June 15th, 2009
08:19 PM ET

The Latest on Letterman & Palin

For all of you that plan to record David Letterman tonight and watch it later consider this a spoiler alert and turn back now!

 Here's a transcript from tonight's show.

Letterman:  “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)


soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. James Howard

    Some of you people out there need to learn how to read and stay on point.

    And you know, he made a joke about teenage, unwed pregnancy – PALIN is the one who is a failure as a mother because her own daughter got "knocked up" as an unwed teen – some poetic irony for know-nothing dolt who wants to tell the rest of America how to live and preach about "small town" morals. She should put her own house (and State) in order first.

    Letterman might have made a bad joke, but is that as bad as Palin blowing a lame joke out of all proportion in order to continue to get attention for herself? If she had the sense God gave a chicken, she'd be busy governing the great state of Alaska and raising her family rather than being a showboating media whore.

    A gracious, intelligent person would have said what they had to say, accepted Letterman's apologies and moved on. By continually bringing it up and trying to get as much attention out of the incident as possible, it feels like SHE is exploiting what happened to her daughter, herself.

    Letterman told a cheap joke about teen pregnancy, which is bad. Palin is using a joke about teen pregnancy to garner MORE attention for herself. Who's more disgusting?

    When will the Republican Party pull itself together and get someone out there who is intelligent, articulate and knows how to lead?

    June 17, 2009 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. Deana

    David Letterman is a pig! This is the way he feels about ladies. Using jokes about \"Pregnancy out of wedlock\" ~very inappropriate. His jokes are \"sick\".

    June 17, 2009 at 6:58 am | Report abuse |
  3. madachoo

    All is fair in politics AND COMEDY. He should NOT take back the joke...it was funny and a spot-on comment about the Palins and their unprotected teenager getting pregnant.

    I certainly didn't need Letterman to explain the joke to me...I got it. And, to be more specific, I think everyone got it. He was not referring to her 14 year daughter. And, even if he was, SO WHAT! We all know what the point of the joke was.

    I like my comedy raw and screw uptight dips who cannot take a joke. Keep it comin' Dave and don't take back ANYTHING!

    Now, give us a good one about the poor little "special" child they kept draggin under the spotlights for political gain. they are the ones who should be apologizing to the American public for that blantantly abusive behavior.

    June 16, 2009 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ChrisNY

    The reason it is OK to scrutinize the family of a politician is when they support an agenda that tells you how to run YOUR life and family. It's always Republicans that tout this false "moral superiority" when it comes to social issues and they will continue to be the ones getting in trouble. In the case of Palin, she is against abortion under any circumstances for American women(she is getting herself involved in personal family lives), she is pro-abstinence yet look at her 18 year old daughter? What kind of example is this? OBVIOUSLY abstinence does not work so whenever a politician is going to interject themselves into YOUR life, expect a fierce backlash from the media and American people. Because of Palin's extremist social view points, and the fact that she was an unknown at the time, the way she was treated by the media was completely fair.

    June 16, 2009 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Elaine

    HAS THE FOLLOWING POINT NOT BEEN MADE BECAUSE IT WOULD BE "POLITICALLY INCORRECT"?

    Wasn't Michelle Cook an unwed mother for several years. What's with Letterman's comments? Michelle was a grown, mature women and fell prey to a pregnacy out of wedlock? David, look in your own backyard before commenting on a young girl's actions. How would you have felt if this comment would have been about your Michelle and your son?

    I don't believe it was meant to be a joke, I believe this is the way you truly view women and you have proven it by your own past actions. Get past your manly, superior attitude. I hope most people are done with you and your show.

    Elaine Meroney

    Baton Rouge, LA

    June 16, 2009 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  6. Angela

    I'm not sure I understood your sentence rfg, but I'm going to assume you think he didn't need to apologize. I don't really think he needed to either but sometimes integrity and rising above for the sake of everyone's sanity calls for it. She wasn't going to let it go until she publicly humiliated Dave and he knows that. He is self-depricating enough that he can take it, laugh it off, and move on. She, however is not. She needed to feel vindicated while he could probably care less (as well he should). Dave's been around for 30 years and Palin for 15 minutes, relatively speaking. His apology, although unwarranted, gave him more character than she will ever embody!

    June 16, 2009 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  7. rfg

    angela hoopes tell david letterman about your freedom of speech so why apologized then?

    June 16, 2009 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
  8. T from St Louis

    This ongoing chatter about this joke is unbelievable to me. After all, David Letterman is a Comedian, Comedian's are paid to make people laugh...nothing and noone is sacred in that business. Some jokes are in better taste than others, but everything goes. To top it off Sarah herself is a joke, and opened the door for this type ridicule by parading her children in front of the cameras for the past year.

    June 16, 2009 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
  9. Lisa

    Not that I am a big Sara Palin fan, but as a woman and a mother I am very offended by the "SLUTTY" and "KNOCKED UP" remarks. Did David not have a child out of wedlock? I guess this must mean that HE knocked up some slut!!! I am sick of his degrading woman hating jokes!

