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. Reggie

    Palin is so popular that the media will continue to follow her every step. Letterman is getting a temporary ratings boost because of the governor. But, he may become a Rosie O'donnel. Her crude comments led her into the celebrity cemetary.

    June 14, 2009 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  2. Rosa

    The media is obsessed with this woman. She is the "person" that the majority of people love to hate, much like Limbaugh. Of course she and Limbaugh have thier crazy and very devoted nitwit followers who don't seem to understand these 2 are just a couple of "opinion-ators" and provide no verifiable content about anything.

    But they get news cycles and unfortunately dominate. We could be getting news-worthy content but unfortunately CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC and news providers in general have really gone down hill.

    June 14, 2009 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  3. Scott

    Ms. Palin is simply a comedic diversion and gives all the comedians fodder. She will be lampooned on SNL, made fun of by Bill Maher and she needs to go back and hang out in Alaska- We need more videos of her in front of a turkey being throttled. NOW that was funny!!!

    June 14, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  4. Kristin

    She will NEVER win, she is and always will be a loser.

    June 14, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  5. davidr64

    horah for Sarah, shes till trying to be an all-around bimbo. I feel for her truly. If she would just get back in her books; learn true facts and become current on actual events, then maybe, i said maybe then, she will become a potential Republican contender. I speak as a FORMER Republican of 30 years.I'm now a Independent

    June 14, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  6. AndyB

    The press/media should just shut up and report facts. They should keep their opinions to themselves and stop trying to mold the public into their partisan narrow minded views.

    June 14, 2009 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  7. Denise Kellembeck

    I hate to tell all you reporters, mostly on the left side of the aisle
    that main stream America, the unpowerful but loyal Americans
    think Sarah Palin is a breath of fresh air. The more you critizie the
    better you make her. Is she ready for the white house, maybe not
    but do not discount her. Her day will come as more and more of
    us get sicker and sicker of the bias liberal agena.

    Imagine if such remakrs would have been made about Obams's
    childre?. There would be hell to pay.

    June 14, 2009 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  8. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    So 3 members of the media were asked if the media went too far, and surprisingly agreed they had not. That's impartiality for you.

    I certainly hope Letterman will give Sasha and Malia equal time for crude humor. Can't let him bash a conservative's kids without doing the same for a liberal's kids.

    June 14, 2009 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  9. Ann L.

    Once upon a time in a galaxy not so very far away, there lived a little red-haired girl who loved attention; and, being a typical redhead, she really didn't care if the attention was positive or negative. She could be heard far and wide saying, "If I can't be first-best then I'll just be first-worst, and get attention either way!"

    While this story is about me, it also fits a brunette, not-so-little girl. What I find truly sad, is that even at her age (40+) she is still so starved for attention that she will do anything to get it. Maybe she and FORMER v.p. Cheney need to go on a hunting expedition together.

    June 14, 2009 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  10. isitmeorwhat

    What ever happened to the good old days when "reporters" simply reported the news instead of trying to make it via wagging the dog or via their idiotic personalities? David Letterman has a right to his opinions–it's called freedom of speech, which is what right wing talk show hosts constantly cite. As far as Sarah Palin and New Gingrich as candidates–who wants an air head and a two timing, unethical sleezeball running this country? Itf this is the best the Republican Party can do to drum up candidates–that party should just disappear.

    June 14, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  11. krejaton

    I am no fan of Palin's, but Letterman's remarks we WAY out of bounds. It was below contempt.

    June 14, 2009 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  12. Annie

    I'd like to know when Sarah Palin is going to apologize for all the rabble rousing she did during the campaign. We're starting to see the effects. As for the Letterman mix up, he explained himself, said he went too far, yet she wouldn't give it up. Just the kind of person I want to see as first woman president (NOT).

    June 14, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  13. ANNY

    Jokes are done all the time by comedians in bad taste....so be it.......Palin will play this one to the hilt to cover the bad press she is getting not just from the media but from her own party about her lack of professionalisum, her organization is disorganized, they all seem to be confused and this is what we want for a President......I hope the GOP will now get the guts to drop this woman like a hot potatoe.....I have also read lately that even her own fan club is starting to wander what she is doing......

