Quote of the Day

“Yesterday Sarah Palin said that she read Bristol Palin’s new book and she found it ‘shocking.’ When asked what was shocking, Palin said ‘the fact I read a book.'” –Conan O’Brien

Quote of the Day

“Bristol Palin just announced she had corrective surgery on her mouth. It’s being called the right procedure on the wrong Palin.” –Conan O’Brien

Quote of the Day

“It turns out that Bristol Palin was paid 260,000 dollars in 2009 for her work with abstinence awareness. You know what they say: Those who can’t do, teach.” –Jimmy Fallon

Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston Have Reunited

We now know why Levi Johnston recently apologized to Sarah Palin and her family. He apparently wanted to patch things up with his future mother-in-law before the news came out that he was marrying Bristol. Even Levi and Bristol aren’t sure how she will take the news that the two secretly got back together:

Now comes the hard part: Getting the blessing of Sarah Palin, who has made no secret of her feelings for Levi. He provoked her fury last fall when he claimed that she had called her infant son Trig (who has Down syndrome) “retarded.” She fired back, telling reporters that anyone who posed for Playgirl would “say and do anything for even more attention.” Later, during an interview with Oprah Winfrey, she dubbed him “Ricky Hollywood” and called his “aspiring porn” career “heartbreaking.”

Says Bristol, “It is intimidating and scary just to think about what her reaction is going to be. Hopefully she will jump on board.”

We might never know what she is saying in private, but the political part of her has to be happy, or at least desire to act happy:

The Palins released a statement on the Today show Wednesday morning: “Bristol at 19 is now a young adult. We obviously want what’s best for our children. Bristol believes in redemption and forgiveness to a degree most of us struggle to put in practice in our daily lives.”

After all, having Bristol and Levi married ends any political difficulties which might arise from having had an unwed teenage mother as a daughter (not that this was ever the real reason for opposing Sarah Palin). By 2012 it is doubtful that Levi’s criticism of Sarah will make much of a difference.

Oh, and good luck to the young couple. Our beef has always been with what Sarah Palin stands for–not with Bristol. However, if the urge to make fun of them becomes irresistible, check out the wedding invitation at FrumForum.

Update: It didn’t last, with rumors that Levi knocked up another girl.

Facebook Advice of the Day

My sister and her family are taking a cruise to Alaska. My nephew’s Facebook page therefore states he is in Alaska. A comment added there by a friend has some good advice: “Don’t get Bristol Palin pregnant.”

Revenge of the PUMAs


I thought that the David Letterman controversy had pretty much died out after the embarrassment of the Fire Dave Rally earlier this week. An estimated fifteen to fifty people turned out to attack David Letterman and socialism while supporting Jay Leno and Fox News.  By this time pretty much anyone with the ability to think had figured out that this was a smear campaign from the lunatic right which really had nothing to do with a couple of jokes which were tasteless but not as bad as jokes told by other comedians. Only the brain-dead had failed to realize that the joke made no sense unless it was about Bristol Palin, as opposed to the younger daughter as the right wingers claimed. It turns out that there is one group which is sufficiently out of touch with reality to fall for the right wing smear campaign and believe the controversy has anything to do with treatment of women–the PUMAs.

I had noticed during the controversy that PUMA blogs were repeating the smears, figuring it was primarily in revenge for all those pant suits jokes which Letterman had told about Hillary Clinton. While Letterman has told fewer jokes about Bristol Palin than the other late night comedians, nobody came close to Dave in making fun of Hillary’s pants suits. The connection of the PUMAs came out after The Politco reported that Olive Garden had canceled advertising on Letterman’s show. Just as I was about to change my dinner reservation to Macaroni Grill, The New York Times reported that the report was not accurate.

As this story was breaking, Balloon Juice commented on the involvement of the PUMAs in trying to get companies to boycott Letterman. DougJ followed up with a second report on  Great moments in PUMA history.  Doug concluded, “I can’t quite wrap my head around the whole PUMA thing, so maybe John or Wonkette or someone with a better understanding of the PUMAsphere can explain all of this.”


Both Wonkette and Balloon Juice showed examples of the smears which the PUMAs are now launching against companies which advertise on Letterman’s show. Wonkette explained their warped logic:  “If these companies don’t cancel their contracts with CBS, the logic goes, then they will be considered Willow-rapers too.”

