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Aging man, 62, jokes about girl, 14 (Letterman on Willow Palin) update

Sarah Palin and Family

(UPDATE: This item has been updated below.)

Maybe it's just the tempting ratings window of no longer going up against NBC's Juggernaut Jay and being the also-ran of late-night television.

But CBS' David Letterman told a real howler on nationwide TV Monday night that drew gasps from some parents and now a scathing rebuttal from the nation's most famous pitbull hockey mom -- and dad.

Noting that Alaska's Republican Gov. Sarah Palin and her daughter attended a New David Letterman in 2008York Yankees game over the weekend with famous Yankee fan Rudy Giuliani, Letterman said:

One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game, during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.

Letterman, until recently an unwed father, has often made his disdain clear for the former GOP VP nominee, who had several damaging interviews with CBS during the general election campaign last September.

But this is the first time in memory he's taken on the teenage daughter of the governor, on the left in the above photo.

In a statement to Fox News, Palin called the comments "inappropriate" and "sexually perverted" and ones Letterman would not "dare make" about anyone else's daughter.

The governor added:

"Acceptance of inappropriate sexual comments about an underage girl, who could be anyone's daughter, contributes to the atrociously high rate of sexual exploitation of minors by older men who use and abuse others."

Willow's father, Todd, added his thoughts:

Any ‘jokes’ about raping my 14-year-old are despicable. Alaskans know it, and I believe the rest of the world knows it, too.

So far, the "Late Show" has declined comment -- or even another joke.

5:06 p.m.Pacific Taping tonight's program in New York, Letterman made for him a lengthy explanation or clarification, though no apology. He said that his "joke" Monday about Palin's (unnamed) daughter getting "knocked up" by a professional baseball player was aimed at Palin's daughter, Bristol, who is 18, not Willow, who is 14 and attended the baseball game. "I would never, never make jokes about raping or having sex with a 14-year-old girl...Am I guilty of poor taste? Yes."

(He then invited Palin on his program. Which might really help Letterman's ratings, at least that night, against his new late-night competition, Conan O'Brien. Oh, come to think of it: That's where Palin should really go for a celebrated chat -- over to NBC. Not that ratings revenge would ever cross the mind of the governor, a former TV reporter.)

: 7:05 p.m. Pacific "The Late Show" just e-mailed The Ticket a longer set of excerpts from tonight's program, which we are publishing below in their entirety.)

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credit: Office of the Alaska Governor; CBS (2008)

Excerpts from "The Late Show with David Letterman" June 10, 2009:

“We were, as we often do, making jokes about people in the news and we made some jokes about Sarah Palin and her daughter, the 18-year-old girl, who is – her name is Bristol, that’s right, and so, then, now they’re upset with me…”

“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. I mean, look at my record. It has never happened. I don’t think it’s funny. I would never think it was funny. I wouldn’t put it in a joke…”

“…Governor Palin, if you’re watching, I would like you to consider coming to New York City – you and Todd as my guests, or leave Todd at home – I’d love to have you on the show. It’d be exciting…”

“All right, so there, I hope I’ve cleared part of this up. 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.”

Comments () | Archives (214)

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Dave is a sickly old man with no class. Thats why he gets the wife he has. He pays her to stay with him. If
He said something like that about my daughter, I would contemplate giving him a bitch slap and send him home to the sick bitch who he's married to.

Typical progressive double-talk. For years all we heard about with Clinton was it "was only about sex". When was the last time any feminist mentioned work place sexual intimidation? The only thing you hateful people care about is that the girl did not have an abortion. You have been promoting sexuality for teenagers for years. Biden's daughter snorting coke? Private behavior. Gore's kid a drug addict? A family issue. The Kennedy's? Just think how many more of them there would be if abortion was illegal. You are despicable people and you are going to overplay the whole power thing. Check out that outfit Michelle wore in London, the flower skirt over the slacks and then tell us AGAIN how fashionable she is. You are making it IMPOSSIBLE for people willing to give them a chance because of your hate filled rants. If you people are for something then I disagree, no matter what the topic. Slutty looking? How about the First Lady in an outfit no self respecting preteen would wear unless it is Halloween.

Bristol Palin willingly entered the public spotlight on several occasions, most notably by going on GMA to promote abstinence having previously called it "unrealistic". Letterman's joke seems pretty clearly aimed at Bristol and her mother's hypocrisy, especially given tonight's clarification.

No joke he told implied rape in any way. If anything, part of this joke's humor comes from its implication that Bristol Palin has demonstrated herself to be prone to accidental, perhaps even immaculate given her abstinence stance, conception.

