ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Gov. Sarah Palin denounced anonymous criticisms leveled at her by former John McCain aides as lies, including allegations that Republican lawyers were traveling to Alaska to reclaim her high-priced wardrobe and that she didn't know Africa was a continent.
"Those accounts are not true," the former Republican vice presidential candidate said in her first public comments on the matter since the election Tuesday.
Palin returned Friday to her Anchorage governor's office and said she had no immediate plans to build on her newfound national name-recognition and popularity with the Republican base for a possible 2012 presidential run.
Instead, Palin said, she wanted only to get back to the governor's desk to advance a proposed pipeline tapping Alaska's vast North Slope natural gas reserves and to prepare Alaska's proposed 2010 budget.
As for the vice presidential campaign, Palin denounced criticism from unidentified McCain campaign aides as "cowardly." She said she found it frustrating trying to respond to false allegations when she didn't know who was making them.
"It's ridiculous," she told reporters. "You guys report based on anonymous sources, so it's hard to have a defense."
One report said she and her family went on a shopping spree, spending more than the $150,000 in clothing that the Republican National Committee had earlier reported.
"The RNC purchased clothes," Palin said.
"Those are the RNC's clothes. They're not my clothes. I never forced anybody to buy anything. I never asked for anything more than maybe a Diet Dr Pepper once in a while."
The RNC will inventory clothing it purchased for her to account for dollars spent, she said. She scoffed at reports that the RNC was sending lawyers to take back clothes from her home.
"It's not happening. Nobody's told me that they're coming to my house to look through closets, to look through anything. The belly of the plane that had clothes in it, and those clothes being packed up and sent back by staffers, perhaps that's what they're talking about, but these aren't attorneys."
She said she wasn't angry at the continued coverage of her clothing, but mostly disappointed.
"This is Barack Obama's time right now, and this is an historic moment in our nation and this can be a shining moment for America and our history, and look what we're talking about. Again, we're talking about my shoes and belts and skirts. It's ridiculous."
She also denied a report that she didn't know Africa was a continent, not a country, and that she didn't know the members of the North American Free Trade Agreement — the United States, Canada and Mexico. She remembered discussing both Africa and Obama's stance on NAFTA with people preparing her for her debate, she said. Anything reported as a gaffe was taken out of context, she said.
"That's cruel. 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. It's not fair and it's not right."
Asked if she felt muzzled by her limited time with reporters during the campaign, Palin said the media is a cornerstone of democracy and an important part of the checks and balances on government.
"Heaven forbid that a candidate or an elected official shy way from speaking to the media," she said. "So it was a little bit of a frustration that I didn't get to call more of those shots, and I guess that was sort of the 'rogue' criticism was, 'She wants to talk to more of the media' than perhaps some in the campaign wanted me to."
Palin backed off from calling for the resignation of fellow Alaskan Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in Senate history. Stevens leads Democrat Mark Begich by about 3,500 votes with more than 50,000 to be counted.
A Washington jury convicted Stevens on Oct. 27 of seven felony counts of failing to report more than $250,000 in gifts, mostly renovations on his home. Stevens is appealing the verdict.
"The Alaska voters have spoken and me not being a dictator won't be telling anyone what to do," she said.
Fellow senators have indicated they could boot Stevens.
"That's their baby," Palin said. "They'll have to figure out what to do there."
Palin said she was not interested in running for the job if it comes open.
"Not planning on that. Nope," she said.