Top 10 Reasons Sarah Palin’s “Outrage” is Misplaced and A Little Late…

It took only a few moments with Google to demonstrate that David Letterman was hardly alone in making jokes about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy. I didn’t even think of searching for jokes about the younger daughter, but it turns out there have been some by other comedians. As all of these jokes are in poor taste I didn’t really want to be the first to post such a collection, but Shannyn Moore has now posted such a compilation at Huffington Post:

Top 10 Reasons Sarah Palin’s “Outrage” is Misplaced and A Little Late…

10) Last September, a skit on Saturday Night Live suggested incest in the Palin family. “What about the husband?” asked a mock Times reporter. “You know he’s doing those daughters. I mean, come on. It’s Alaska!” No outrage. Sarah Palin appeared on the show one month later in late October.

9) Days after the announcement of Bristol’s pregnancy, Conan O’Brien joked, “It’s true, John McCain’s running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, has revealed that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. Palin said, ‘We should never have introduced her to John Edwards.'” Where was the outrage? Was Conan promoting infidelity with an underage girl?

8 ) From two different Tonight Shows: “Governor Palin announced over the weekend that her 17-year-old unmarried daughter is five months pregnant. Oh, boy, you thought John Edwards was in trouble before, now he’s really done it!” AND…”All the Republicans are heaping praise on Governor Palin. Fred Thompson said, as an actor, he could see them making a movie about Sarah Palin and her family. Didn’t they already make that movie? I think it was called ‘Knocked Up!'”–Jay Leno

7) Craig Ferguson’s skit of “Larry King vs Levi Johnston” asks about “kinky sex” with the drapes open. Craig Ferguson’s honorary Alaska citizenship, granted by Governor Palin wasn’t rescinded.

6) “According to expense reports, Sarah Palin charged the state of Alaska over $21,000 for her children to travel with her on official business. In fairness to Gov. Palin, when she leaves them home alone they get pregnant.” –Seth Meyers (SNL). Sarah Palin was in a sketch with Meyers a week earlier.

5) On October 8, 2008, Sarah Palin walked out on the ice with six year old Piper and 13 year old Willow, before the game, Conan O’Brien said, “Saturday night, Sarah Palin is going to drop the first puck at the Philadelphia Flyers’ hockey game. Then Palin will spend the rest of the game trying to keep the hockey players out of her daughter’s penalty box.”
Oh, yes he did. You get the outrage…but not a peep then. According to the new “logic”, O’Brien was advocating for some really sick stuff.

4) Rush Limbaugh: “Everyone knows the Clintons have a cat. Socks is the White House cat. But did you know there is a White House dog?” Limbaugh put up a picture of Chelsea Clinton. At the time, Chelsea Clinton was 13 years old. Rush also said, “In last year’s campaign, the most prominent, articulate voice for standard run-of-the-mill good old-fashioned American conservatism was Sarah Palin.” Calling a young teenager a “dog” can’t be helpful to her “self-esteem.” Where is the apology from the leader of the GOP?

3) “Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno.”–John McCain, Sarah Palin’s running mate. Should McCain apologize to every young woman in America?

2) Palin’s friend, political defender and informer of the David Letterman comments, John Ziegler, was fired from his radio show for using the “n-word” online and on air in 1997. In 2000, he was fired for spelling the “n-word” on the air. How much does that word affect the psychological health of America’s youth, regardless of their race? Now he is pimping his film about how mean the “liberal media” was to Sarah Palin.

AND…The NUMBER 1 REASON Sarah Palin’s Outrage is Misplaced and A Little Late…

1) The “candidate who must be obeyed” was talking about Palin’s family when he said, “Kids are off limits.” Jake Tapper of ABC News interviewed then Candidate Obama, and asked, “Governor Palin and her husband issued a statement today saying their 17-year-old daughter Bristol, who is unmarried, is five months pregnant. Do you have any reaction?”

OBAMA: “I have said before and I will repeat again, I think people’s families are off-limits. And people’s children are especially off-limits. This shouldn’t be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Governor Palin’s performance as a governor or her potential performance as a vice president. And so I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories. You know, my mother had me when she was 18. And, you know, how family deals with issues and — and, you know, teenaged children, that shouldn’t be the topic of — of our politics.”

The Palin children have been fodder for comedians since they were brought to the national stage. Incest isn’t funny. Ugly kid jokes aren’t funny. Many of the things said about public figures are just flat wrong. Being “knocked up” isn’t much fun. Racist comments hurt all of us. I exhausted the top 10 list before I ran out of outrageous instances ignored by the Palins.

The National Organization for Women named David Letterman to their Hall of Shame. Will Letterman be joining Jay Leno? Conan O’Brien? Craig Ferguson? Seth Myers? Rush Limbaugh? Or John McCain? Of course not! I guess N.O.W. didn’t bother checking Sarah Palin’s “feminist” credentials. All across America, right wing radio and television talk show hosts feigned outrage in perfect synchronicity. The same people who back up Palin’s high drama assertions against Letterman ignored the connections between Bill O’Reilly’s irresponsible incitement and the murder of Dr. George Tiller. David Letterman, a late night entertainer, apologized. Fox New’s Bill O’Reilly has not.