    June 14, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  14. Frank

    Enough about Sarah Palin! She is a nobody that was thrown into the political circle because McCain thought he would get the Hilary votes! That is in the past now and she should be also! I for one am fed up with the news media fawning over her. Ever notice it is the male newsmen that carry on about her? Kind of interesting don't you think?

    June 14, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  15. I am Newt's ex wife

    You heard it from me....Palin the Diva is getting exactly what she wants. Just what we need....a redneck moose hunter with her perpetual PMS to ruin...er run this country...yes...I said PMS....that lady has it it EVERY day.

    Palin Vs. Newt........oh my God ...what a collision that is going to be. Too much ego in that match.

    June 14, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  16. Marlene the Dream

    Thanks for saying it, Melissa. Most of the Iranian people are in agony over this recent pseudo-election and Americans are clueless. Unfortunately, there will probably come a time when people here may wish they'd paid more attention to real-world affairs instead of the distracting lunatic fringe that people like Palin represent.

    June 14, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  17. JO

    When will the media grow tired of covering Sarah Palin's fights with her in-laws and also the media itself. We the public are sick of this non-news. She is like an embarrassing relative that keeps showing up. Please stop covering her.

    June 14, 2009 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  18. Pat in IL

    Letterman had a lapse of judgement by using that joke, but Palin is the one who kept it in the forefront of the news. She did that at the humiliation of her children. Also calling Letterman a pedafile was way over the top. If I had to depend on the judgement of either one of these people, I'd definitely pick David.

    June 14, 2009 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  19. sandy

    If she (Pallin) handles the country should she ever God forbid become our President like she does her life, were all in deep trouble. This woman is NOT Presidential material.

    June 14, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  20. Joe the carpenter

    I am tired of the sterilization that political correctness is bringing this country to.

    June 14, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  21. conservocop

    Naturally, CNN brings in a guest from the controversial "Air America". I thought they were bankrupt.

    Again, Sarah was the butt of a joke and now the media talks about her being in the news too much. Imagine a guy with a microphone in her face asking why she's being interviewed.

    Letterman is a pervert and FINALLY someone is calling him on it! His jokes SHOULD have him off the air. We thought families were off-limits – I guess that only applied to liberal families.

    See the liberal hypocrisy yet????
    Just keep watching. You'll see it if you keep an open mind.

    June 14, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  22. Alfred E. Neumann

    CNN's Campbell Brown did an analysis of Letterman's remark with a panel of three liberals and one conservative, Susan Molinari. Can you guess how that turned out. Brown and the three liberals found Letterman's remarks to be tasteless but funny and were OK with it; Molinari was not.

    Remember Don Imus and his tasteless comment and what that got him – fired! And rightly so.

    It's another example of hypocracy. It's only bad depending on who is being offended. In this case a conservative, Palin's 14 year old daughter. Jeffrey Toobin defined her as a public figure and fair game for vulgar jokes.

    One wonders how he would have reacted if Letterman had gone after Barack Obama's children.

    Campbell Brown was the worst of the lot in referring to Letterman's "apology." It was no such thing but a continuation of his prior comments built into an opening monologue. Shame on Brown.

    June 14, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  23. Pat Marin

    I think both parties have erred – Letterman's remarks went over the line, for sure, but they would have been a minor blip on the radar had not Miss Sarah (the beauty-queen-contestant-styled persona) taken it out there to the max. She should not have dignified it with a response – let it fade away into oblivion where it belongs. She is clearly milking it and using it for her own purposes…so she is just as much in this as Letterman. If she is really thinking of her daughters, she has given them much more to be embarrassed about with her actions. She can study up all she can on the facts of governmental issues, etc., but who will help her with the incredibly vapid and strikingly mean, mean streak?

    June 14, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  24. Denis

    I hope Palin stays in the news, she is a big help to the Dems.

    June 14, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  25. Joe the carpenter

    P.S. ever notice how the republican apparatus' reactions are eerily similar to Kim Jong Ill' of north Korea? I bet you Kim gets Rush pumped in so as to try to mimic his style, or is it the other way around?

    June 14, 2009 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
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