The PUMAs are just delusional enough to believe the smear campaigns, which started on the right and motivated by a desire to silence those they saw as critics of their reactionary views, and had nothing to do with any support for feminism. The PUMAs might surprise some in joining with right wingers who back anti-women policies such as banning legal abortions and restoring shirt hanger abortions, along with restricting access to contraception. But why worry about issues that really matter (or even freedom of expression) when you have a chance to smack down the sexist guy who made fun of Hillary’s pants suits?

This should really come as no surprise. During the 2008 campaign I described the PUMA movement as essentially far right wing in their outlook, being as hostile to the reality based community as the Bush and McCain crowds. If anyone doubted that I was right about them last summer, this should give them reason to reconsider.

On Line Discussion of the Letterman Controversy

Letterman Palin

I’ve already had many posts on the dispute between David Letterman and Sarah Palin, along with the smear campaign from the right against Letterman. With all the distortions of fact and attacks from the right, a lot of material has been discussed on this matter. The Washington Post has a discussion with Paul Farhi which summarizes much of the issue. Farhi began with an introduction:

Greetings, all, and welcome back again. So, the strange case of Palin v. Letterman appears to be resolved with Letterman’s very classy apology last night. I say “appears” because, based on my email, some people just won’t let it go. They insist, despite TWO on-air explanations, that Letterman really, really was aiming his crack at 14-year-old Willow Palin, not 18-year-old single mom Bristol Palin. I won’t defend the joke–even Letterman concedes it’s not defensible–but I got news for some of you: The joke makes no sense in reference to Willow. But I guess vendettas and political ax grinding know no logic, or even facts.

I do find this whole episode curious, primarily because of its timing. As I wrote in today’s paper (hey, I like quoting myself; at least I won’t be accused of a misquote), variations of this sort of “joke” have been around since Palin came to national prominence last summer at the Republican Convention. Yet dozens of both milder and harsher iterations (Saturday Night Live’s insinuation that Todd Palin raped his daughter is especially outrageous and revolting) were ignored by Palin, the Republican Party and the outraged types who are now venting in my email box. Sarah Palin even made a now-famous appearance on “SNL” just a few weeks after that skit aired. So what’s different this time? I don’t get it, either.

To answer his question, Farhi is right that there have been many other jokes about Bristol Palin with many being far worse than the one Letterman told, and later stated he regretted. Additional examples are here. Despite the attacks, Letterman has actually told far fewer jokes about Bristol Palin than other late night comics. The difference is that the far right is under the misconception that Letterman is promoting a liberal agenda and that he selectively makes jokes about Republicans. While he makes jokes about members of both parties, the right wingers who attack are not likely to watch his show and only hear about selective jokes he has told. The right has been targeting Letterman since well before last week’s jokes. This began during the campaign, and was also seen in reports such as this from earlier in the year.

The full story is worth reading as I can only touch on some of the questions here. Farhi responded to the view that Letterman should not have apologized as he did nothing wrong by noting how classy his apology was. Farhi noted that Palin was keeping an eye on the politics of this, comparing her attacks on Letterman to previous attacks on Hollywood by Dan Quayle, Joe Lieberman, and Bob Dole. A commenter pointed out that, “Perhaps the reason she didn’t condemn similar jokes from Leno or Conan was because she knew that targeting the network of Dan Rather would play well among conservatives.”

A commenter noted the timing of the second apology, not coming until Monday as Letterman tapes his Friday show on the preceding Monday. Farhi thought that the weekend interregnum was critical as it gave Letterman time to reflect on the whole mess.

There were comments on whether this would hurt or help Letterman. Farhi, along with most television columnists, believes that this has worked to his benefit, especially in light of Letterman’s increasing ratings over the past week. Farhi wrote that this is “probably going to be remembered as his ‘Hugh Grant’  moment–i.e., the thing that propelled him past his competition, for good.” He later responded to a claim that Letterman has jumped the shark by saying, “Whatever the opposite of  ‘jump-the-shark’  is, I think Letterman is there now.”

Farhi responded to a commenter who did not see the significance of other comedians having made worse jokes without receiving a response:

I won’t defend Letterman’s “joke.” Never have. But I think it’s fair to point out that the same joke got no reaction from Palin, or her supporters, just a few months ago. And, frankly, “Saturday Night Live’s” bit on this was much, much worse than Letterman’s. Not only was there no protest about it, she went on “SNL” a few weeks later. Sorry if these facts are inconvenient to you in your state of outrage, but they are facts.

Later when someone tried to claim that Letterman’s joke was worse than the one on SNL, Farhi replied, ‘The  ‘SNL’  skit directly insinuated that Todd Palin had an incestuous relationship with his daughters. I don’t know how you can get more vulgar and ugly than that.”