As a parent, I understand being defensive. I just wonder what took so long. Why now?

Why now? The answer is simple. The right wing “outrage” has nothing to do with feminism and certainly nothing to do with jokes about Palin’s children. The right wing blogs were attacking Letterman over a Sarah Palin joke after Monday’s show before they realized they could attract more attention by falsely claiming Letterman was joking about Palin’s minor daughter as opposed to Bristol Palin. While Letterman’s joke was clearly about Bristol, other jokes above were not. While Letterman’s latest joke was about Bristol Palin after turning 18, and after she has been appearing in public speaking about her pregnancy, it is also notable that the above jokes were at the time about Palin’s 17-year-old daughter.

While the jokes were in poor taste, as even David Letterman admitted, they hardly deserved the attention they received–unless the attackers have other motives for their attacks. This controversy is just another in a long string of examples of how the authoritarian right opposes freedom of speech and desires to silence anyone who disagrees with their reactionary agenda, and lying about what others have said is a frequent tactic which they employ.

The Continuum of Right Wing Extremism

The uncomfortably close relations between the Republican Party establishment and those in the right wing media who have increasingly been feeding the hatred of the far right extremists who have been committing violence has been receiving increased attention. This has been discussed recently by Judith Warner, Paul Krugman, and Frank Rich. Krugman recently wrote, “Today, as in the early years of the Clinton administration but to an even greater extent, right-wing extremism is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment.” Frank Rich discussed this topic at length in today’s column:

Conservatives have legitimate ideological beefs with Obama, rightly expressed in sharp language. But the invective in some quarters has unmistakably amped up. The writer Camille Paglia, a political independent and confessed talk-radio fan, detected a shift toward paranoia in the air waves by mid-May. When “the tone darkens toward a rhetoric of purgation and annihilation,” she observed in Salon, “there is reason for alarm.” She cited a “joke” repeated by a Rush Limbaugh fill-in host, a talk-radio jock from Dallas of all places, about how “any U.S. soldier” who found himself with only two bullets in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Osama bin Laden would use both shots to assassinate Pelosi and then strangle Reid and bin Laden.

This homicide-saturated vituperation is endemic among mini-Limbaughs. Glenn Beck has dipped into O’Reilly’s Holocaust analogies to liken Obama’s policy on stem-cell research to the eugenics that led to “the final solution” and the quest for “a master race.” After James von Brunn’s rampage at the Holocaust museum, Beck rushed onto Fox News to describe the Obama-hating killer as a “lone gunman nutjob.” Yet in the same show Beck also said von Brunn was a symptom that “the pot in America is boiling,” as if Beck himself were not the boiling pot cheering the kettle on.

But hyperbole from the usual suspects in the entertainment arena of TV and radio is not the whole story. What’s startling is the spillover of this poison into the conservative political establishment. Saul Anuzis, a former Michigan G.O.P. chairman who ran for the party’s national chairmanship this year, seriously suggested in April that Republicans should stop calling Obama a socialist because “it no longer has the negative connotation it had 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago.” Anuzis pushed “fascism” instead, because “everybody still thinks that’s a bad thing.” He didn’t seem to grasp that “fascism” is nonsensical as a description of the Obama administration or that there might be a risk in slurring a president with a word that most find “bad” because it evokes a mass-murderer like Hitler.

The Anuzis “fascism” solution to the Obama problem has caught fire. The president’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and his speech in Cairo have only exacerbated the ugliness. The venomous personal attacks on Sotomayor have little to do with the 3,000-plus cases she’s adjudicated in nearly 17 years on the bench or her thoughts about the judgment of “a wise Latina woman.” She has been tarred as a member of “the Latino KKK” (by the former Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo), as well as a racist and a David Duke (by Limbaugh), and portrayed, in a bizarre two-for-one ethnic caricature, as a slant-eyed Asian on the cover of National Review. Uniting all these insults is an aggrieved note of white victimization only a shade less explicit than that in von Brunn’s white supremacist screeds.

Obama’s Cairo address, meanwhile, prompted over-the-top accusations reminiscent of those campaign rally cries of “Treason!” It was a prominent former Reagan defense official, Frank Gaffney, not some fringe crackpot, who accused Obama in The Washington Times of engaging “in the most consequential bait-and-switch since Adolf Hitler duped Neville Chamberlain.” He claimed that the president — a lifelong Christian — “may still be” a Muslim and is aligned with “the dangerous global movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood.” Gaffney linked Obama by innuendo with Islamic “charities” that “have been convicted of providing material support for terrorism.”

If this isn’t a handy rationalization for another lone nutjob to take the law into his own hands against a supposed terrorism supporter, what is? Any such nutjob can easily grab a weapon. Gun enthusiasts have been on a shopping spree since the election, with some areas of our country reporting percentage sales increases in the mid-to-high double digits, recession be damned.

Violence committed by right wing extremists is the more serious problem but a similar, even if less violent, mind set can be seen in the recent conservative fatwa against David Letterman. Despite agreement from Letterman that he should not have told a joke which was clearly about Bristol Palin, and despite the fact that Bristol Palin has been the target of jokes from multiple comedians largely because of the manner in which Sarah Palin has intentionally placed her children in the public spotlight for political gain, conservatives continue to attack with outright lies as to what Letterman actually said.

