Letterman's Lame Non-Apology -UPDATED

Hey, David Letterman wasn’t making sexual jokes about the 14-year old! He was just branding the 18-year old who, after all, “did get knocked up” and should therefore be forever caricatured as a slut by a 62 year-old progressive looking for adolescent laughs! And their mother looks slutty, too! Haw-haw! They’re all sluts, haw-haw!

So much for the progressive notions of “respect-for-women’s-choices” and the “tolerant” mantra that “teenagers-will-have-sex-so-what’s-the-big-deal.” I wonder how an “enlightened, progressive” sort like Letterman can reconcile those notions with his scornful reminder of the still-teenaged Bristol Palin’s terrible “sin” (shall we sew her a scarlet A?) and his willingness to subject her to sexual slurs and slutty innuendo.

I guess women-who-make-choices and teenagers-who-have-sex are only to be tolerated if they are the right sort of women and teenagers, i.e., coastal, progressive, wealthy and/or minority secular. If they are the wrong sort of women and teenagers, i.e., “fly-over,” “Christianist,” “wealthy-not-minority” well, then nothing matters but that they be diminished, de-humanized and destroyed for their choices and their sex lives. And if the perpetually adolescent bigots can hypocritically snigger about it at the same time, all the better.

In his eye-rolling, mocking non-apology to “these people” Letterman said: “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.”

No. He meant to suggest that when an 18 year-old gets “knocked up” (and has the bad taste not to abort the little inconvenience, so as to hide her actions) she is forever-fodder for a foole. She is forever a slut and therefore worthy of public mockery by the perpetually adolescent.

I wonder, if Letterman had a daughter who’d gotten pregnant and had the baby, if he’d want her made a national joke and “branded” in this way, or if he wouldn’t hope that the world could be just a little bit more respectful of a kid who did what so many kids do, and is living out the consequences of her actions in such a public way?

Letterman does have a little boy, whom he undoubtedly loves. When that boy is a teenager and makes the sort of stupid mistakes teenagers make, I expect Letterman will do everything in his power to make sure the family’s private business remains private. But if the news were to get out, I wonder if he would be cheerful about comedians using his kids mistakes for spiteful laughs.

Letterma’s lame, not particularly respectful non-apology to the Palins (who love their daughters at least as much as he loves his son) may be viewed over at Fausta’s place.

It seems CBS altered the transcripts of the original-joke Letterman show, before releasing them to the press.

Don Surber looks at how the left gets away with misogyny and bigotry while lecturing the rest of the world about it.

John Nolte:
Has his own top ten list

Michelle Malkin: Wonders if Letterman would ever talk about Barack Obama’s daughters as he does Palin’s, and also whether he will teach his son to talk about women like this.

Victor Davis Hanson calls Letterman boor and a coward

Jim Geraghty, slightly O/T: Press delights in misquoting Sarah Palin. Egregious example.

UPDATE: There is talk of Boycotting Letterman’s advertisers. I think that’s way over the top, just as I think the emails I am getting saying “he should be fired” or “reported to the FCC” are overboard. We believe in free speech; I am not of a mind that anyone should be silenced simply because he’s an ignorant boor. And being a misogynist bigot is simply not enough to get a guy fired over; he’s gotta be a conservative, too. Leave the hysteria aside; disgust and mockery beats it, every time.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • R L Atkins

    What was lame was Sarah Palin and family making a mountain out of a mole hill when they KNEW EXACTLY which one of Palin’s daughters Letterman was referring to: the 18-year old; who got herself knocked up. Nothing wrong with that. Just don’t try twisting the truth to fit your own personal agenda.

    [So, you re-inforce the notion that it's perfectly right and good to go after an 18 year old who dared to have sex and have a baby, to puritanically scorn her because she dared to "get herself knocked up" and to characterize her as promiscuous for the rest of her life, especially if you just don't like her mother's politics. Okay. How tolerant and compassionate. You make my point for me. Thank you. - admin]

  • http://hugoschwyzer.net Hugo

    I rarely agree with you, Elizabeth. But I do here. I’m as pro-choice as the day is long; I’ve worked against the “purity myth” since Jessica Valenti was a virgin. And I have no brief for the Palins. But all that said, Letterman’s comment was boorish and wildly inappropriate, whichever Palin daughter was the intended target. I want the word “slut” as an epithet out of our common discourse, and I am just as outraged when it used against the daughter of a politician I loathe as anyone else.

