June 11th, 2009
07:32 PM ET
14 years ago

Letterman says Palin joke in 'poor taste'

(Updated at 12:00 p.m. ET with Palin response)

(CNN) - Late night comedian David Letterman, responding to criticism his recent joke about a member of Sarah Palin's family crossed the line, said on his show Wednesday night he is guilty of "poor taste."

But Letterman, who has been a critic of the Alaska governor, said the recent joke - that Palin's "daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez" at a recent Yankees game - was in reference to 18-year-old Bristol Palin, not 14-year-old Willow who actually attended the baseball game with her mother last week.

"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 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."

iReport.com: Share your thoughts on Palin/Letterman flap

Letterman's comments come a day after the former Republican vice presidential candidate called the joke "inappropriate" and "sexually perverted."

"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," she said in a statement, assuming the joke was in reference to Willow.

On his show Wednesday Letterman said he hoped he "cleared part of this up" and said Palin is welcome to be a guest on the program at any time.

Palin had also taken issue with an item on Letterman's recent "Top Ten List," in which he said one of the Alaska governor's activities in New York was to buy "makeup at Bloomingdale's to update her slutty flight attendant look."

"The only thing I can say about this is I kind of like that joke," Letterman said.

In an issued statement, Palin spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton said: "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."

Filed under: David Letterman • Sarah Palin
soundoff (281 Responses)
  1. Jon

    When a comedian makes fun of someone you like, you're offended. When a comedian makes fun of someone you don't like, it's hilarious. Let's drop all the false self-righteous moralizing.

    June 11, 2009 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  2. Mr. Phil


    First off, my wife is 10 years younger than I am, does that make me a pervert? Second, Sarah Palin has chosen to keep herself (and her children) in the spotlight, so she is absolutely fair game even this far after the election. Third, Craig Ferguson and Conan IS funnier? Get yourself a 3rd grade English textbook please. Sarah Palin is an opportunist who will stop at nothing to remain in the spotlight till 2012 (and if the Repubs are stupid enough to even give her a shot, she'll get stomped on like a narc at a biker rally). Until she stops exploiting her family, the comedians can let the jokes fly as far as I'm concerned.

    June 11, 2009 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  3. Mike Jones

    Liberal media (and now late not comedians) not only attacks Sarah Palin but go after he daughters as well. Typical. No wonder their readership and audiences are dwindling. Good Riddance.

    June 11, 2009 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  4. Fair is Fair

    Sicko jokes aimed at Chelsea Clinton? – nope.
    Sicko jokes aimed at the Bush twins? – yup.
    Sicko jokes aimed at Michelle, Sasha, and Mahlia? – nope.
    Sicko jokes aimed at Bristol / Willow Palin? – yup.

    Letterman, maybe you'll come to the conclusion some day that you'll do better against Leno / Conan if you stick to being a comedian instead of a liberal activist.

    June 11, 2009 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  5. Once You Vote Black: Mute Newt

    Oh come on, put politics aside. His jokes were funny. If you like Rush you have to love Letterman.

    June 11, 2009 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  6. lila

    It never crossed my mind to think of Willow when I heard the joke. Only a sexually perverted person would think of a child. The joke made me think of Bristol and the fact that she seems to like beefcake men with very little brains. The joke also made me think of Madonna and how Arod likes older women. That made me think about Palin in her black hooker boots and red dress. My mind never once thought of a child. Child and sex do not go together in my mind.

    June 11, 2009 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  7. Davy Jones

    His whole show is in poor taste and he needs to retire!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 11, 2009 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  8. Teresa

    I have never been able to stand Letterman and this just solidified my opinion.

    It doesn't matter what age of the girl/woman, he is a pig.

    I agree Sara P's policies are fairgame, but going after any of her children or family is immature and shows the speaker to be so.

    Obviously Letterman doesn't have a brain to talk the issues, so he attacks children and women instead.

    I will never ever watch his program and support any candidate right or left, who doesn't condem his remarks.

    June 11, 2009 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  9. Tricia

    Ms. Palin is a Governor she will be in the spot light no matter what. She was at a function for children in New York. She is not seeking the lime light. The idiots that wish to ruin her are putting her there. If this was said about my child I would attack back in the media. Why does she have to deal with this quietly????? Would Obama let it go were it his child, or the Clintons? Why is it alright to ridicule those that are conservative and give a free pass to those that are not?
    Letterman is a has been, which is why Conan took the seat from Leno. Go away Letterman, and Couric.

    June 11, 2009 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  10. chaz

    Well, ole Sarah keeps dragging her children into the international limelight. Doesn't she expect some reprecussions from her narcissistic attention fixation. And as for the other 'joke' about her appearance, I don't see anything wrong with that. I've always thought she looked like she worked the late shift on a Vegas street corner. I respect Letterman for apologizing for the joke about Bristol; it just shows that he is a class act.