There was no point in attacks on David Letterman once he conceded that he should not have told the joke, with conservatives proceeding to over play their hand and ultimately discrediting themselves. The controversy is about the desire of the authoritarian right to prevent any criticism of their extremist agenda and has little to do with any real concern about sexist jokes. Conservatives wage their war on the modern world without regard for fact, with such distortions being common place. This has included a similar distortion of a joke told by John Kerry in 2006, the fabrications of the Swift Boat Liars, all the lies about Obama which were spread during the presidential campaign, and the recent lies about Sotomayor such as that sixty percent of her decisions have been overturned. While less extreme and violent than those who have been committing violence, the conservative movement has increasingly become dominated by hostility towards reason, freedom of expression, and much of the modern world.

Keith Olbermann and Craig Crawford on the Letterman/Palin Controversy


Keith Olbermann and Craig Crawford discussed political humor and the controversy over David Letterman’s jokes about Sarah Palin and Bristol Palin in the above video.

Sarah Palin Continues To Drag Daughter Through Mud For Political Gain


The controversy over the poor taste of a few of David Letterman’s recent jokes continues to receive attention in the media and blogosphere, but the actual jokes have become overshadowed by the manner in which Sarah Palin has decided to sacrifice the good of her children for political gain, along with the mob mentality expressed by many on the right wing.

In the most benign reaction from the right, ditto heads repeat endlessly how Letterman’s jokes were in poor taste. True, but this is hardly worth spending any more time on. Everyone agrees that the jokes were in poor taste. Even Letterman agrees that he should not have told the ones about Bristol Palin (but he sticks by the reference to Sarah Palin as looking like a slutty flight attendant).

The controversy began over the slutty flight attendant joke and it wasn’t until later in the night that some dishonest right wing bloggers realized they could get millage from a joke about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy.  They realized the benefit from whining about a joke about Bristol was limited. While it might not be in good taste, tasteless jokes are commonplace on late night television. Jay Leno, Conan O’Brian, Jimmy Kimmel and Craig Ferguson have all told jokes about Sarah Palin and about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy. With Bristol Palin now appearing in public, including at a recent public event in New York, right or wrong she will be considered fair game by the late night comics. The bloggers came up with a way to smear Letterman over this with blatantly untrue claims that the joke about a daughter getting knocked up was not about the daughter who had actually been pregnant but about Palin’s 14 year old daughter Willow.

The right wing bloggers who started this smear campaign have no interest in either feminism or in defending a child such as Willow Palin. In actuality they are doing the opposite as it is the right wing bloggers, not David Letterman, who are responsible for dragging Willow Palin through the mud. Letterman did not mention Willow Palin, did not tell a joke about a 14 year old, and did not tell a joke about rape as the right wingers are claiming. If it is wrong to tell a joke about a 14 year old being raped, it is also wrong to make false accusations that Letterman did this.

The whole issue could have died when Letterman explained the jokes and invited Sarah and Todd Palin onto the show. Instead Sarah Palin decided to sacrifice the good of her children by continuing to drag Willow Palin through the mud in order to gain politically. While David Letterman never told a joke about raping a fourteen year old, Sarah Palin told such a joke about raping her own daughter.

Perhaps Palin’s initial bizarre reaction could be overlooked as the reaction of a mother who was mislead by the right wing bloggers into thinking that her daughter was under attack. Her behavior is even harder to justify after she went on television today to continue to both attack Letterman and repeat the false claims about what he said, again showing that she places her political gain over the best interests of her children (video above). I would think that Willow would prefer that her own mother stopped talking about her being raped on national television.

This is no longer a matter of the inappropriateness of Letterman’s jokes. It has become a prime example of the mob mentality of the authoritarian right as they attempt to shout down anyone who attempts to criticize or joke about their reactionary views.

Sarah Palin has no qualms about spreading lies which keep her 14 year old daughter in the news, or even joking about her, if she thinks it will help her politically. We know that relations between Palin and the McCain camp were not very good by election day, but perhaps she should listen to the advice of  a couple of McCain advisers:

“If the right goes after Letterman they make him look big and themselves small,” says Mark McKinnon, a campaign advisor to George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “It’s win-win for Letterman.”

Republican media consultant Fred Davis, a chief ad-maker for the McCain campaign, added: “I think it’s a mistake too many conservatives are making right now. They are trying to find anything to attack.”

Davis sought to downplay the egregiousness of the offending Letterman cracks, saying, “David apologized. He said it was over the line. He is a funny guy and his job is to do sarcastic humor. That’s his thing.”

