It may seem bizarre that Bristol Palin, who once said that telling young people to be abstinent is “not realistic at all,” would be the spokesperson for the Candie’s Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to “educat[ing] America’s youth about the devastating consequences of teen pregnancy through celebrity PSA campaigns and initiatives.” The foundation tends to promote abstinence as the best way to prevent pregnancy (past campaigns have included girls in tight shirts that say “I’m sexy enough…to keep you waiting”), and Palin was criticized when she began speaking on their behalf.
She explained that her attitude toward teen pregnancy changed dramatically after her son, Tripp, was born. She was not, she said, “prepared at all” for the demands of motherhood and was speaking out to prevent other teens from making the same mistake.
Now, however, the Candie’s Foundation is under fire after it released its 2009 tax information, revealing that they paid Palin a staggering $262,500. But that’s not all – the foundation, which is supposed to be working to prevent teen pregnancy, donated only $35,000 to actual initiatives (the Mt. Sinai Adolescent Health Center and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy). That’s just over a tenth of how much they paid Palin.
The Candie’s Foundation responded by saying that Palin’s PSA had more of an effect on teens than a non-celebrity PSA. On their site, they claimed that in a recent “independent survey” of 1,000 teens, “twice as many teens (57% vs. 27%) said Bristol’s PSA ‘got my attention,’ three times as many (41% vs. 11%) said it was ‘powerful,’ and more than twice as many (38% vs. 16%) said it was ‘memorable.’ Thus they are justified in spending all of their money on celebrity spokespeople rather than organizations that are actually giving teens the resources and education to prevent pregnancy.
The fact that teens found the PSAs memorable does not mean that they gained any useful knowledge from them or altered their behavior accordingly. A TV show illustrating the “devastating consequences” of teen pregnancy might be as “memorable” as Palin’s PSA, but there’s no reason for the Candie’s Foundation to start handing out checks to the producers of The Secret Life of the American Teenager or Glee.
And frankly, if Bristol Palin is truly dedicated to “preventing even one girl from getting pregnant,” she will personally redistribute her enormous paycheck from the Candie’s Foundation. It’s one thing for her to get paid for her speaking engagements – but it’s absurd for the Candie’s Foundation to spend seven times on their celebrity speakers than on actual teen pregnancy initiatives.
After all, Bristol Palin may be able to speak to the experience of teen motherhood, but as the daughter of a powerful political figure, she is certainly not typical, something that she admitted in a Candie’s PSA last year. The money could be well spent on the other 750,000 American teenagers who get pregnant every year, many of whom rely on these clinics and health centers for counseling and prenatal care. It seems as though Candie’s – and maybe Palin herself – are more interested in their public image than actually preventing teen pregnancy.
Photo from the Candie's Foundation.