“None of that’s true,” Johnston, 18, said in a rare interview with The Associated Press. “We both love each other. We both want to marry each other. And that’s what we are going to do.”
Standing in the driveway of his family home in this small Alaska town, Johnston spoke about the rumors swirling around him.
The soft-spoken teenager discussed his relationship with Palin and how life has changed with fatherhood fast approaching. He agreed to talk despite the presidential campaign’s advice in the days following Gov. Sarah Palin’s nomination to avoid the media.
“They’re not telling me anything right now,” Johnston said as he checked his Blackberry. “It’s pretty chill.”
Not surprisingly, Johnston was a little shocked when he learned about Bristol’s pregnancy, but he says he quickly embraced the prospects of fatherhood. The baby is due Dec. 18. Johnston has dropped out of high school to take a job on the North Slope oil fields as an apprentice electrician.
Johnston hinted he’s expecting a boy, but he declined to discuss baby names.
“I’m looking forward to having him,” he said. “I’m going to take him hunting and fishing. He’ll be everywhere with me.”
Johnston, a Wasilla heartthrob, said he wanted to set the record straight.
For starters, he said his much-maligned MySpace page was a joke _ the one that claimed he said: “I’m a … redneck,” and “I don’t want kids.” Johnston said his friends created the page a few years ago and he had nothing to do with it.
Johnston said he has dated Palin since his freshman year in high school.
“We were planning on getting married a long time ago with or without the kid,” he said. “That was the plan from the start.”
While Johnston provided few details about next summer’s wedding, the planning has started: A cousin will likely be his best man, and he has asked two hockey buddies, Ben Barber and Dane Wilson, to be groomsmen.
Barber doesn’t think anyone pressured Johnston into marriage.
“If he thought it wasn’t the right thing to do he probably wouldn’t do it,” he said.
Johnston is an avid hunter. He’s dark haired, tall and muscular, sports a bit of stubble and drives a red Chevy Silverado truck. He’d be the perfect cover for Field & Stream.
He’s bagged bears, sheep, elk, and caribou. Some of the antlers are scattered about his yard. Last July on a caribou hunt he lost a “promise” ring that Palin had given him. He said he decided to tattoo her name on the finger and not bother with more rings because he’d just lose them anyway.
Johnston said he wasn’t forced to campaign with Palin’s mother. Bristol Palin invited him and Johnston jumped at the chance. It was a whirlwind experience for Johnston, who was seated with the Palins at the Republican National Convention.
“At first, I was nervous,” he said. “Then I was like, ‘Whatever.'”
While Barber said his friend is a celebrity now, Johnston said it hasn’t changed him.
“I’m still the same old boy,” said Johnston. “I’m just a workin’ man.”
And now he’s also about to become a family man.
“We’re up for it. I’m excited to have my first kid. It’s going to be a lot of hard work but we can handle it.”
Wasilla hockey coach Bill Sturdevant, who was invited to the wedding, said he was sorry to hear Johnston wasn’t going to return for his senior year of high school. But he said he believes Johnston, a talented hockey player, will find his way.
“He’s a tough kid,” Sturdevant said. “He’s taking everything in stride.”
What about Johnston’s politics?
“I just hope she wins,” he said. “She’s my future mother-in-law. She better win.”