James Walcott puts the reaction of the right into perspective:

Here it is Friday and outraged conservatives are hanging on to their outrage against David Letterman’s Palin mockery as if it were a mountain-climbing rope, hoping to get as much traction and leverage out of it as possible while the rest of the media, perversely, refuses to join in and ramp this up into another Imus pillorying. As mentioned before, I didn’t think much of Letterman’s (writers’) jokes about Sarah Palin and her daughter visiting Yankee Stadium, but I take Letterman at his word that the “knocked up” line about Alex Rodriguez and the daughter didn’t refer to 14-year-old Willow, and the followup crack was clearly directed at Elliot Spitzer’s libido, not the Palin girl’s wanton attractions. I agree with Margaret Carlson, even though it gives me an itchy sensation, that Sarah Palin is badly misplaying this by refusing to accept Letterman’s apology and invitation to appear on the show, instead calling for a torch-carrying peasant uprising to besiege Frankenstein’s castle (with Paul Shaffer lurching to one side in the role of Igor). Unless Obama appoints a Comedy Czar to reprimand and restrict Inappropriate Punchlines, humor is going slop over into bad taste or cheap stereotype, and making an immoderate to-do over this is comes across as opportunistic grandstanding–reveling in your own ire. There are comments sections in righty blogs where the posters vent their fantasies on how Todd Palin ought to violently handle this to defend Willow and Bristol’s honor–variations on smashing Letterman’s teeth down his throat or all over sidewalk, or busting him in the ‘nads–and pound home the word “rape” in their indictment of Letterman, accusing the host of condoning/promoting/making light of statutory rape, hitting the word hard over and over again as if hammering their fist into their palm. It’s clear they get off on the mental impact of what they insist their denouncing, like anti-porn advocates who wallow in every detail to make their case.

He does have some reasonable advice for Sarah Palin:

If I were Sarah Palin I’d get myself booked on Conan O’Brien’s marionette show, giving his ratings a surefire jolt at Dave’s expense, and then behave like Graciousness Itself, all smiles and tight-skirted sexpot dignity, not even deigning to mention Letterman by name. If Palin wants to be Madame Prez someday, she’s got to get out of that comfort zone known as the Fox News ghetto anywho.

Steve Benen points out that Palin gets into too many feuds:

Palin is in a feud with Letterman. She was in a feud with the organizers of the fundraising dinner for the Senate and House Republican campaign committees. When beauty pageant contestant Carrie Prejean made headlines, Palin decided to jump into the argument. The governor has been in a feud with her teenage daughter’s ex-fiance. Palin has even been in a feud with actress Ashley Judd.

Far be it for me to offer Sarah Palin advice, but I have a radical idea: maybe the governor can try an “above the fray” approach for a while?

Margaret Carlson also advises Palin against getting into a feud with Letterman:

Palin has spent much of her public life in feuds with the state legislature, with her ex-brother-in-law, with John McCain’s staff, with Levi Johnston’s family. An early fight with the chairman of Alaska’s Oil & Gas Commission paved the way to the governor’s office. She mostly wins, especially when the target is as easy, say, as a high-school dropout whose mother is under federal indictment. The Johnstons make the Palins look like Rockefellers.

But picking a fight with a trained comedian, refusing to accept his apology, and continuing to battle after the white flag is shown reveals a complete lack of political sophistication.

Letterman apologized at unprecedented length for a comment about Palin’s recent trip to New York. There was, he said, “One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankees, during the seventh-inning stretch, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.” To which the Palins shot back: “Laughter incited by sexually perverted comments made by a 62-year-old male celebrity aimed at a 14-year-old girl is… disgusting.”

Who said anything about a 14-year-old girl? Not Letterman. That would be… the Palins. It turns out it was Willow, not Bristol, who went to the baseball game. But who knew that until the Palins brought this “disgusting” comment so painful to their younger daughter to the attention of the 300 million people not tuned into David Letterman?

Letterman’s joke was indeed tasteless—he even owed A-Rod an apology. But I doubt there was another soul in the world who didn’t understand the joke to be about the older Palin daughter, who lapped Jamie Lynn Spears as the most famous pregnant teen in the world once she was trotted out at the Republican National Convention in August. Not that Bristol should have been left at home in the dark, but if you want a “zone of privacy” around your daughter, do you have her appear on stage with her then-fiancé hinting at prospects of a White House wedding waving to the crowd like Charles and Diana of the Klondike?

And exploiting Bristol as an unwed teen mother didn’t stop with the campaign. Back in Wasilla, where Bristol could have been sheltered and given space to rebuild her life, the Palins arranged to send her out like a vaudeville act, traveling the country to talk about teenage pregnancy under the sponsorship of Candie’s, a clothing company known for sexually provocative outfits for tweens…

Palin appears to be squandering her leftover fame from the campaign on staying famous, settling scores, making headlines over petty concerns, securing the cover of People magazine for Bristol. She could have been the keynoter at the Republicans’ biggest fundraiser of the year on Monday night but instead played a coy, will-she-or-won’t-she game for weeks.

So in the end, Palin spent a week when she could have given a substantive speech, laid out a political philosophy, or choosing the issues she wants to run on, deliberately misinterpreting a bad joke, in the process dragging yet another child into the celebrity scrum.

And by the way, isn’t making a federal case out of a tasteless joke exactly what the right wing loves to ridicule feminists for doing?

Michelle Renee saw the irony in Palin’s overreaction:

I sat back in my chair after reading this and thought, “Isn’t part of the problem 16 year olds getting pregnant?” Comedians joke around. They make fun. They find a hot button and push it. That is what they do and I personally love that they can take almost any topic, serious or not, and make me laugh about it.