  • Nancy

    No need to argue about which daughter he meant. It is disgusting to see a grown man – one who is old enough to be worldly – trash a young person in that manner. Those who laughed at his comments are just as bad. Shame on all of you who aren’t adult enough to use your “soapbox” to explain your thoughts and views. If you have to pick on any kid – and yes 18 yrs old is a kid – because you can’t articulate a thought – it is your shortcoming – not that child’s Have you abandoned your own sense of right and wrong? Tell me, how can you be so cruel to enjoy those comments? How can you let your self be that mean to another person? Who told you that was o.k.? Imagine your daughter, sister, cousin, friend – your Mom….. what if they were the subject of his rant. Even though you know and respect them – would it be o.k. for Dave to use them as the target of a lowbrow disgusting rant like that.

  • orion

    Letterman is an entertainer, I don’t think one should always expect him to take the high road, and he did admit (repeatedly)that the joke was in poor taste. But given Bristol Palin’s entrance into the abstinence education circuit I’d say she’s made the adult decision to become a public figure and is thus a fair target.

    [Bristol has said that in her opinion abstinence alone education does not work. How does that make her a justifiable "target"? And if Letterman is "an entertainer" and should be allowed his boorishness, then I guess Rush Limbaugh is also off the hook for his stuff? And Michael Richards? - admin]

  • Gerry

    The daughter attending the baseball game was Willow – 14 years old. The show after the “knocked up” so-called joke, Letterman linked her with prostitution. He had a full day to correct any alleged misunderstanding. There wasn’t any. The coward now pretends he was talking about an 18 year old, as if that would acceptable if true.

  • Julie

    RLA, that makes no sense, as the daughter that was actually with Sarah Palin on her trip, and at the game, was Willow, her 14 year old.

    At best, Letterman’s writers were lazy and just assumed that it was Bristol who was with her — which is ridiculous, as she is back in Alaska taking care of her baby, not in New York where she’d have the opportunity to be knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.

    Lazy, ignorant, classless…no matter which daughter he was “joking” about.

  • SL Bein

    Late-night talk show hosts aren’t supposed to be the poster-people of tolerance and compassion. They’re supposed to make jokes that make people laugh, and when Bristol Palin makes a STUPID mistake and GETS KNOCKED UP when she’s 18, that’s called material. It has nothing to do with her mother’s politics (thank Jesus they’ll never be implemented); if one of Obama’s daughters makes a STUPID mistake and GETS KNOCKED UP when she’s 18, she’ll no doubt be the butt of some late-night jokes too. Although that’s an unlikely scenario, as she would probably have to good sense to squish the thing. Sex at 18 isn’t a problem, babies at 18 are. And in the harsh wilderness of Alaska/Russia, no less………

    [I was going to delete your comment for its disgusting content - (Obama's daughters "would have the good sense to squish the thing") but I don't like deleting folks; I do believe in free speech, so I'll let it stand. It speaks volumes, both about you and about the "squish the thing" mindset that has a lot to do, I think, with why the Palins are hated (neither Bristol nor her mother "squished" their inconvenient pregnancies, like sensible people). You explain the vast distance between left and right more eloquently than I ever could. Thank you. As to the rest, "entertainers" are supposed to make jokes, I guess, but we all know Letterman and the rest would never make such a joke about Chelsea Clinton, for instance. And if "entertainers" can get away with anything, why is the left always so offended by Rush Limbaugh's "jokes"? I know you guys want to have it both ways, but you can't. The left argues that 14 year olds are old enough to have sex, use birth control and procure abortions. They cannot then act like an 18 year old with a baby is a "slut" who "stupidly GOT KNOCKED UP" and they cannot say they're all about "celebrating choices" when they deride those who don't make what they consider to be the "sensible" choice, which is to "squish the thing." -admin]

  • Paul_In_Houston

    This from RedState…

    Statement from Meghan Stapleton, Palin spokesperson
    Today at 8:08am

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


  • http://www.twitter.com/onthe10brink Kirsten

    Trashing single parents is apparently only acceptable when they are attractive young conservative women.

  • http://www.marchhareshouse.blogspot.com March Hare

    Ironically, the mother of Mr. Letterman’s son didn’t marry the father until several years after the boy was born.

    So is Mr. Letterman suggesting that his wife is also a slut, based on her previous behavior? That seems rather harsh!

  • Klaire

    MarchHare I was just about to make the same comment.

