Although jokes about Bristol Palin, and even the other Palin children, are common place (as is demonstrated here) David Letterman has gone out of his way to attempt to diffuse the controversy by apologizing for jokes of his which were distorted by right wing attackers. The Los Angeles Times reports:
Under fire for a risque joke last week, David Letterman has apologized to Gov. Sarah Palin and her supporters. But a group urging CBS to fire the host says it’s still not enough.
On CBS’ “Late Show” tonight, Letterman says he’s sorry about a monologue earlier this month in which he joked that New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez impregnated Palin’s daughter during a game. Letterman has said he intended the joke to be in reference to Palin’s 18-year-old daughter Bristol, but Gov. Palin actually attended the game with her 14-year-old daughter Willow. Some critics have accused Letterman of joking about statutory rape.
“I told a bad joke,” Letterman told viewers at an afternoon taping. “I told a joke that was beyond flawed, and my intent is completely meaningless compared to the perception. And since it was a joke I told, I feel that I need to do the right thing here and apologize for having told that joke. It’s not your fault that it was misunderstood, it’s my fault.”
He concluded, “I’m sorry about it and I’ll try to do better in the future.”
The New York Times adds further information (but is off by a week–it only feels like it was well more than a week ago):
David Letterman directly apologized to Gov. Sarah Palin and her daughters on his program Monday night, saying he took responsibility for a joke that had offended Ms. Palin, her family, and her supporters.
Mr. Letterman opened the desk portion of his show with the apology in which he said he wanted to say he was sorry to “to the two daughters involved, Bristol and Willow, and also to the governor and her family and everybody else who was outraged by the joke.” Two weeks ago on his “Late Show” program on CBS, he had joked about Governor Palin attending a Yankee game with her daughter.
The joke, in which Mr. Letterman seemingly confused Willow, who is 14 and attended a Yankee game with Gov. Palin that week, with Bristol, who is 18 and an unwed mother, had to do with the Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez impregnating Ms. Palin’s daughter.
Last week Mr. Letterman somewhat defiantly said that there was a misperception going on and he would never make a sexually charged joke about a 14-year old. But he never expressly explained that he had inadvertently confused the two Palin daughters.
Monday he acknowledged that as the host of the program it was his responsibility to get the joke right. “I told a joke that was beyond flawed, and my intent is completely meaningless compared to the perception.”
He also insisted he was confused about the daughters. “I was told at the time she was there with Rudy Guiliani,” Mr. Letterman said. “I should have made the joke about Rudy.”
It is doubtful that this apology will make any difference with the Palin supporters who continued to smear Letterman after his first apology last week. These attacks really have nothing to do with jokes about Palin’s daughters. Right wing bloggers began attacking Letterman for telling jokes about Sarah Palin after last Monday’s show and it wasn’t until later that they began distributing the fabrications that Letterman had told a joke about Willow Palin. Right wing supporters of Sarah Palin have been organizing to attack David Letterman for quite a while, as was noted in this post back in January.
Update: TV Week has the full transcript:
“All right, here – I’ve been thinking about this situation with Governor Palin and her family now for about a week – it was a week ago tonight, and maybe you know about it, maybe you don’t know about it. But there was a joke that I told, and I thought I was telling it about the older daughter being at Yankee Stadium. And it was kind of a coarse joke. There’s no getting around it, but I never thought it was anybody other than the older daughter, and before the show, I checked to make sure in fact that she is of legal age, 18. Yeah. But the joke really, in and of itself, can’t be defended. The next day, people are outraged. They’re angry at me because they said, ‘How could you make a lousy joke like that about the 14-year-old girl who was at the ball game?’ And I had, honestly, no idea that the 14-year-old girl, I had no idea that anybody was at the ball game except the Governor and I was told at the time she was there with Rudy Giuliani…And I really should have made the joke about Rudy…” (audience applauds) “But I didn’t, and now people are getting angry and they’re saying, ‘Well, how can you say something like that about a 14-year-old girl, and does that make you feel good to make those horrible jokes about a kid who’s completely innocent, minding her own business,’ and, turns out, she was at the ball game. I had no idea she was there. So she’s now at the ball game and people think that I made the joke about her. And, but still, I’m wondering, ‘Well, what can I do to help people understand that I would never make a joke like this?’ I’ve never made jokes like this as long as we’ve been on the air, 30 long years, and you can’t really be doing jokes like that. And I understand, of course, why people are upset. I would be upset myself.
“And then I was watching the Jim Lehrer ‘Newshour’ – this commentator, the columnist Mark Shields, was talking about how I had made this indefensible joke about the 14-year-old girl, and I thought, ‘Oh, boy, now I’m beginning to understand what the problem is here. It’s the perception rather than the intent.’ It doesn’t make any difference what my intent was, it’s the perception. And, as they say about jokes, if you have to explain the joke, it’s not a very good joke. And I’m certainly – ” (audience applause) “- thank you. Well, my responsibility – I take full blame for that. I told a bad joke. I told a joke that was beyond flawed, and my intent is completely meaningless compared to the perception. And since it was a joke I told, I feel that I need to do the right thing here and apologize for having told that joke. It’s not your fault that it was misunderstood, it’s my fault. That it was misunderstood.” (audience applauds) “Thank you. So I would like to apologize, especially to the two daughters involved, Bristol and Willow, and also to the Governor and her family and everybody else who was outraged by the joke. I’m sorry about it and I’ll try to do better in the future. Thank you very much.” (audience applause)
Anyone ever hear an apology such as this from people such as Rush Limbaugh, who has knowingly told jokes about children of Democrats who are under 18?
Palin supporters say they are continuing with their plans to protest outside of the Ed Sullivan Theater tomorrow. They can be recognized by their brown shirts.
Update 2: Among the best comments in the media on Letterman’s apology, Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly writes, “Letterman’s bedrock decency has prevailed over what he must know is Palin’s bedrock opportunism in prolonging the controversy.”
Update 4: Reuters reports that “more than a dozen protesters held up banners outside Letterman’s Times Square studio.” Wow, more than a dozen despite all the promotion for the protest on right wing blogs. This further demonstrates that only a small number of far right wing kooks buy the attack s on Letterman.