Palin, on the other hand, is a comedian of a whole other kind. She doesn’t even know that what she is saying about Letterman while she herself is the one needing to apologize to young girls for her and her daughter’s example has many of us in stitches.

If anyone needs to look at what they have said that is a problem and has been a poor example to young girls, how about “I can see Russia from my house” or “My 16 year old daughter is pregnant”. I am not perfect and have made some really stupid choices in my lifetime. But to sit back, film an interview while a turkey is being slaughtered behind you, throw a baby shower for your teen daughter, babble on television trying to pretend you know anything about foreign policy like a badly operated puppet and then point fingers at Letterman and say he is the problem and needs to apologize…wow.

That is ignorance and denial I can’t help but laugh at while scratching my head wondering how the hell this women ever got on the McCain ticket in the first place.

We are still waiting for you to apologize, Ms. Palin. But we are not holding our breath.

While the primary motivation of the right wingers is to silence opposition to their views, as usual their arguments only resonate in the echo chamber of the far right. There is the danger that Letterman could suffer if those who are unaware of the facts believe the false claims being made about him. Fortunately the 2006 and 2008 elections showed that most Americans are no longer fooled by the endless string of distortions from the right wing. While conservatives are waging a fatwa and calling for the firing of Letterman (if not for more violent solutions), Letterman is beating The Tonight Show in the ratings for the first time in eight months. His unusual response of talking about the controversy demonstrated that, even if his act includes jokes which sometimes cross the line, he is basically a class act and the king of late night. The Scoop summarized why Letterman is on top and ended with a comment on his response to Sarah Palin:

Without going into laborious detail, regardless of your stance on his original inflammatory remarks, Letterman’s response to Palin can be categorized as deft and well-executed. It won’t hurt him. If nothing else, the summit just came into clearer view. The race to the top is really on, and in the end, the competition will be good for all involved.

The right wing smear campaigns are likely to “hurt” David Letterman about as much as repeated smears from the right hurt Barack Obama.

Sarah Palin Jokes About Willow While Rejecting Letterman Offer

letterman palin

Sarah Palin has responded to David Letterman’s response to the uproar over his jokes about Sarah and Bristol Palin on Monday night’s show.  Despite the smears being spread about him by right wing bloggers, David Letterman never told a joke involving either Willow Palin or rape . His jokes on Monday were no different than the jokes that he has told in the past and  jokes that have been frequently told by other late night  comics including Jay Leno, Conan O’Brian, Jimmy Kimmel and Craig Ferguson. In his response, Letterman pointed out that he agrees with Sarah Palin that jokes about a 14 year old would be inappropriate, along with pointing that he has not done this. Letterman also invited Sarah and Todd Palin onto his show.

Sarah Palin has responded to the invitation:

“The Palins have no intention of providing a rating’s boost for David Letterman by appearing on his show. Plus, it would be wise to keep Willow away from David Letterman.”

It is curious that Sarah Palin, despite her outrage in recent comments, is the one who is making a tasteless quip at the expense of Willow. Of course it is not unusual for Palin to take advantage of her children for publicity.

Just to keep things straight, David Letterman has not made any jokes about Willow Palin. It is the right wing blogs who dragged Willow into this, and now Sarah Palin has joined them by making such a joke about Willow. In doing so, Palin shows she is both not above taking advantage of her daughter to make a political point and that she is not above joining in with right wing smear campaigns. Just as it is wrong to make jokes about a 14 year old child, it is wrong to spread false accusations that David Letterman has done this.

I suspect that sooner or later Palin will appear on Late Night with David Letterman, just as John McCain did following his feud with Letterman last fall. As  a politician such publicity will probably prove to be too much to resist. Besides,  as Letterman has jokingly pointed out, “The road to the White House goes through me.”

On the other hand, perhaps Palin will not do what other politicians would do in such a situation. Palin remains unique in staying away from the Sunday morning talk shows following her disastrous attempts to answer questions in interviews during the 2008 campaign. Most likely Letterman would keep such an appearance light, but Palin still might be afraid of being embarrassed should Letterman throw her any questions about actual policy matters.

Update: Jason Zengerle says essentially the same thing as I said above. (He’s responding to Victor Davis Hanson as well as Sarah Palin’s argument but it is essentially the same argument we’ve heard multiple times from the right):

I know logic isn’t VDH’s strong suit, but is it really so hard to believe that the joke Letterman was making about a Palin daughter getting “knocked up” was about the Palin daughter who, you know, got knocked up? And when you consider that said daughter has decided to make herself a poster- (and cover-) girl for teen abstinence, then, by stepping into the media spotlight, she’s exposed herself to the jokes (funny or not) of late night comics.

As for Palin, her response is just gross. Responding to Letterman’s invitation to appear on his show, this is what a Palin spokesman said:

The Palins have no intention of providing a rating’s boost for David Letterman by appearing on his show. Plus, it would be wise to keep Willow away from David Letterman.

The first part about not wanting to boost Letterman’s ratings is fair and I can’t blame her. But isn’t the second part just adding insult to the original injury Palin claims Willow suffered at Letterman’s hands? It’s hard to complain about someone making jokes about having sex or raping your 14-year-old daughter when you then go on to make the same joke yourself.

P.S. VDH says Letterman would never make jokes about the offspring of the Obamas, Kerrys, Bidens, or Gores. Not true.