During the discussion it was noted that it is possible Palin  “may have been taking orders from the McCain campaign on media strategy” when she did not show similar outrage to the jokes on Saturday Night Live. Farhi later responded to another question on this topic:

I think the bigger-fish-to-fry theory has some validity here. If she had complained about it at the time, it would have been a huge distraction for the McCain campaign. On the other hand, she didn’t have to go on “SNL” if she had a problem with their jokes about her and her family.

Later someone argued that, “NO ONE — absolutely no one has the right to make crude remarks about teens that might have a lasting effect on them.” Farhi replied, “Fair enough. But is NBC (Conan, Leno, Saturday Night Live) and Comedy Central (Stewart) on the same list? Why single out CBS and Letterman?.”

Farhi commented on the misconception among conservatives that Letterman has been taking sides politically:

I’ve never thought of Letterman as a Democrat or a liberal–he just wailed on Bill Clinton and Hillary, and still does–but apparently this whole controversy tapped into some latent Dave-is-a-lousy-liberal wellspring among conservatives. Weird.

When someone said that Letterman has taken sides, Farhi responded, “More so than Stewart, Leno, Conan, etc.? Again, I’m not so sure about that.” Realistically the far right provides more material for comedians. It is also likely that intelligent, educated people will reject the agenda of the far right. While support for the two parties might normally be more even among television celebrities, it is not surprising that they would reject the Republicans now that they are under the control of far right extremists–as the majority of voters have.

Farhi responded to a comment that it didn’t matter which daughter the joke was aimed at:

Actually, it DOES matter, on some level. Again, I think the daughters should be off limits, but if anyone is going there, the only way that joke makes sense is in reference to the older daughter, who is, in fact, a single mother. People who keep insisting that it was about the “rape” of a 14-year-old–as Palin said last week–are just blatantly ignoring the facts.

Farhi resonded to a question about telling such a joke about the Obama girls by pointing out, ” If it had been about the Obama girls, it would not have made sense (neither has been pregnant).” In addition, Bristol Palin has been appearing in public speaking about her pregnancy, making her a more likely target, right or wrong, for jokes of this type.

A commenter speculated that  “I think the issue for Palin is CBS. Republicans have alleged for years that the network has a liberal bias. Palin may also be trying to pay back CBS for that embarrassing Katie Couric interview from last fall.” Farhi responded, “Maybe. But I saw nothing unfair about that interview. Those WERE her own words, weren’t they?”

Yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that conservatives will continue to lash out against the media, often blaming the messenger when the facts work against them.

Anti-Letterman Demonstration Reveals Insanity Of Protesters

Jonah Green captured the above video of the estimated 15 to 50 right wing lunatics who showed up to protest against David Letterman. (Hat tip to Danny Shea). The video shows they are misinformed, believing all the smears spread by the right wing about David Letterman, along with many other beliefs of the extreme right. One says Letterman “rapes children with his mouth.” They also expressed opposition to socialism, which is hardly relevant to this issue, and were split as to praising Fox News or Jay Leno. They are clearly unaware of the fact that Leno, along with the other late night comedians, have told far more jokes about Bristol Palin than Letterman has–with many of the other jokes being far worse.

Besides opposing socialism and supporting Leno, another common response of protesters was to make a false equivalency between the Palin situation and Letterman’s. They hardly appear to be taking the high moral ground with their own personal attacks, especially after Letterman has apologized twice and agrees he should not have included jokes about Bristol Palin. There is hardly a comparison between a teenager getting pregnant and soon breaking up with the father and adults who have the means to raise a child getting married after the birth of their child.The Palins have also made a target of Bristol by having her speak at public events on her pregnancy and teen pregnancy.

This line of attack won’t work any better than Dan Quayle’s attacks on the fictional Murphy Brown for being an unwed mother. Do Palin supporters really want to have yet one more similarity between Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin to be discussed? It is already bad enough for Palin that she came out of this matter being described as not intelligent enough to be president if she didn’t understand that the joke only makes sense about Bristol as opposed to Willow, along with once again appearing to have a thin skin and intolerant of criticism.

Sarah Palin Accepts David Letterman’s Second Apology

letterman palin

Sarah Palin has accepted David Letterman’s second apology given on last night’s show:

“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.”

David Letterman Apolgizes Yet Again To Sarah Palin and Family

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 3: Sarah Palin Accepts David Letterman’s Second Apology

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.