, born May 3, 1990 is the former fiancé of Bristol Palin. He first received media attention in August 2008 when U.S. vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin announced that her daughter Bristol was five months pregnant with Johnston's baby and that the two were engaged. Johnston and Palin broke off their engagement in March 2009, and Johnston had several public feuds with the Palin family for which he later apologized. The couple announced they were engaged again in July 2010, but ended that engagement three weeks later.
After working in the Alaskan oil fields, Johnston began pursuing a career in the entertainment industry, aspiring to be a model and an actor.
Family life and education
Johnston is the first of two children born to Keith and Sherry Johnston. He has a younger sister, Mercede "Sadie" Johnston. The family is of Mexican and Canadian descent.
Johnston attended Wasilla High School, where he played on the hockey team, but dropped out of school in his junior year. He worked full-time on the Alaska North Slope oil fields as an apprentice electrician, quitting in January 2009.
According to Johnston, he and Bristol began dating during their freshman year of high school. After losing a promise ring on a caribou hunt, Johnston had Bristol's name tattooed on his finger.
During the 2008 U.S. presidential election
Johnston attended the 2008 Republican National Convention with the Palin family. While Sarah Palin was delivering her prime-time nomination acceptance speech, the cameras frequently cut away to Johnston and Bristol. Johnston shook hands onstage with Sarah Palin's running mate, Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, and was treated as a member of Palin's family. Fox News commentator Dick Morris commented that McCain's decision to welcome Johnston to the stage was a good move, because it would help McCain show "a nonjudgmental", tolerant attitude, while still sending the message that unwed teens who become pregnant should marry.
After his 2009 breakup with Bristol, Johnston gave a series of nationally televised interviews. He appeared on The Tyra Banks Show with his mother and sister, saying he wanted to dispel rumors that he had "done steroids and drugs and cheated on Bristol". Remarking on Bristol's public appearances to promote sexual abstinence, Johnston told The Early Show that "abstinence is a great idea, but I also think you need to enforce, you know, condoms and birth control and other things like that to have safe sex. I don't just think telling young kids, 'you can't have sex' - it's not going to work. It's not realistic." In another interview he said that he was "pretty sure" Sarah had known that he and Bristol were having sex in the family's mansion because "moms are pretty smart."
In August 2009, Johnston publicly speculated that Sarah Palin's early resignation from office was due to long-standing marital difficulties, the pressures of the job, and lucrative book and other media offers. In a September 2009 Vanity Fair interview, Johnston alleged that Sarah Palin initially wanted the couple to keep Bristol's pregnancy a secret and offered to adopt the baby and raise him as her own, but that he and Bristol rejected the plan. In response, Sarah told the media the statements were "untrue, malicious, and appalling", emphasizing that she highly appreciated her children and commenting that Johnston's photoshoots were "attention-seeking and desperate".
2010 apology and reversal
In July 2010, a week prior to the announcement that he and Bristol were engaged a second time, Johnston issued a statement expressing regret for his accusations against the Palins, "Last year, after Bristol and I broke up, I was unhappy and a little angry. Unfortunately, against my better judgment, I publicly said things about the Palins that were not completely true. I have already privately apologized to Todd and Sarah.
2011 Wasilla mayoral election
In August 2010, Johnston announced that he will be running in the October 2011 election for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. Johnston stated: "Whether I win or not win, I want Tripp to look up to me and see what I've done and be proud of his dad."
The current mayor, Verne E. Rupright, responded to Johnston's announcement: "Well, it is a little early to declare. Usually most wait until the year the seat is up. But since I am nearly old enough to be Levi's grandfather I think it would be wise for him to get a high school diploma and keep his clothes on. The voters like that!"
Bristol Palin responded that she "never knew he had political aspirations. I'm glad that Levi has not given up on completing his education and is looking for steady employment."
Johnston's manager stated he hoped to copy the rise of Sarah Palin from mayor of Wasilla to governor of Alaska, "creating a rural, Alaskan version of the Bush political dynasty."
On 3 September 2010, Public Policy Polling reported that Johnston had become the most unpopular person polled in his home state, replacing former Democratic presidential candidate and senator John Edwards. Edwards was recorded in January 2010 as having a 15 percent approval and 72 percent disapproval rating in his home state of North Carolina. Johnston received a six percent approval and 72 percent disapproval rating in the state of Alaska.
Johnston hired Anchorage, Alaska, attorney Rex Butler (who was previously best-known for representing criminal defendants and handling civil litigation) to represent him in his pursuit of a career in the entertainment industry.
According to Tirdad Derakhshani of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Johnston was "shopping around a memoir" concerning his time with Bristol. Politico reported in April 2009 that focus of the memoir had been changed to show the true story of the Palin household. The Associated Press reported in July 2009 that Johnston was also pursuing a movie deal.
Johnston and comedienne Kathy Griffin attended the 2009 Teen Choice Awards together. She later stated that he was "surprisingly sweet and courteous" to her. Johnston and Griffin's acquaintance is documented in the sixth season of Griffin's reality television series, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. Additionally, as a gag in her stand-up comedy routine, Griffin often referred to the acquaintance as a relationship, and Johnston as her boyfriend.
In popular culture
On September 28, 2010, Ben Folds and Nick Hornby released an album called Lonely Avenue with a song on it entitled "Levi Johnston's Blues," in which they tell a fictionalized account of Johnston's story.