Update 2: So far on Thursday’s show Letterman has commented on problems from shooting his mouth off but says everything is ok with Sarah Palin. He says that Sarah Palin called and invited him to go hunting. He usually tapes his Friday shows on Monday after the actual Monday show so we probably won’t hear anything more this week, at least in response to events from later in the week. It is possible that he included more jokes about Palin when originally taping the show on Monday.

Update 3: Sarah Palin Continues To Drag Daughter Through Mud For Political Gain

David Letterman Responds To Right Wing Smears


On Monday’s show David Letterman made jokes about Sarah Palin and made a joke about her pregnant daughter. The joke was clearly about Bristol Palin–the daughter who had been pregnant and had recently been in New York publically discussing the topic. (Actually the joke was even more about Alex Rodriguez and his antics with women, but we don’t see Rodriguez protesting the joke.) Right wingers have been spreading outright lies about what Letterman said, claiming the joke was both about rape and about Willow Palin when there is no basis for either claim. More on the topic here.

Sarah Palin, who apparently lacks the intelligence to realize that such right wing smears are not to believed (largely as she has been known to spread a few right wing smears of her own) has picked up this lie. While tonight’s show has not aired yet, Entertainment Weekly is reporting that David Letterman does respond:

Taping tonight’s episode of The Late Show, David Letterman took a few minutes to respond to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who called him “pathetic” in a radio interview after he made her and her family the butt of a recent Top 10 list. The late-night host had drawn particular fire from Palin and some pundits for a joke about one of Palin’s daughters being impregnated by New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez during a trip to Yankee Stadium. Camp Palin apparently took the joke to be a crack against Palin’s 14-year-old daughter Willow, who had recently attended a Yankees game, but Letterman insisted today that the real target was 18-year-old daughter Bristol.

“We were, as we often do, making jokes about people in the news and we made some jokes about Sarah Palin and her daughter [Bristol]… and now they’re upset with me…” Letterman says on tonight’s show. “These are not jokes made about her 14-year-old daughter. I would never, never make jokes about raping or having sex of any description with a 14-year-old girl…. Am I guilty of poor taste? Yes. Did I suggest that it was okay for her 14-year-old daughter to be having promiscuous sex? No.” Saying he hopes he’s “cleared part of this up,” Letterman extended an invitation to Palin to come on the show as a guest.

My bet is that those spreading the smear will continue to smear Letterman with their lies about what he has said as this is really not about any belief that Letterman had made jokes about a 14 year old girl. This is really about the desire of the authoritarian right to silence anyone who expresses opposing viewpoints. While Letterman’s jokes were not all in good taste, as he himself admits, late night comics have become a major source of dissent in this country as they mock the establishment, regardless of political party. The authoritarian right reflexively oppose any such questioning of right wing authority just as they opposed exposing how the Republicans lied us into a war and then committed war crimes against prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guitanimo Bay. Spreading lies as they are doing with David Letterman is a typical tactic of the authoritarian right as they wage their battles in this dishonest manner knowing that they have no arguments which can withstand either factual analysis or rational thought.

Update: Fortunately the show did not dwell on giving Palin an apology which she did not deserve as Dave did get in some more jokes at Palin’s expense during the monologue. He said he felt depressed about being called pathetic by Sarah Palin. To get over it he went out and spent $150,000 on clothes, and he does feel better now. He did express some concern about pissing off a hunter.

After returning from the monologue Letterman read the protests from both Todd and Sarah Palin and said he totally  agreed with their condemnation of the types of jokes they described. Then he stated that “that’s not what I did” and proceeded to repeat the actual jokes he told–pointing out that it’s a joke, “that’s all its supposed to be.” He agreed the jokes were ugly and he regretted telling them, but there are thousands of jokes he’s told over the years that he regrets.

I suspect right wingers will be even more upset considering the frequent laughter and applause from the audience as he quoted the unwarranted attacks on him, repeated his actual jokes, and threw in a few new jokes. The funniest part was clearly that Palin and other conservatives were making such a big deal over a couple of jokes. All in all Letterman did a good job of responding to the attacks. He managed to both show respect for  idea of not joking about a fourteen year old while showing well-deserved disrespect for the bogus attacks.

Update 2: In the end I expect both Letterman and Palin to benefit from all this publicity (and expect that Paliln will accept the offer to appear on the show). It may or may not have anything to do with the Palin jokes, but Late Night With David Letterman has moved into first place in the late night ratings.

Update 3: Replies tended to be of two types. Many attacked Letterman because of making a joke about Bristol Palin, often going on to talk about the virtues of Jay Leno, Conan O’Brian, or other comedians. While I would prefer that Bristol Palin not be a target of such comedians, the fact is that every one of them has made similar jokes about Bristol Palin. Jay Leno, Conan O’Brian, Jimmy Kimmel and Craig Ferguson, along with Letterman, have all made jokes about Bristol Palin. It makes no sense to single out Letterman.

This is not really about him telling a joke about Bristol Palin. It is about a smear campaign from right wingers who were first angry because he told jokes about Sarah Palin, and then realized he had also told a joke about Bristol. Attacking him for making a joke about Bristol wouldn’t get much millage, so they invented the false claims that the joke was about rape and that it was about a younger daughter.

