"There was a lot of talk of divorce in that house ... times when Sarah and Todd would mention it and sound pretty serious," says Johnston, who turns 19 this year. (Last month, the couple denied Internet rumors of a pending divorce.)
But that wasn't all. In a wide-ranging interview with Vanity Fair in its October issue, out nationally Sept. 8, the teen says that the onetime vice-presidential nominee's frequent self-description as a "hockey mom" who put family above career was far from the truth.
"Even before she was nominated, there wasn't much parenting in that house," he says. "Sarah doesn't cook, Todd doesn't cook – the kids would do it all themselves: cook, clean, do the laundry, and get ready for school. Most of the time Bristol would help her youngest sister with her homework, and I'd barbecue chicken or steak on the grill."
Talk of QuittingPalin often complained that her job as governor was "too hard," according to Johnston, and after spending a couple weeks of being gloomy about losing the vice presidency, she focused on making money instead of the needs of Alaskans.
"Sarah was sad for a while. She walked around the house pouting," Johnston says. "A week or two after she got back she started talking about how nice it would be to quit and write a book or do a show and make 'triple the money.' She would blatantly say, 'I want to just take this money and quit being governor.' "
Palin resigned from her post as governor of Alaska in July.
The bid for the White House went to the head of the woman from Wasilla, Johnston adds, saying Palin would say things like, "I brought everything to the table" and "the majority of people were out there voting because of me!" "She definitely thought she was running for president," he says.
Palin's ambition for higher office also affected the family's plans for Bristol and Johnston's baby, he says. The governor suggested that she and husband Todd could adopt her daughter's baby and keep his real parentage a secret.
"That way, she said, Bristol and I didn't have to worry about anything," Johnston says. "Sarah kept mentioning this plan. She was nagging – she wouldn't give up. She would say, 'So, are you gonna let me adopt him?' I think Sarah wanted to make Bristol look good, and she didn't want people to know that her 17-year-old daughter was going to have a kid."