    June 11, 2009 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  11. Randy

    Why does anyone validate this bitter, old fool by even watching his brand of "humor"? Garbage in....

    June 11, 2009 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  12. Russ

    Who cares what Letterman says about anything. If he thinks he is so righteous, then get off your butt and go out and do something to try to make the country better. He loves to spout his opinions sitting on a chair behind a desk, but has he done anything to make America a better place? NO

    Palin is at least trying to help the country. Letterman chooses to bring down anyone who tries to help the country. Watching his show is 60 minutes of your life that you can never get back. Put on Conan instead.

    June 11, 2009 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  13. Old man

    Letterman just lost one more viewer
    any kind of joke about a raping any girl or women is in bad taste
    if someone had said the same thing about one of Obama girls or wife or Bill Clintons daughter they would be history.
    Dave is a loser fire him.!!!!!!!

    June 11, 2009 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  14. once upon a horse

    I guess that the watermelon and fried chicken jokes that were made of President Obama some on the right said people were being too sensitive and it was just a joke. Sorry Gov Palin but when you step into the limelight and bring your whole family with you, it leaves you open as a target of such ridicule. Doesn't make it right of course but it comes with the title.

    June 11, 2009 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  15. Peter

    This guy and his girlfriend had a bastard in 2003 and did not marry until last month. When are we going to see humor about him...or Obama's kids?

    June 11, 2009 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  16. da Monk in Joliet

    It's amazing how Letterman made the joke...but it's Palin's fault...

    June 11, 2009 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  17. Marc M

    Everyone knows exactly who Letterman was talking about so stop making excuses for him.

    Letterman used to be a great show when it was on after Carson but since the move it's become manstream and horrible and his complete slide to the left is just another reason he's losing audience.

    He does owe an apology but it doesn't matter because I won't hear it because I won't be watching his awful show.

    June 11, 2009 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  18. mark from tx

    From what we know about Republicians, they eventually come out of the closet. They preach one thing and their lifestyle goes against what they claim to believe. They call it sticking to their principals. I call it hypocracy! Republicans have no principals, they are just actors gaming the system for whatever they can!

    June 11, 2009 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  19. Eileen Tracy

    Nowhere near a fan, but have to go with Palin on this one. Letterman is a misogynist of the highest order. Saying it was the 18 year old, who has said her own actions were a mistake, and not the 14 year old, and expects that to be okay is abusrd. This has nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with this man's very disturbed thinking about women.

    June 11, 2009 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  20. Sylvia in Cochranton

    Letterman is a sick old man that has run out of funny jokes. Saying that about either girl is sick! So sad that people in his audience actually applauded. Shows the mentality of the people who watch his show. I don't watch. I do watch Fox News and that is where I saw him make a fool of himself.

    June 11, 2009 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  21. Diaa

    Bad jokes about EITHER Palin kid.

    14/18, they're both TEENAGERS!

    Really crummy apology, Dave.

    I don't think you're a pedophile, but the only men who look VERY attentively for the exact line of legality – are usually pedophiles!

    Get a clue, Dave.

    June 11, 2009 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  22. Lily Lansdon

    I agree Palin will do anything to be in the spotlight, I still don't understand where her substance is or what. Now Bristol is making money of (abstence) interviews, traveling, where was her abstience? Don't do as i do, but do as I say. Way to go Palins to make money, false advertising, and now they have big dope (Todd) making apperances, what does he have to say, other than to stay in front of camera (I mean does he talk?) what can he sell to help make money? Before McCain brought her out they knew nothing now they want it all, stupid that she thinks she deserves presidency only because an old man picked her for his vp, does that make her qualified-NO NO NO NO NO NO – Palins pls go back home and stay there with your hate and devision there is no place for that- you betcha

    June 11, 2009 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  23. Peggy - TX

    Palins comments have been equal, no much more "in poor taste". Palin has been the cheerlader for the angry- hatefull crowd contributing to the spread of home-grown domestic terrorism in this country.

    June 11, 2009 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  24. Ms Smee

    I'm surprised to read everyone's negative comments about Letterman. Last night I watched his 'apology' and he was very frank about his record of NOT telling jokes about raping or sexually abusing 14 year-old girls. To Palin I would say Buck Up. If you want to be in the spotlight, then you're going to have to deal with comedians poking fun at you (and although it's not fair, your family-with-the-ill-thought-out-names). Chill out everyone, Letterman is hilarious.

    June 11, 2009 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  25. Janice

    Letterman has alot of room to judge, he is a nob!!!!!!!

    Sarah Palin is a lady, with class and morals... Those who judge her are just jealous, plain and simple!!

    June 11, 2009 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
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