“Of course it’s accepted on behalf of young women, like my daughters, who hope men who ‘joke’ about public displays of sexual exploitation of girls will soon evolve,” the statement read.
“Letterman certainly has the right to ‘joke’ about whatever he wants to, and thankfully we have the right to express our reaction. And this is all thanks to our U.S. military women and men putting their lives on the line for us to secure America’s right to free speech – in this case, may that right be used to promote equality and respect.”
Palin is a smart politician and knows she has milked this for all it is worth. While she has excited her base with her attacks on Letterman, she is also becoming subject to jokes that if she is too dumb to understand Letterman’s joke (and believe the right wing smears that it was about Willow or about rape) then she is also too dumb to be president. It has become in Palin’s interest to end the over-reaction and faux-outrage. This also shows an improvement in Palin’s understanding of freedom of speech compared to previous comments she has made.
Palin did have a legitimate beef with regards to jokes about Bristol and sexist jokes. This controversy very well might reduce both of these in the future–from other comedians as well as Letterman. Palin limited the victory she could have had if she had responded honestly. If she had criticized Letterman for the joke about Bristol, without repeating the nonsense that it was about Willow, and conceded that this is just one in a long string of jokes from many comedians which were wrong, her objection would have sounded even more genuine. If she approached it like that virtually everyone, left and right, would have sided with her on it. Instead, by overreacting and distorting the facts, it became another polarizing issue.
So far the right wing groups are planning to continue with their protests. That’s no surprise–they have been planning attacks on Letterman for quite a while. They just saw last week’s jokes as an opportunity to move ahead. First they tried with the “slutty flight attendant” joke but when they didn’t get anywhere with that they distorted the Bristol Palin joke. They also probably realize that Letterman is unlikely to give them any ammunition in the near future so if they want to continue to attack Letterman they have to stick with this.
The long term fall out of this will probably be minimal as, outside of the extreme right, few believe the distortions being made that Letterman told a joke about a 14-year-old girl. Television columnists seem to agree. Maureen Ryan wrote, “To appear to have made an unfortunate remark about a 14-year old just seemed … not Letterman-esque. That’s not who he is.” Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly wrote, “Letterman’s bedrock decency has prevailed over what he must know is Palin’s bedrock opportunism in prolonging the controversy.” Danny Gallagher wrote, “If Letterman is guilty of bad taste, that also means Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and Bill Maher could be charged as accessories after the fact and should all share a cell in Comedy Jail. They have all made jokes about the Palin kids and how Bristol’s big underage mistake in the sack has made her an ‘easy’ target (pun intended) for every political and athletic horn-dog who is still roasting on a spit at the concession stand of public shame. That’s why it’s called ‘late night’ television. It’s like after dark cable TV but with less appealing boobs.”