June 14th, 2009
08:08 PM ET
13 years ago

Reporters break down Palin coverage, slam Letterman remark

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Between uncertainty about her appearance at a big fundraiser and a war of words with a late night TV talk show host, former Republican vice presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was back dominating political headlines last week.

Did the media over do it with too much Palin coverage?

On CNN’s Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz asked three political reporters to weigh in on just that question.

The journalists largely agreed that the wall-to-wall coverage of Palin, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and last week’s annual Republican fundraiser was justified because of all the interest in Palin’s possible presidential aspirations.

"[T]his is one case where it's not the press’ creation," Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin told Kurtz. “A lot of Republican sources that all of us talked to were very unhappy with what Governor Palin did and the confusion in her political operation.”

“And it goes to a larger question,” continued Halperin, “is she doing what she needs to do now in order to be a plausible presidential candidate in 2012? Her relationship with the National Republican Party, confusion in her operation, a lack of confidence in her and those around her is what was at issue there; not gossip and not the rivalry with Newt Gingrich. And that's a legitimate issue and one the people covered.”

Air America’s Anna Marie Cox agreed.

“[I]t was not about Sarah versus Newt. It was more about Sarah versus sort of the apparatus of the GOP - and her relationship with them and the lack of professionalism in her operations,” Cox said Sunday.

The National Review’s Jim Geraghty had a different take, suggesting that the media’s dissatisfaction with the governor’s political staff was coloring the coverage Palin received about the GOP fundraising dinner last week.

“When a reporter doesn’t get a phone call returned, that grates on them,” Geraghty said to Kurtz. “And that may, in one form or another, get reflected in the coverage.”

The four journalists were uniformly critical of late night talk show host’s David Letterman’s recent off-color humor about Palin’s family.

Related: Palin calls foul on Letterman's 'weak' excuse

“I think people across the board say he went too far,” said Halperin. “But in terms of Sarah Palin, it’s not necessarily clear that it’s politically smart for her to do what she did [in response to Letterman].”

“She implied that he was a pedophile,” Cox told Kurtz. “I think the joke was over the line but that’s over the line too. . . . it’s not something that you needed to go to war over.”

“The words ‘I’m sorry’ would’ve been nice,” Geraghty said of what many considered a half-hearted attempt to apologize by Letterman last week as the controversy blew up. “Don’t go after kids,” Geraghty added.

Kurtz added his own “two cents” Sunday, saying that Letterman’s remarks had crossed the line. “This was not Tina Fey gentle mockery, this was pretty rough to go after, as he did, a 14-year-old girl or an 18-year-old girl. And I don't think the apology was sufficient.”

Filed under: David Letterman • Extra • Popular Posts • Sarah Palin • State of the Union
soundoff (154 Responses)
  1. Peggy in Texas

    Has anyone ever noticed that when republicans don't like the message, they attack the messenger, i.e., the media?????????

    June 14, 2009 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  2. usualone

    Whatever the media's bias may be, it is Ms. Palin's own words that have done her in. She is a divisive person and we in America do not have time for that now. That isn't to say we do need differences of opinions, but she has a way of alienating people with her "them" and "us" attitude. No wonder people ridicule her.

    June 14, 2009 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  3. Larry from Indiana

    The media is so biased in this country it isn't even funny. Negativity about Palin is primarily the media's fear that she might bring back conservative values back in vogue. Meanwhile, there is no criticism at all regarding Obama's conversion of the country to a socialist state. The liberal policies of this administration will drag down our country ecomonically for many years to come. We have reached a point where we definitely can not trust anything the mainstream media tells us.

    June 14, 2009 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  4. Al

    I am still amazed and scared that folks in this country and the GOP itself give any credence to and thought of her as a potential Presidential candidate and that she, Gingrich and for goodness sake Limbaugh are the face of the GOP... What is coming of this country if those are the people anyone would look to to run this country.

    June 14, 2009 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  5. Terry of Texas

    There is no single set of agreed upon rules in our culture. Some reporters say that Letterman "went over the line." But what are the lines and where are they. Certainly Letterman did not anticipate this flap about his joke. His audience laughed heartily (probably cued by blinking "Laugh" signs). No one booed or walked out as far as I have heard.

    Children are not emotionally prepared for getting slammed in the media. It is best to draw one of the lines around them.

    June 14, 2009 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  6. Did the media overdue it? Huh?

    CNN, you need an editor. Sometimes your articles are unreadable because of the errors. I'm looking for a job. Hire me! You've got my email address.

    June 14, 2009 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  7. Gary in CA

    Letterman doesn't agree with her politics. That's why he makes fun of her and her family. That's why he does it... why hash it and discuss it and parse it over and over again?

    June 14, 2009 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  8. Stay Active

    Who cares!!!

    June 14, 2009 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  9. Debbie

    Melissa, there is plenty of news about Iran - just look at the top stories. I can't believe people are going overboard over a comedian's joke. Sometimes they are funny, sometimes they aren't - but they are comedians! If it was a politician who said that, then there is reason to cover it. How many jokes have comedians made about young Hollywood? Lyndsay, Britney, Paris - apparently they are worthy of being joked about, but a hypocritical politician in Alaska whose unwed daughter gets joked about - oooh! Now that's over the top!