The Palins made this about Willlow themselves in order to further propagate their paranoid "liberal media conspiracy" theories. The same way they claim Katie Couric asking legitimate questions is a hatchet job.

I've never seen anything to equal the crude comments that are made by lefties against Sarah Palin and her family. Remember when she attended a hockey game in PA, and some people had on T-shirts that called her the "C" word?
And all these attacks on her kids!
I've never watched Letterman, because he's mean and NOT funny, but this was low even for him.
Also, I didn't care whether SP was the 2012 Republican nominee or not - any good conservative would please me - but after all this, I think I'm going to start contributing to her CPAC.

This whole business is childish and inane, on several levels.

Of course the comments were inappropriate and stupid. Not because of Letterman's age, that's irrelevant, they'd have been just as tasteless and insulting if he was 22, 42, or 102. They were inappropriate because they were needlessly vicious and cruel and because they were directed at a girl who is barely more than a child and who is not, in any direct sense, a public figure.

Her mother is 'fair game', as an elected official and someone who is potentially a Presidential candidate. Letterman's insulting jokes about Palin herself are nasty and childish, but not over the line in the same way the stuff directed at her daughter was. It's also no secret, of course, that most of the entertainment media is liberal and despises Palin, for reasons that don't stand up to rational examination.

On the other hand, Palin did say something silly too, that could later come back to haunt her. I often admire Governor Palin, but I have to admit the comment that such 'sexual comments' contribute to the sexual abuse of minors is just silly, and there's nothing specifically perverted about the joke, it was just tasteless and sophomoric. Fourteen year olds do sometimes get pregnant, by older men or boys their own age, simply making a joke about it is nasty, but not perverted in itself.

I don't blame Governor Palin or her husband for being irritated, they have reason. But they are going to be facing far worse before this is over, if she has Presidential ambitions. For their own sake they'll have to learn to be careful of their choice of words because their enemies in the press are EAGER to twist them around agains them, including bitter people like Letterman.

He should be fired. Years ago, I was a teenager when my father was elected for a state post. I would have been devastated if someone said public comments like that about me specifically. It matters not if you are rep. dem. cons. or lib. - his comments degrade women who choose to raise a family yet also decide to follow their ambition to their fullest extent. My daughter just won an election at her high school....what message does this send to her? "Be really successful and you too can be ridiculed by the liberal media."

uhhh... How in the world is the "joke" directed at Bristol Palin when Willow (the 14 yr old) was the one that was taken to the Yankee game?
As usual, libtards make zero sense.

I fail to see how Dave's "explanation" is plausible in the slightest. How can he be "talking about Bristol" in the context of being at the game near Alex Rodriguez when Bristol was back in Alaska?

So ..... either he and his writers are completely clueless about what's going on around them in their very city, or this joke was completely stupid and senseless, OR ... he is lying about who he was really talking about and is only back-tracking now that he's getting some heat.

It seems to me that if he honestly was under the impression that Bristol was in New York, he would have simply said as much. That would have at least made things make some sense and would have been party believable.

My verdict is tasteless AND dishonest.

Everyone keeps pointing out that he never said Willow's name so maybe he meant the other daughter. So if Willow was the only daughter at the game, how could he have been speaking about the other. I used to like Letterman. How many people would chuckle at a joke about the a$$rape of his son. HA HA HA HA. LOL

RE: Comment that David Letterman was an unwed father.

Note, he wasn't telling anyone to follow his example. And what seems to be forgotten in this sudden ascendancy to the "high ground" by the salacious and ogling press, is that Alex Rodriquez was as much (or more) the butt of the joke than were the Palins.

To all of you idiots that keep saying rape wasn't mentioned: DUH! When you talk about a grown man knocking-up a 14 year old; THAT IS RAPE!!!!

Fourteen year old Willow was the daughter who went to the game with her mother and Rudy. Sex with a 14 year old is statutory rape. Of course the preverted joke was about Willow and not the sister who was not there. The aniti Christian Nazi who killed the guard was a Truther who hated neoCons. Must have been a liberal.

Please don't try and justifiy these attacks because the Palins daughters are in the "public eye".

Just like claiming that Chelsea Clinton was being "pimped", it's typical phsically inferior males bashing younger females by "men" too afraid to go after other men with their comments.

These "men" try and bond with their physically superior male counterparts by making jokes about women as a way to gain acceptance by the physically superior male.

Keith Olbermann, Dave Letterman, David Shuster, typical lightweight men afraid to take on other men with their comments unless the male is older, or the person is a female.