Many of the comments concentrated on personal attacks on David Letterman, with them typically being far more vicious than Letterman’s jokes.  Such attacks (which have been deleted) hardly support any attempts to take the high ground against Letterman. It should also be remembered that Letterman’s jokes were just that, jokes, and not the types of personal attacks now coming from the right.

Update 4: Besides what I mentioned in the above update, there is one additional common attack being made on Letterman–claims that the joke is motivated by partisanship and that he wouldn’t make such a joke about a Democrat.  These attacks most likely come from people who 1) don’t really watch the late night talk shows and know what types of jokes are common and 2) buy into the right wing meme of being persecuted.

Letterman regularly makes fun of politicians and people in the pubic eye regardless of party. It certainly is not, as some have claimed, a matter of attacking the children of people he disagrees with.  Bristol Palin has become a common target of comedians because of the humor value, not for partisan reasons. Letterman also tells jokes about John Edwards and Eliot Spitzer, and would have no qualms about telling jokes about a daughter of a Democrat in a similar situation. Letterman, like all the late night comics, thrive on jokes involving sex. Party does not matter here.

Update 5: Sarah Palin Jokes About Willow While Rejecting Letterman Offer

Update 6: Sarah Palin Continues To Drag Daughter Through Mud For Political Gain

Top Ten Highlights of Sarah Palin’s Trip to New York


David Letterman’s Top Ten List last night was on the Top Ten Highlights of Sarah Palin’s Trip to New York (video above). Conservative bloggers are upset.These are many of the same people who were also upset just because Barack Obama had a date night in New York.

Letterman did go a bit overboard with the slutty flight attendant line, but he is a comedian and everyone knows he is doing biting comedy. Personally I’m bothered more by the crap which comes out of Sarah Palin’s mouth when she is claiming to be serious, such as her comments noted here and here. It sounds (for other reasons) like even Senate Republicans are getting sick of her.

Update: Needless to say Letterman wasn’t scared off from making fun of Palin because of attacks from Palin and a bunch of right wingers. He had a few more Sarah Palin jokes in tonight’s monologue. He did not apologize to flight attendants who do have a legitimate complaint about being compared to Sarah Palin.

One particularly dishonest conservative blogger (who does not deserve a link) isn’t even satisfied with criticizing what a comedian really said and is now attacking Letterman based upon a distortion of what was said–claiming a joke about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy was about raping a fourteen year old.

I imagine that Letterman’s attackers from the authoritarian right share Sarah Palin’s Orwellian view of the First Amendment–that it was intended to protect Sarah Palin from criticism. Their outrage would be far more tolerable if 1) they were honest about it and 2) far worse comments weren’t being made every day on conservative talk radio and on Fox but presented as serious commentary as opposed to jokes.

Update 2: In response to a request from a reader who cannot pick up the video, here are the Top Ten Highlights of Sarah Palin’s Trip to New York:

10. Visited New York landmarks she normally only sees from Alaska

9. Laughed at all the crazy-looking foreigners entering the U.N.

8. Made moose jerky on Rachael Ray

7. Keyed Tina Fey’s car

6. After a wink and a nod, ended up with a kilo of crack

5. Made coat out of New York City rat pelts

4. Sat in for Kelly Ripa. Regis couldn’t tell the difference.

3. Finally met one of those Jewish people Mel Gibson’s always talking about

2. Bought makeup from Bloomingdale’s to update her “slutty flight attendant” look

1. Especially enjoyed not appearing on Letterman

Tuesday night Letterman said that Palin took ride in a sight seeing helicopter over New York and was shooting at rats, that Palin and Rudy Giuliani went to a Yankee’s game and sat in the far right side of the stadium, and that Palin had a tough time keeping Eliot Spitzer away from her daughter. (I only said that his Palin jokes were creating controversy, not that they were particularly funny).

Update 3: Some right wingers are now lying about what Letterman said last night. As I added in response to a comment, this is about defending freedom of speech. Late night comedians are a prominent form of knocking the establishment, regardless of political party. Right wingers are just spreading lies about what Letterman said because they object to such freedom of expression.

Defending free speech does not mean picking and choosing which speech is allowable. Bristol Palin has been making public appearances to speak about pregnancy, including recently in New York, and Palin has made a point of parading her children in public. This makes her fair game for Letterman’s jokes. While this might not be in the greatest taste, his joke was far tamer than some of the jokes about Chelsea Clinton from the right–at a time when she was far younger.

Conservatives must realize that they have no argument here which has led them to see a need to lie about what Letterman said both Monday and Tuesday night.

Update 4: Last night the first comments I saw at other liberal blogs were actually falling for the right wing talking points. I won’t mention them here, allowing them a chance to come to their senses and get over the humiliation of being taken in this way. There are more blogs countering the right wing nonsense today. TBogg writes:

If conservatives want to spend their days and nights waging blog jihad against a late nite comedian, I say let them. It’ll keep them out of gangs and off of drugs (although in the case of mini-Godlstein, elephant tranquilizers might have a much needed calming effect  making him the exception to the rule)  and maybe we’ll have fewer murdered cops and doctors.

