Feuding Almost In-Laws: Levi Johnston: Bristol

Battling Bristol
A photograph of a fresh-faced teenaged Levi appears on the stage screen behind Dr. Phil. "This young man was thrust into the spotlight when Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter, Bristol Palin, got pregnant," Dr. Phil explains.

Subsequent images of Levi flash before the audience: Levi at 18, seated next to Bristol Palin during the Republican National Convention; Levi, the Alaskan hunting aficionado, the teen hockey star, and most recently, Levi, the overnight celebrity and Playgirl cover model. Glancing at the images, Dr. Phil poses the question that will frame his entire talk with Levi: "Who is the real Levi Johnston? And why is there so much fascination surrounding his broken relationship with Bristol Palin, the mother of his precious 2-year-old son, Tripp?"

Levi joins Dr. Phil on stage to discuss his memoir, Deer in the Headlights: My Life in Sarah Palin's Crosshairs, which explores his soured relationship with the Palins after the 2008 presidential election, and his struggle to gain custody of Tripp while adjusting to a new life in the spotlight.

"Your book is 'Deer in the Headlights,' which I have read, and I have to say, you did a nice job with this, and it is a really fun read," Dr. Phil begins. 

[AD]"I appreciate it," Levi says. "I wrote this for myself and for everyone out there [who] has the misconception of me, and for my son to grow up and read it when he's older."

Levi notes that he refused to criticize Bristol in a book that their son may later read. "I wasn't going to go dogging on his mom. I wanted to, but I didn't," he tells Dr. Phil.

"And aren't you glad that you didn't?" Dr. Phil asks.

"I'm actually relieved that I didn't." Levi says. "I think I made the right decision."


"One of the things you talk about in your book is that you seem to be most at peace when you're out in the elements. When you're in the woods, you're hunting, you're fishing. And this is a long way from that," Dr. Phil explains, referring to Levi's new life in the limelight.

"Well, as far as going to the RNC, I went because Bristol wanted me to go, and I told her no," Levi replies. "And Sarah gets us on the phone, and I said, OK, whatever, I'll go' just to kind of support Bristol with all that. I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. It was one of the hardest things I had to do. Cameras [are] not really my thing. There were a ton of people trying to talk to you, shake your hand [and] take your picture. It was awful."

[AD]"You got thrust into the spotlight, but then you really made a decision to stay in the spotlight," Dr. Phil observes.

Levi responds, "Well, you know, it was really simple to me. I can't see my son as much as I'd like to. So, as far as me just going back home and keeping silent, that's clearly not an option."



A topic Levi clarifies in his memoir is the details surrounding his intimacy with Bristol. In previous interviews, Bristol suggests that Levi "stole" her virginity during one drunken encounter. 

"OK. How did you feel about that?" Dr. Phil asks.

"That was actually about the only hurtful thing she's called me so far," Levi says, glancing at the screen. "Obviously, she's not using the date rape thing, but it's horrifying for someone you date for four years to go back and say that. That wasn't the first time we drank together."

Dr. Phil notes that Levi addressed Bristol's virginity claims on page 281 of his book, which reads: "If that's how Bristol lost her virginity, I wasn't there. We went to camp with friends well after she and I had forged a physical relationship in the spring of 2006."

"So, you're just saying, this didn't even happen?" Dr. Phil asks.

[AD]Shaking his head, Levi confides, "No, it didn't happen like that. It was consensual. That wasn't the only time we made love. I mean, four years later we had Tripp."

In his book, Levi also hopes to clarify misconceptions about his fathering skills. In a news interview, Bristol claimed that Levi remains absent from Tripp's life and rarely makes an effort to visit him. A claim the young man adamantly denies.


Dr. Phil rolls a video depicting a lesser-known side of Levi as a father. The young dad gives a tour of Tripp's room which is stocked full with toys, baby clothes and even a red, pint-sized pair of hockey gloves that Levi proudly displays on the bedroom wall.

Take a look at Levi's life as a father.


Reflecting on the video, Dr. Phil asks, "So, you want 50/50 custody [of Tripp]?"

"Absolutely."

"So, what is your relationship with Bristol now?" Dr. Phil asks.

[AD]"It's not good," Levi confides. "Obviously, as you can see, she clearly doesn't want me around Tripp. As much as she can go on camera and say, 'Levi can have Tripp,' it's ridiculous and it's not true. I'll do everything I can for my boy, and I'm going to keep going until I get him. There are so many fathers out there who want nothing to do with their kids, and then you have a guy like me who doesn't have a criminal background, he's making money, he's a good guy. He's very into his family and has a lot of people who love him. So, for her to keep him away from me, it's just ridiculous."