Willow went to the Yankees game; Bristol did not. The joke about Palin's daughter having sex with A-Rod would have to be about the one at the game.


his jokes were hilarious. hes a comedian.. comedians are not pc. thats what makes them so funny.

sarah palin's evil self laughs at other people constantly. she just hates it when others laugh at her. well, she should be used to it by now. her and her family are nothing but one big fat joke. the comedians are very thankful. she's the best think since g.w. lol.

no is outraged by this. no one really cares. this is all just part of sarah palin's "feel sorry for me" routine. shes always playing victim though she is the most vicious, mean spriited woman around.

shes nothing but a hypocrite. she evokes racism toward obama and is crying foul now? im laughing at her and so is everyone else.

most folks would elect letterman over her any day. thats sad.

Just when you thought that the discourse couldn't sink any lower, the Palins have a press release to reveal the inner workings of the Wasilla mind. Raped 14 year old joke? I thought it was about the knocked up daughter. Well, if the shoe fits, wear it.

(FYI: There was no Palin news release. She answered telephoned questions from a reporter seeking her reaction after the show was broadcast.)

what a bunch of clueless whiners. no one said anything about raping anyone and everyone that watched it assumed he meant the older daughter. no one watching the show keeps up with all things sarah palin to know it was the younger daughter that accompanied her to the game. as a matter of fact, willow and bristol look so much alike that it could have been mistaken.

you guys are like fox news anchormen-- grabbing at nothing trying to create a stir. its so sad to see. how desperate. .

so sstupid. it was a hilarious joke and no one buys sarah palin's "victim" garbage.

So, let us be clear about this. Letterman is saying it's okay to rape an 18 year old? It's okay to rape a woman, just so long as it's not a minor? What a sick old a**. He must be a porn addict. He should be canned.

Get a clue and try reading the news before you comment. The Palins made it about Willow because she was the one at the baseball game.

C. Loew
Nice try at inventing reality. Yes it was an attack on the Palin's daughter. If you have trouble with reading the plain English of the transcript of Letterman's comments try reading it again.

Same for you; try reading the transcript and then put that together with which daughter was at the baseball game. It's really not that hard.

Ron Williams and tdub
Based on your comments, I would assume that I would find your real names on the convicted sexual predators list for the county where you live.

Derek Todorojo
It appears you have trouble grasping simple logic. The joke was about the Palin's daughter who was at the baseball game. Willow Palin was at the game and is 14. Sex between a 14 year old and an adult is rape. Get it?

Try reading, it's good for you. Start with the transcript of Letterman's jokes. This will help you from making unsupportable claims like "Letterman's joke was aimed at Palin's hypocrisy." I will try to make this simple for you, since you sound ethically challenged. Making jokes about the rape of a 14 year old is not about hypocrisy.

imus went. goodby letterman.

KS, don't talk to us about honesty. You say it's not clear the joke was about the 14 year old? You are a liar.

If you think this joke was okay, ask yourself honestly if you would condone jokes about the Obama girls' sexuality. If not, ask yourself why it's different.

Liberal perverts.

To Derek Todojoro,

Let me explain something to you, you dishonest pervert. Dave's joke said Palin took her daughter to the baseball game and the "knocking up" happened there. Palin took her 14 year old daughter to the baseball game. Not the 18 year old. So there is no dispute he was talking about the 14 year old.

Second, sex by a grown man with a 14 year old is always rape. Even in New York. Do you have any other idiotic comments that display your evil and perverted nature.

I think he did it for the ratings. He couldn't touch Jay Leno, but now he's beating Connon. If enough people ignore him and refuse to watch anything he does, he could be looking for a job an a weatheerman on a local tv station again. That would please me.

David Letterman just lost the last ounce of credibility he had left.

He's now a freak and should use his last ounce of credibility, apologize to the Palin family, resign from CBS, crawl back in his cave and talk to himself.

He's not fit for prime time.

And, I hope the Palin family sues him and takes everything he has.

A poster above said: "Does anyone remember how ferociously the Clintons guarded their daugther? Unlike the Palins, they made it clear she was off limits. If the Palin are going to parade her kids on stage in front of the world, making them public figures, then they need to accept that they'll be subject to jokes, even off-color ones."

Chelsea Clinton was on television and in public all the time. She had every right to be, as do the Palin daughters. The only difference is the behavior of the left-leaning side of the media, which restrained itself for Clinton's daughter but has behaved horribly where Palin's family is concerned. Sarah Palin did not "make" her daughter a part of her political persona, as someone else above wrote, but rather her personal life was dissected and displayed by a ferocious press intent on helping Palin's opponent. This was unprecedented and shameful, as was Letterman's joke.