    While I certainly respect ANYONE who has a child (especially over the “abortion” option), nor do I want to judge anyone’s sin anymore than their “slutinness”, I do have to wonder…

    How could Letterman make a joke about an unmarried mother when in fact, he was in the same ballpark for quite some time if memory serves me well, as were/are MANY in his audience?

    That one is a head spinner for me!

  • Stephanie

    You know, I really dislike the term boycott. I think it’s perfectly all right to refuse to give money to support things you don’t believe in. I personally haven’t tuned in to Letterman in years- he’s not funny! He can still say whatever he likes- but I don’t have to listen.
    And if the majority of people don’t like what he has to say and chose not to listen- then he can, and should, be pulled off the air (or tube, as the case may be). He can still say whatever he wants, in whatever forum he wants. But if people don’t want to listen….well, there’s the free market economy at work ;-)

  • Andrew

    I disagree with you about the boycott. Letterman has First Amendment rights, the government is not able to repress his speech. However, I am not the government. He does not have the right to be insulated from the consequences of his speech.

    I have written to the General Manager, and the two Sales Managers of my local CBS affiliate. I have informed them that I will not watch their station unless the network penalizes Letterman. I will record it on my DVR. I will scan for commercials, and note the advertisers. I will then write to the advertisers, informing them that I will not patronize their businesses if they continue advertising on the station.

    Liberals view themselves as immune to criticism for their actions. We must make them feel economic pain in order to make them behave responsibly. This outrage has to end.

  • http://www.savkobabe.blogspot.com Gayle Miller

    Let’s all punish David Letterman in the most direct and appropriate manner – watch Conan’s show henceforth! Then perhaps he’ll get the message that he isn’t one bit funny and that his show isn’t worth watching by another with any sanity! And let him blame his poor ratings on the responsible party – himself!

  • The FatMan

    March Hare, you beat me to that same point.

    [I was not aware of the fact that Letterman's child was born before he married the mother. That does make him seem an even greater hypocrite, does it not? - admin]

  • Ann Landell

    Earlier this week we had Guy Cimbalo’s article on the Playboy site recommending hate f–k for 10 conservative women, and now we have Letterman making crude jokes about the knocking up of the 14 year old daughter of a conservative woman. I say, “Enough!” We must bring them down on this.
    I do not understand what propels their hatred! Is it that they have grown used to having any woman they want and these conservative women won’t get in line for them? Or do they know somewhere in their hearts that they are depraved and they cannot bear that these women show them for what they are.
    One thing is sure both Letterman and Playboy think they just have to mumble some conciliatory words and they will get off scott free. Both issued these-we-are-so-good-we-would-never-disparage-women-and-therefore-you-are-dumb-for-thinking-we-did statements and waltzed away. How can we pull off a NO MORE! If we don’t I think “By the pricking of my thumbs something evil this way comes.” Appeasement allows things to grow.

  • http://www.reflectionsbykris.squarespace.com Kris, in New England

    Yes, Letterman is the biggest hypocrit of them all. His kid is 5 or 6 years old – and he just married the mother in the past week.

    Imagine if Letterman had said this about Hillary Clinton and Chelsea? The outrage from the media and the left would become the stuff of legends. As for attacking the Palins?


    This isn’t about politics. It’s about attacking a child (I agree, at age 18 Bristol is still a child). Especially when that child did nothing to put herself in the spotlight, that was her mom.

    Sarah Palin is a public figure and it’s fair game to go after her, though I think the slutty comment was way over the top. But her children – no matter how old they are – should be off limits. They didn’t ask to become famous, it’s just a consequence of their birth.

    But the left can’t seem to leave the Palins alone. They are so threatened by Sarah Palin because she actually represents all the things they espouse – independence, success, working mom and wonderful mother.

    Yes, her daughter made a mistake. Would the first person among the left (or right) who has never made a mistake please raise their hands?

    [I too think of an 18 year old as still a teenager - a kid. And funnily enough, when the anti-war left talks about soldiers they call them "our children" - admin]

  • Ann Landell

    Earlier this week we had Guy Cimbalo’s article on the Playboy site recommending hate rape for 10 conservative women, and now we have Letterman making crude jokes about the knocking up of the 14 year old daughter of a conservative woman. I say, “Enough!” There must be consequences for these acts.
    I do not understand what propels their hatred! Do they know somewhere in their hearts that their words are depraved and they cannot bear that these women show them for what they are.
    One thing is sure both Letterman and Playboy think they just have to mumble some conciliatory words and they will get off scott free. Both issued these-we-are-so-good-we-would-never-disparage-women-and-therefore-you-are-dumb-for-thinking-we-did statements and waltzed away. Consequences have to arise from those who are outraged by this behavior.
    Free speech, yes, always, but consequences too.

