June 15th, 2009
08:54 PM ET
6 years ago

David Letterman apologizes to Palins over 'coarse joke'

Late night TV talk show host David Letterman apologized to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for the second time after a recent joke by Letterman stirred controversy.
Late night TV talk show host David Letterman apologized to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for the second time after a recent joke by Letterman stirred controversy.

NEW YORK (CNN) – David Letterman delivered another, more repentant apology for the off-color joke he made last week about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's daughter.

"It was kind of a coarse joke. There's no getting around it," Letterman said in the opening monologue of Monday night's show.

Letterman, who joked last Tuesday that Palin's "daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez" at a recent Yankees game, still insisted he was referring to Palin's 18-year-old, Bristol, who gave birth to a boy in December, and not her 14-year-old, Willow.

Related video: Letterman's joke was 'perverted,' says Palin

Palin has called that a "weak, convenient excuse" for a joke that was"inappropriate" no matter which daughter was the target.

"My 14-year-old was there with me at the game. She was the only one there with me," Palin said.

Letterman said Monday night that he now realizes, "It doesn't make any difference what my intent was, it's the perception."

"As they say about jokes, if you have to explain the joke, it's not a very good joke," he said. "I take full blame for that."

"I told a bad joke. I told a joke that was beyond flawed," he said.

"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," Letterman said. "I'm sorry about it and I'll try to do better in the future.

The controversy comes at a time the late-night ratings battle between the "Late Show with David Letterman" on CBS and NBC's "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" is in the spotlight.

Letterman has gained ground in the two weeks since O'Brien took over hosting duties from Jay Leno.


Filed under: David Letterman • Extra • Popular Posts • Sarah Palin
soundoff (100 Responses)
  1. BarryIn Las Vegas

    Letterman should have done this the day after. He is now bowing to pressure – not out of sincerity. He's pathetic and should be fired.

    June 16, 2009 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  2. Fred L. Fraud

    I heard the joke. Probably in poor taste.
    Anyone who watches the show/familiar with Letterman knows it was not about a 14 year old girl. Letterman gave his apology, now can everyone move on?

    June 16, 2009 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  3. Scott

    I can't believe she got the apology, she is a joke, she is the reason John McCain lost the election because is a complete idiot.

    June 16, 2009 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  4. Mark

    Palins statements of the incident were very misleading.

    June 16, 2009 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  5. Craig

    No need to apologize. Don't forget Palin was the one to say recently "screw political correctness." How quickly she forgot that. And how arrogant for her to say that Letterman's joke was in bad taste but then deny that saying "it would be wise to keep Willow away from Letterman" was in bad taste. Sarah Palin is just one huge mouthful of bad taste that refuses to go away.

    June 16, 2009 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  6. Cathy inAZ

    He told a bad joke but she is milking this for all its worth! I blame John McCain for letting her loose on society!

    June 16, 2009 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  7. xavier

    Maybe Palin can now apologize for impersenating a politician.

    June 16, 2009 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  8. Diana

    I don't understand why Governor Palin cannot take the heat, like many of the other female politicians. For example Hillary was mocked brutally, and her private suffering was tastelessly exploited by comedians, yet she maintained grace, and an above the fray attitude. Sometimes, the best way to deal with people like Letterman is to just ignore them.

    June 16, 2009 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  9. possum

    Good for Letterman, but I'm kinda sorry to see Palin get one more news cycle out of this...talk about exploiting her kids.

    June 16, 2009 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  10. jeremy

    Are you serious?? Please more Iran coverage. People are dying in the streets for freedom. Yet you refuse to let this complete waste of a story go. Bad on CNN.

    June 16, 2009 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  11. Terry

    I noticed while watching the re-runs of Letterman's jokes that the audience laughed heartily. There were no boos and no one walked out. Gov. Palin has milked this situation for all she can get out of it.

    I presume she will discover another outrage very soon.

    June 16, 2009 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  12. Jonathan K

    I think Sarah Palin owes all of us an apology for helping dumb-down the U.S. more than one could have possibly imagined. Palin's anti-intellectual dialogue continues with her pathetic attempt to make David Letterman look like something he's mot - that being a "dirty old man". Brain cells beware!

    June 16, 2009 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  13. Limbaugh is a Liberal

    Palin, get over it! You lost the election! I know you like to stay in the news but nobody cares who you are or what you say!