    June 14, 2009 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  10. Carmen

    Leno made the same joke about Bristol during the campaign ( insert John Edwards for A-Rod). Anybody with a brain knows he was talking about the Palin daughter that is already sexually active. Where exactly was the outrage then? If I can see this on and in the news every day then a lot of other people in the world can too. Are we ever going to get sick of looking like idiots in front of the rest of the world?

    June 14, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  11. deb

    leno made a similar joke during the campaign, where's the outrage about that?

    June 14, 2009 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  12. No MO PALIN !!!

    Plz Cnn Today is Sunday This is last week's News Enough already !!!

    June 14, 2009 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  13. but if Palin would run

    we would be guaranteed a humorous campaign

    June 14, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  14. Karen

    I agree totally with Jon about David Letterman. He is not funny, has not been for many, many years and is stooping to a new low to try to make his ratings better. He is a total JERK!

    I also get tired of hearing every little thing Sarah Palin does. IF she plans to further her political career, she needs to be studying every spare minute so she can answer questions intelligently. And that does not mean starting every answer with "hey". Bring yourself up to speed Sarah or you don't have a chance in the world.

    June 14, 2009 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  15. Ancient River

    I endorse Melissa'a response wholeheartedly.

    June 14, 2009 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  16. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    Palin is a right-wing loony desperate to keep her name in the headlines....

    June 14, 2009 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  17. Baby Ray Ray

    Letterman, Obama and the rest of the leftists are a real dangerous joke. This country is so screwed

    June 14, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  18. Post always rejected by CNN

    Hillary's pantsuits, her need to have botox injections etc etc etc how about the outrage over that....when the guy on MSNBC said she pimped out her daughter he was just made to take a few days off.

    I guess if you insult the tender tender sensibilities of a republican you should be sent to jail....shame MSM shame shame shame...treat everyone alike. Or do your masters who own you stations tell you who to slur and who to take up for.

    June 14, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  19. trueblue

    Howard Kurtz parading himself as a media analyst is hilarious, probablly a lot more hilarious than Palin and Letterman combined.
    Recently, Republicans in general have been hilarious when they haven't been outright scary.

    June 14, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  20. Chris Ward

    NO ONE – right, left, center, independent should go after anyone's kids – especially with something as un-funny and crude as Letterman did. I agree with Jon – Letterman hasn't been funny in years (if ever!), and this is a good example why. I'm not a Palin fan, but as a mother I understand her outrage at something so insulting being directed toward her kid who can't defend herself. If Palin went overboard in her reaction, I totally understand. But both parties and the media should refocus on something more important now. Please.

    June 14, 2009 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    I hope Sara Palin returns to Alaska ASAP and stays there! We don't need her sight seeing in the lower 48!! Somebody somewhere certainly was watching out for America when Sara Palin and John McCain were defeated in the election!! I can only imagine where we would be at this stage of the game if they were sitting in Washington! Sara and her "brood" are a definite side attraction, and as we now see, garner all kinds of attention and horrible speak from comedians and others! Give us a break, media! FORGET ABOUT SARA PALIN!! Focus on the real issues that are facing the American people right now! With that said, - and how can I trust you would put the focus on the real issues in all honesty??? I can't!! The media LOVES to talk out of both sides of their spinning mouth!! To get a straight answer is IMPOSSIBLE!!

    June 14, 2009 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  22. Jeffer65

    So now the media is reporting on itself again? This story doesn't belong here, and yes the media overdid it with this Palin/Lettermen thing. His joke was out of line, he apologized, now move on nothing to see here.

    June 14, 2009 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  23. Debbie

    That apology was no where near sufficient. Besides not being sufficient, he did not appear to even have meant it. I would like to know where the outrage is here? If a conservative so called comedian had said this or something equally disgusting about the Obama girls, he would have been fired. But, no, it is ok for the children of a conservative politician to be attacked. Does Letterman think that we the American public are that stupid that we thought he was referring to Bristol? He thinks then that is ok to go after Bristol?He should be fired. At the very least, CBS should issue a statement but they won't because it is Sarah Palin.

    June 14, 2009 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  24. Jack

    Re: New Day comment...

    We already have the facts. Millions of people saw Letterman do it so the big question now is "What is CBS going to do about it?"

    I agree with Howard. Letterman stepped over a big red line and all the excuses in the world won't make it right. He needs to be disciplined.

    June 14, 2009 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  25. Michigan

    Face it, Palin eats this up. She loves being interviewed, loves a controversy. It doesn't matter if they all make her look less mature, less in control, and less able to govern a country. She just craves the spotlight. I give her a week before she's back in the news. If the media thinks she has any chance at all of surviving the Republican primaries, they are very wrong. I think the candidate in 2012 will be someone off the current radar. And hopefully, they won't be talked into dragging her onto the ticket again!

    June 14, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
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