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  • Catherine

    I also agree with Gayle and Andrew. I have written complaining emails to CBS, and some of the sponsors of Letterman’s show. To be silent on this matter to those in power only implies consent.

    “The triumph of evil requires only that good men do nothing” – Edmund Burke

  • Steve Glorioso

    BOYCOTT gets the job done. Everything else is just talk. BOYCOTT CBS and its advertisers. The silent majority speaks the loudest when we close our wallets. Get results and BOYCOTT!

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    It seems to be assumed that Mr Letterman is a liberal. First, where did you get that information? And second, we don’t want him.

  • Catherine


    Why hasn’t Letterman made the current President an object of his jokes?

  • kelleybee

    I would ask all those who think Letterman’s jokes were just comedy-and not overboard replace Sarah Palin’s name with Hillary Clinton and the daughter’ name with Chelsea. (I know that Chelsea did not have a child.) Let’s see how that works. I think NOW and the Liberals would be howling mad-as they should be. The idea that Palin in “unique” and therefore fair game for this kind of muck ( as Harold Ford, Jr intimated this morning on MSNBC) shows a very dark and vicious side to the nation’s soul. We all need to examine our consciences.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    “Why hasn’t Letterman made the current President an object of his jokes?”

    No idea. I don’t watch the man. He nailed the last two presidents frequently, though. I’m not saying he’s not a card-carrying Democrat. I just want to see more proof than some enemy-of-my-enemy meme.

    “Let’s see how that works.”

    Well, the Clintons didn’t often have Chelsea in tow when they made publicity appearances. The Palins have brought their children to a number of public functions. And unlike Chelsea, Bristol Palin was made available for a few interviews. It might also be that the Clintons were explicit with what kind of press coverage would be tolerable. I can see the Palins bypassing the conversation on that.

    As for a dark and vicious side, I have no argument there. Mr Limbaugh, Ms Coulter, Jerry Springer, Mr Letterman: none are very impressive citizens for virtue and civility. They’re all entertainers and they make their living from humiliation.

  • Herseyk

    Letterman has been vindictive, nasty, snotty, etc etc etc .. toward any non liberal for many years now. Besides not being very funny anymore. Maybe its me, but I’m surprised that he has much of an audience left anyway.

    I feel shame and guilt when I see him talk to anyone who isn’t a liberal. His tone, choice of words, make me want to punch him, and since I’ve rarely watch, I would have expected that someone hasn’t done it yet !

    As I wrote this, I see how one could become violent, because letterman has used his words with violence.

  • T

    So David Letterman’s defense can be re-stated as follows:

    “I wasn’t making a rape joke about Palin’s 14 year old daughter, I was making a slut joke about her 18 year old daughter.”

    Oh, that’s very different. Thanks, Dave, for explaining that it wasn’t the boorish, sophomoric and mean-spirited joke we thought it was; it was the boorish, sophomoric mean-spirited joke we didn’t get in the first place.

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  • Catherine


    If you have no idea, and you don’t watch Letterman, then you really have no business commenting, do you?

    How about a little initiative and finding out for yourself instead of posting lazy questions?

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    ” … then you really have no business commenting, do you?”

    Of course I do. Nobody else here seems to watch Mr Letterman regularly, but we’re all attuned, it seems, to his particular brand of humor. Late night jokes about the past two presidents were nearly legendary. If Mr Letterman were indeed a partisan hack, why would he have taken the gloves off against Mr Clinton?

    The whole meme here seems to be: isn’t the librul media horrid for attacking the children of conservatives? When in fact, the media is driven far more by the profit motive. If and when it becomes profitable to attack Mr Obama, you can be sure it will happen. Governor Palin and her family, like the last two presidents, had fairly high disapproval among viewing demographics. That’s why she’s a target. Not because she’s conservative.

    What I have found out is that American culture today is driven far more by money than by ideology.

  • don ricardo

    I thought it was pretty funny. That’s all there is, you politically correct wimps: a joke.

    The Palins have this kind of reputation, and it’s fair game to JOKE about it.