    June 16, 2009 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  14. Peter E

    Slow news day, eh? Why does the media still cover this?

    June 16, 2009 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  15. renea

    Im glad he apoligized, now what no more about this issue it should be squashed ok.

    June 16, 2009 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  16. Michigan voter

    What a load of crap that Dave was pushed into a position where he felt he had to apologize.

    June 16, 2009 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  17. jerzychic

    It's funny that a guy whose job it is to make jokes about people in the new is forced to apologize for a joke about Palin's daughter getting pregnant...ok, he had the wrong daughter, but if the joke was about Bristol, come on. Palin dragged that 17-year old pregnant kid out in front of millions of people all the while spouting abstinence only for everyone else's kids. Now Bristol supports abstinence – sorry but the toothpaste is out of the tube! Hypocrites. We're supposed to be happy that she made the right choice – Palin's platform doesn't offer choice. This woman will do anything to stay in the news, including exploiting her own kids, but apparantly that right only belongs to the Palin parents, so back off Dave!

    June 16, 2009 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  18. Obama08 but....

    Right on. He's right to appologize. I love Letterman and constantly watched him throughout the pre-election. His joke was terrible. Couldn't hit anymore below the belt. However, the whole thing just goes to show when Sarah Palin gets a bite on her hook she will reel and reel and reel and reel and reel and reel and reel and reel and reel and reel..... She could have played her hand a little sharper. She really needs to get some advisors that know what they're doing. This whole thing could have really worked for her and boosted her, but SHE's the one who wore it thin.

    June 16, 2009 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  19. Anonymous

    Politicians have far worse things said about them and their family on a nightly basis. There are two reasons why this is in the news at all.
    1-The hypocrisy of Mrs. Abstinence having a knocked-up unwed teenage daughter
    2-Because Palin is making it an issue.

    June 16, 2009 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  20. dale

    So let me get the a woman (Sarah Palin) advocates abstinence education but cannot teach it to her daughter, and her own network (Fox) run by Roger Ailes who directed a show with Rush Limbaugh where they referred to Chelsea Clinton as the Whitehouse dog, and accuse Barack Obama of being born somewhere else get away with this false outrage.

    June 16, 2009 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  21. Brad

    So when Bill Clinton has jokes made about fooling around on Hillary, every comedian should apologize because they made a crude joke.

    1) The attention given to Sarah Palin is kind of disgusting. She made herself look quite foolish during the Presidential election with not only a poor knowledge of the post she was running for, but a lack of knowledge of the World outside Alaska let alone America.

    2) A monkey could tell that it was a joke aimed at the hypocrisy of the "abstinence" stance of Palin and her family while her daughter got pregnant in the middle that moral high ground preaching. It was also a stab at the philandering of A-Rod. No-one took issue when pictures of A-Rod coming out of a Toronto hotel with a known escort were published. No-one complained when the New York papers blasted A-Rod.

    3) The media lapping up Sarah Palin every 30 seconds is really over the top. Aren't there more important things to discuss? How about cover one of the Governors who are actually running their state responsibly instead of rewarding press-seeking behavior.

    June 16, 2009 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  22. Marianne

    As a mother Sarah Palin's first responsibility lies with her family not her political party. When Sarah Palin decided to accept the nomination for vice president she knowingly and willingly put herself and her family in the public eye. As every vice presidential nominee before her has discovered, the press and media will uncover, make public, pick apart, and judge every last bit of personal information that exists about them and their family. Instead of protecting her pregnant teenage daughter from public scrutiny she put her and her boyfriend on the world stage for everyone to see and judge while she attempted to advance her political career. The only apology that should take place is mother apologizing to daughter.

    June 16, 2009 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  23. sntexas

    It's about time. The joke was tasteless and the Palin family deserved an apology.

    That said- it's over. Let's move on- until the next time.

    June 16, 2009 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  24. Gingrich 2012

    David, shame on you. Don't you know that only Sarah can exploit her kids. When Jay Leno did it, it was ok ... she thought she was gonna be in Washington. Now ... when she's trying to stay relevant, it's an ISSUE. Please. Stop giving this woman air time. Next.

    June 16, 2009 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  25. G-P

    I feel bad for the younger daughter. But I have no sympathy for Palin. Where was her outrage and moral authority when people were yelling "Kill him" at her campaign rallies?

    June 16, 2009 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
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