Bristol did not attend the game, Willow did. Letterman indicates that Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani were in attendance specifically, indicating his knowledge of the actual attendees. How can you infer that he would be referring to Bristol then? It's obvious that Letterman thought he could extend the Bristol pregnancy issue to the younger daughter and he got busted for it. Now he is trying to backtrack and ask us to believe that it was directed at Bristol - she was not there - how much simpler can we make it Damon? How can she get knocked up at the game by Alex Rodriguez, who is also at the game, without being there? Osmosis?

Slowly now - take a deep breath - it may be hard to fathom, but people from both side view each other as less than human and in this case it was Letterman doing the dehumanizing. He should hang his head in shame, he won't, just as many people think here - "she had it coming".

Willow was the daughter AT the ballgame. 14 years old......How does it work, the 19 year old re: A Rod, when she was NOT even there.....That excuse for his ugly remarks doesn't fly..Wonder if his son will be FAIR GAME ? .....hhhhhmmm....He really should THINK about THAT that.....

KS has it right.

"First, it's not clear that the joke is about her 14 yr. old daughter, he just states that she went to the game with her daughter.

Second, it's not a rape joke.

Third, it's actually an Alex Rodriguez joke."

So - Eyeswideopen -

I guess that now Obama's kids are fair game as is Michelle. You know these people who dress funny and have a dad trying to take over the world like Pinky and the Brain. Only which one is Pinky and which is the Brain I don't know. Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi. Can we now go after any liberal who brings their kids into the public sphere or is it only conservatives if they dare to bring out their kids. You disgust me.

We used to have a civil society until people like you came to be emboldened. Now we have a cesspool where America once stood. Thanks for nothing you inept stand-in for a kumquat.


Letterman is probably in the early stages of Alzheimers or maybe he is drinking, or on drugs. He always has looked spaced out. He is a dirty old man who fathered a child in his late fifties and didn't marry the mother until recently. But he has the nerve to attack Palin's daughter. He is perverted and anyone who agrees him him is as SICK as he is. Why anyone in their right mind listens to him is beyong my comprehension. He is a loser.

Letterman's non-apology and his defenders on this thread are just stupid. First of all,Letterman is a liar. He specifically mentioned the highlight reel of the Yankee game. Bristol, wasn't even in New York, let alone at the Yankee game. Willow, her 14 year old, was at the game. Letterman specifically joked about seeing the incident on the highlight reel, he specifically said it happened in the seventh inning of the game with a player who was playing in the game and the 14 year old daughter was the ONLY daughter at the game. Letterman is full of crap. He is just lying and he knows that liberals are too stupid to figure it out.

Second of all, Palin didn't make here children an issue in the campaign. The media did everything they could to denigrate her. People like Andrew Sullivan and the New York Times promoted the fumor that Bristol was really the mother of Trig. The only reason that Chelsea was left out of public discourse is becasue the media respected her privacy out of fealty to her father who they all voted for and becasue conservatives have more class than liberals.

Liberals are pathetic.

Letterman is probably one of the most pitiful men to have his own comedy show. The man should be an accountant, not a comedian.

I see the Palin contingent is here in full force.

Bristol Palin has chosen to be a media figure by publicly preaching for teen abstinence. Thus she is fair game for any joke.

The joke itself was poor. Poorly constructed, that is, because it was unclear to many which daughter the joke was about. That David Letterman had to explain the joke highlights how badly it was written.

The hyper-defensiveness of the Palinites is doing Sara Palin no favors. This lame joke will be quickly forgotten. But the idea that Palin is a mother that would allow her daughter's boyfriend to spend the night while also not providing her daughter with a thorough education on birth control . . . . that idea is going to stick.

I'm an ex-Republican who is so completely disgusted with the GOP that I HOPE they nominate Palin. Then I can vote for the Libertarian candidate without the least pang of remorse.

OK, after reading ALL the comments here, I have to say: Palin supporters are nuts and scary people. They definitely represent the victim branch of the GOP, and will distort anything to maintain their Martyr status.

Letterpedophile is a coward and a liar. Instead of apologizing for his hateful, perverted slurs he sounds off new insults against the Palin daughters.

Boycott his sponsors and pound CBS!

Michelle Obama was right "America is a downright mean country". CBS needs to do the right thing and give Letterman the boot. Makes no difference WHICH daughter he was referring to-------sexism is just wrong. Every woman in America should condemn his demeaning jokes about not only the Palin daughter, but about Palin herself. I would have thought we had come a lot farther than that, 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, I think not Hillary!