I think all reasonable people can agree that would be a good thing.

The Long Goodby writes:

As the whining mobs on the right feign fainting spells in outrage, the rest of us know that Letterman did Palin a favor by adding yet another notch on Palin and the Right’s endless game of Martyrdom. Rather then deal with the issues and Palin’s absurd takes on governance and relevant issues, the Right gets to deflect criticism by citing yet another incident in which poor Sarah was victimized by the media. All the while pretending that the endless jokes directed at former President Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the non-stop, deeply egregious and unfounded epitaphs directed at President Obama mean nothing. The words that come out of Palin’s own mouth are arguably more damning then Letterman’s acerbic sense of humor…

Taylor Marsh just thinks it is absurd to hear “outrage from conservatives over sexism.” The Week provides a brief  report on the controversy which includes a quotation from this post.

Update 5: David Letterman Responds To Right Wing Smears

Update 6: Sarah Palin Jokes About Willow While Rejecting Letterman Offer

Update 7: Sarah Palin Continues To Drag Daughter Through Mud For Political Gain

Possibly The Most Delusional Blog Post Ever

John Hawkins writes The Right Needs to Play as Dirty as the Left. Beyond being wrong on most issues and being incompetent in office, their dirty politics is a major reason why most Americans are rejecting politicians of the right. Public attention to Sarah Palin’s family, which was more a national phenomenon than something coming from the left, hardly compares with the dirty tactics of Dick Tuck, Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Karl Rove, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the Swift Boat Liars.

It gets even more ridiculous. Hawkins’ recommendations include:

Instead of continuing to complain, here’s a better idea. Why don’t conservatives do opposition research on the journalists endlessly running stories about Bristol Palin and Joe the Plumber? Have they ever been arrested? Whom do they own property with? Have they ever been paid to do a speech for someone and then run a favorable news story about him? Certainly Keith Olbermann’s personal life is just as newsworthy as Joe the Plumber’s, and the details of Maureen Dowd’s life are just as noteworthy as those of Bristol Palin — are they not?

Sure, start writing about Keith Olbermann and Maureen Dowd’s sex lives. Anyone think that will get anyone who has abandoned the Republicans to give them another chance?

If John McCain Had Won The Election

What would things be like if John McCain had won the 2008 election? Walter Shapiro takes a look back at the imaginary first 100 days of the McCain presidency:

Asked about his testy relations with Congress during his lone prime-time press conference (which scored near-record low ratings) in late February, McCain retrieved one of his musty jokes from mothballs as he cracked, “To quote Chairman Mao, `It’s always darkest before it’s totally black.'” The beleaguered McCain congressional relations team printed up T-shirts, which they still periodically display on trips to Capitol Hill, with the inscription, “Is it totally black yet?” It is ironic that McCain, the first president elected directly from the Senate in 48 years and a legislator known for his willingness to work with Democrats in the quest for compromise, is well on his way to becoming the most veto-prone president since Harry Truman, casting 13 during his first 14 weeks in office.

Even if McCain had won the White House with a clear majority –– instead of becoming the second successive Republican president to take office after losing the popular vote –– he probably would have been hard-pressed to find common ground with congressional Democrats on the economy. The ideological fault lines have been deep, from the size of the economic stimulus package (McCain’s original $420 billion proposal prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to brand him “President McCheap”) to the administration’s laissez-faire attitude toward a looming General Motors bankruptcy and the almost certain dismemberment of Chrysler (the Detroit Free Press headlined, “McCain to City: Drop Dead”).

There’s a lot more, including what became of Sarah Palin and Meghan McCain:

Sarah Palin was, in theory, supposed to be McCain’s emissary to the Republican right. Instead, the Tina Fey lookalike spent most of her time negotiating with the tabloids, as the breakup of Bristol Palin’s engagement to Levi Johnston made OctoMom seem publicity-shy. In contrast, Meghan McCain has played against type, avoiding any unplanned appearances in the gossip columns, limiting herself to tweeting about visiting Girl Scout troops at the White House and announcing plans to write a book (all the proceeds will go to charity) about how young voters naturally gravitate toward grandfatherly presidents.

Palin Place: Sarah Palin’s Father Slams Levi Johnston

The cast of supporting characters in America’s favorite soap opera has expanded. Sarah Palin’s father now has a speaking role:

In the new issue of Us Weekly (on newsstands today) Sarah Palin‘s father slams Levi Johnston — the 19-year-old father of Bristol Palin‘s baby — for recently badmouthing the Palin family in the press.

Palin’s father, Chuck Heath, tells Us Weekly that Johnston “has not contributed anything” to Tripp, who was born last December.

Johnston recently appeared on The Tyra Banks Show and claimed that the Alaska Gov. probably knew he was sleeping with Bristol when he lived under her roof. He followed up that interview by going on CBS’ The Early Show and claiming that the Palin family won’t let him be alone with his newborn son.

“I don’t agree with what he’s doing right now,” Heath tells Us of Johnston’s press tour. “It’s not right. He’s broke, so he’s trying to capitalize on this. I wish he’d take some of this money he’s making and buy some diapers with it.”

Johnston denies being paid for any interviews.

Anyone doubt that he’s looking for some way to profit from this?