    June 16, 2009 at 2:24 am | Report abuse |
  10. Angela Hoopes

    Yay! for David Letterman who took the high road and put a stop to this nonsense! That joke would have totally gone away unnoticed had Sarah Palin swallowed a big girl pill and "let it slide". I rarely remember any joke he tells past 30 seconds! This was only a disturbing attempt to keep her name in the news and try to establish her self as a "fix-it" girl. Did anyone notice that she pretty much chewed an entire nation for laughing at a late night talk show host? Why not chew us out for something really important like not upholding a constitutional right like, oh say, FREEDOM OF SPEECH! Sensorship at its finest, Gov. Palin! Grow up!

    June 16, 2009 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
  11. P from CA

    No doubt the joke was in bad taste. Letterman apologized. Palin chose not to accept the apology. That makes her vindictive. I think Letterman gave the 2nd apology because Embassy Suites pulled their advertising stating: :we assessed that the statement that he made was offensive." Guess Embassy didn't assess Letterman's first apology. My assessment is that Palin is vindictive and Embassy is a Palin puppet. Easy enough... Avoid visiting Alaska or staying at Embassy Suites.

    June 16, 2009 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  12. John Birkett

    Palin shouldn't throw in the towel and accept Letterman's apology. She's gotta do something to hang on to the media attention. The election has been over for months.

    June 16, 2009 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. Rick Pennock

    I can understand Sarah Palin being upset over the remarks made by David Letterman. She has every right to come down on him for it. Her mistake is in the fact of talking about it to the wrong people. David Letterman has asked her to come on the show so he can wipe the slate clean but, so far she has refused. Why keep takinig to the media about this, they can not wright the wrong only Letterman and Palin can put this to rest not the media.

    June 16, 2009 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  14. Robert

    I have to say that I am amazed at all the attention that this has gathered. I have heard MUCH more offensive jokes from other television comics. Why did Letterman and/or CBS feel a need to apologize for this? What kind of pressure did they come under, and from who? Letterman has been relentlessly taking shots at the Bush/Cheney administration McCain/Palin and the Republican party in general. The damage they have done to our country is FAR more offensive to me than any joke a late night comedian could come up with. That a comedian has to apologize for using his freedom of speech is a sad commentary on the state of our country.

    June 15, 2009 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mary delane

    The only people to mention their 14 year old daughter and the word rape are the Palins. They're dragging her through the mud and making sure many more people hear about her than ever heard theLetterman joke. As far as making a joke about Bristol Palin– she's 18 and has put herself in the public eye and this is the price you pay for living your life in public. She has to be ready to take the bad along with the good. If the Palins don't like it, they should stop parading their children around in public.

    June 15, 2009 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  16. lea

    i try to watch but you are so supportive of the crazy left, you can't even see a point of view from the other side. not watching anymore of your one sided coverage. there are other programs to watch. I am finding one.

    June 15, 2009 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  17. David

    If Palin was a liberal the media would be demanding Lettermans head. For this sick pervert to attach a 14 year old child the liberals are proud of him. Sad to see they place their politics above the welfare and abuse of a child.

    June 15, 2009 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Heather

    Glad to see Palin has fixed all the problems in Alaska that need fixing and she now has all the time in the world to answer back to TV talk show hosts that make bad jokes about her daughter. Perhaps next week, she can give a series of interviews addressing insulting comments about her husband and how bad it made her feel. The nation is dying to know, as the banks take our homes, as there is still no consensus on health care and as more and more people lose their jobs...it's great that an elected official has time to do a national comedy tour like this that makes us all smile.

    June 15, 2009 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Yva

    Give me a break!!! For all the people complaining as far as i'm concerned they need to just get over it! Everyone knows David Letterman and his style, and to attack a 14 yr old isn't his style and NEVER was!! Anyone trying to say otherwise is a moron. I myself feel that this is exactly as he says it is, a misunderstanding!! I do not think for a second that this was aimed at willow, so get over it Sarah. I think she'll drag this out as long as she can and as far as I'm concerned it she was any kind of woman she would have allowed his to explain face to face! But as she is she prefers to bitch and complain behind the scenes

    June 15, 2009 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Mary Montalbano

    I believe that all children should not be the butt of anyones "Jokes". They are not public figures and are off limits. The term "knocked-up" is also very offensive esspecially when referring to a 14 yr old child. David Letterman made a mistake, he's appoligized twice, and hopefully will have better judgement in the future.

    June 15, 2009 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Myopium

    This is what I've always liked about Letterman. He can be snarky and funny as hell, but he also has charm and grace. A lot of people don't get his humor, and that's...okay. Palin, Guiliani, McCain, et al make great fodder for entertainment, but Letterman's never been mean-spirited about it. I've yet to see the same behavior from the usual suspects. The fear is that this is still not good enough for some people.

    June 15, 2009 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |

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