Letterman is a misogynist bigoted pervert. His bias is beyond pathetic, but his fear of muttering one joke against the Obamas is what truly exposes his shortcomings. What comedian is so white guilted into not mocking a sitting president? Letterman is not funny, and hasn't been for a long time. That he didn't realize that a joke about ANYONE'S teenage daughter being raped by a baseball player is beyond explanation. What would happen if right-wing comedians started joking about his son being raped by Adam Lambert?

Letterman is spreading hate speech.

All I can say is that if someone made a comment like that about my daughter (or yours), he'd likely end up with an even bigger gap between his teeth. I'm guessing Todd Palin would love to run into him without the camera's around.

Dave's "explanation" was as pathetic as his joke. I'm betting he doesn't last much longer. He should have just 'apologized' for the misunderstanding and moved on (end of story). He'll continue to make poor jokes, get hammered for it, and finally 'call it quits' (with a gentle push from CBS!).

Please, my eyes!!! Warn us before a pic of Letterman.

This is a continuation of the Saul Alinsky Communist playbook. When you can't stop a competitor, you make them into a parody. Slander, hey, that's ok. It's the Obama style. Clinton did her thesis on Alinsky. It's the community organizer thing. Letterman is a bitter old creep. Thinking it's ok to say crap about even an 18 year old is very sick behavior. CBS is know for dishonest editing of interviews, it's part of the plan. They have succeeded is trashing the Palins, so what do we have? The braintrust known as Joe Biden.

Just remember this you stupid little lefties, Letterman and much of the oldstream media may be talking about Conservative women and their children in public BUT they are talking the same about liberal women behind their see liberal white males have a nasty habit of thinking they are better then everyone else "they have evolved" and so they are "above" everyone else.

I used to be a liberal before 9-11 and I can tell you that at union meetings and protests the white liberal male is talking nasty about women, blacks, name the group they have a lot to say (nothing printable) about each one....their evolution they believe gives them the right to look down upon everyone but themselves!

LogicalSC: 'great acclaim by MSNBC and all the leftist blogs'

hahaha. Most of the right-wing blogs who reported on this were decrying the fact that no left-wing blogs were covering it. Plus at no point was rape mentioned. But good to see where your imagination goes first.

Re. Letterman:

I'd be interested to know why all the right-wingers had no problem whatsoever with the a-rod joke yesterday morning ?
The slutty flight-attendant joke was practically the end of the world but barely a mention of 'knocked up'.

The reason, of course, is they all knew, like Dave, that the subject of the joke was Bristol. That she would get 'knocked-up' in half-time by a baseball player she just met is hardly a stretch - that's the crux of the joke.

Then, one blogger realized it was actually Willow in NY and all of a sudden *everyone* knew Dave was a pedophile and the right-wing papers go into a frenzy.

*Please* wingnuts, nominate this woman. We dems beg of you.

This joke is so skewed; "rape" was not even mentioned and it's obvious Palin's kids have a propensity to get knocked up while underage; all while they proclaim so-called family values.

Letterman's "jokes" are sick. Anyone who found humor in them, just as sick!

Rape comes into the dialogue because, in New York, sexual contact with a minor child under the age of 16 is classified as felony rape, commonly called statutory rape.

If I were A-Rod, I would be suing the has-been for slander and defamation.

If I were WIllow's daddy, Dave would be in the hospital now, with no kneecaps and a new perspective on what is and is not appropriate behavior towards the female children of his betters.

It's sad to the The Ticket degenerate from thoughtful political observations and analysis to mere media celebrity gossip triviality, like so much of the sclerotic chat that tries to pass as news. Some of us were hoping for better, alas.

"Yeah, you righties run away from any responsibility when doctors are murdered by anti-abortion Taliban and guards by anti-Semites..."

For the record, the Tiller murder was denounced by pro-life groups within hours, and conservative publications ran editorials by the end of the day.

Conservatives are equally horrified by the shootings at the Holocaust Museum, but I wonder why you have them associated with anti-semites? It's the Republicans who are pro-Israel, the left that's pro-Palestinian. I don't want to stir up that hornets' nest, but why would conservatives have to reassure anybody that they aren't anti-semitic?

Okay, wait. If Letterman would have said that Michelle went to a ball game and her daughter got knocked up by A-Rod, then that joke would have been in bad taste? Wow! So then Liberals really don't have a sense of humor.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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