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. Peter

    Palin is a lightweight. I can't believe that anybody believes that this person should be the next president of the United States.

    I am a conservative and feel that we need a real candidate who is seasoned, eloquent, and can has the gravitas to go toe to toe with world leaders. Why on earth does anyone think Palin is that person?

    Yes, Letterman crossed the line, but who cares. Comedians cross the line all the time, and on both sides. They had a field day with Clinton's Lewinsky affair, remember? Lots of tasteless stuff there, probably very hurtful to some in the family.

    Mellisa: You asked "where is the (media) coverage of the election in Iran?" I don't know what channels you are watching, papers you are reading, or websites you are looking at, but there's plenty of coverage.
    For Pete's sake, look at THIS site!

    June 14, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  2. Kay

    Wow three leftists giving their opinion about Palin, yeah we get fair and balanced.

    June 14, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  3. Ray

    The Press needs hot topics to report. They aren't going to take many pot shots at Obama at least not until they have no option. Sara Palin is about all they have left. Perhaps Sarah Palin has a date with Destiny, we will just have to wait and see. The Press doesn't have to cover Sarah Palin do they?

    June 14, 2009 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  4. cover credible politicians please

    Palin stories should be listed in the CNN comics section...not politics. This section is for educated grownups.

    June 14, 2009 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  5. mh

    The fact that they call themselves journalists is funny enough. The fact that they claim to be impartial is hilarious. They all are leftist and can't be trusted – especially if they reflect "unreturned phone calls" in their already slanted coverage. Wake up readers – these so called "journalists" can't be trusted to report the time of day!

    June 14, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  6. Erik in Real Pennsylvania

    Sarah Palin went from a public beef with the high school dropout who impregnated her teenage daughter to a public beef with a washed-up comedian. She's not doing her political future any favors by descending into such undignified positions.

    June 14, 2009 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  7. spongebob

    You can't make Dave feel, if he isn't sorry, then he isn't sorry. Many people love Sarah and many liberals fear her, I would not be surprised if Dave is a liberal, I guess I could be wrong but I doubt it.

    June 14, 2009 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  8. Kiki

    My, my, how you liberals have the need to slam Sarah Palin every chance you get. Well, you know what,.......we couldn't care less what you think or say. You people are so threatened by her, that is why she is still so popular and in the press constantly. You criticize her defense of her daughter after that left-wing child molester pig letterman insulted her, yet you don't have the decency to defend a young, 14-year old girl against those crude remarks from this dirty old man. You are all so pathetic. Would you think it funny if letterman had said those ugly remarks about michele obama and her daughter? I bet letterman would have been fired on the spot. Remember Imus?

    June 14, 2009 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  9. Doug McKnight

    Who cares what Letterman said! Hes a comedian. And anyone who got offended when he said that, dont lie to yourselfs, you laughed too!

    June 14, 2009 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  10. Babs

    Alaska and Sarah Palin are well on their way to initiating the largest energy project in the world, the AGIA Gas Pipeline Project, a project totally funded by private enterprise, which will bring thousamds of jobs to Alaska. No stimulus dollars, no pork barrel money, entirely paid for by the private sector! Now that's the news they should be reporting.

    June 14, 2009 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  11. Peoples Voice

    As long as we have dolts in this country, there will be some one to listen to what Sarah has to say. I really don't understand what the attraction is.

    But then, Rush has the number one radio talk show. It's really embarrassing to have these people be called fellow Americans.

    June 14, 2009 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  12. John G

    The problem with the media in this country is that they write the story and then find facts to support it.

    They decided Obama would win in November and a fe months of lopsided coverage later he did.

    They decided that the GOP would be vilified and extreme right wingers like Gingrich, Palin and Limbaugh would be seen as the voice of the party and it has been made so.

    The media has too much power and not enough integrity to wield it. CNN, Fox, MSNBC and all the rest are just as guilty.

    June 14, 2009 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  13. Jerry

    This article is the typical liberal slam , how quickly you dismiss that 47% of America did vote for the John/Sarah ticket. Had the comment been on the other foot Letterman would be in prison I would bet. To the folks that wrote and approved this news blurb I recommend you start doing your jobs , Journalism , not liberal / socialist cheer leaders.

    June 14, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  14. jon

    every one needs to grow up.
    yes dave was wrong and sarah p is a joke.
    if you realy think she has any shot of being the president than this country will be the joke of the world.

    June 14, 2009 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  15. Mike

    You are going to use Air America's input on a Republican issue and the media? First off, I didn't think they were even around anymore and second why don't you just gets the devils opinion on GOD... you'd get more truth.

    June 14, 2009 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  16. Darla Wilshire

    Other comedians have gone after the Palins. There was no outcry then. This is a Sarah Palin 'look at me' use of the press, and the press is too stupid to see they've been used. Palin trots out her kids whenever she wants press, and the press follows like puppies. I'm disgusted with Kurtz's remarks and with the press's insane interest in the Palin saga. How does it feel to be used, press????

    June 14, 2009 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  17. Sterve Newman

    When I heard Letterman's "joke", I thought it referred to Bristol Palin, the 18-year emancipated woman (which I believe is the correct title for a mother of that age). It wasn't very funny. But since Bristol had changed her position on pre-marital sex from abstinence for teenagers doesn't work to that of a spokesperson for the abstinence as sex education crowd, I believe she left 'protected' status and entered the fair game arena as a national spokesman.

    As for Sarah Palin, she continues to show that she isn't ready for prime-time and probably never will be.

    June 14, 2009 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  18. Perusing-through

    1) – Letterman's joke was over the line and grotesquely unfair.
    2) – Letterman's apology was weak, probably due to fears of a lawsuit. But clearly his heart was heavy for what he did.
    3) – Sarah is blatantly milking the Letterman disaster for every drop of media spotlight possible.

    June 14, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  19. Bob

    4 comments on here so far and they're all civil. I love it. I can't stand how the two parties hate each other so much now.

    June 14, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  20. Carli - Seattle

    Why is this even a news item now with what is going on in Iran and N. Korea? This is strictly a GOSSIP item vs. what's really important in the world!

    I don't care if you're a democrat, republican or otherwise. This is NOT IMPORTANT!

    Report REAL NEWS, CNN!

    June 14, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  21. Crispian

    CNN mischaracterizes its own show when it states: "The journalists largely agreed that the wall-to-wall coverage of Palin...was justified."

    They agreed that some coverage would be justifiable. But regarding coverage of Palin, Howard Kurtz observed, "television missed the main point."

    Palin's political aspirations were contrasted with her reaction to Letterman's joke, with general agreement that she has a right to respond without the media imbuing political motivations.

    Air America’s Anna Marie Cox stated: "I don't know why we need to give it that much coverage."

    "Did the media over do it with too much Palin coverage?" One would have to watch Kurtz's show through quite a fuzzy lens to find an answer of "yes."

    June 14, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  22. John Q. Public

    Republicans like no one – not even each other. What a sideshow!

    June 14, 2009 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  23. Maria in Florida

    Enough of the coverage on this ridiculous story. Letterman apologized, she exploits her children and the media has kept this in the news for too long. Let's all move on!

    June 14, 2009 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  24. Chickenfoot

    PLEASE Mr. McPAIN....Take this women back to her igluu where you found her...You drug her out now take her back..

    Sara your 15 minutes of fame is up...GO HOME AND STAY HOME...

    See if it is snowing in Russia yet.....

    June 14, 2009 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  25. Norma Tumberg

    Is Sarah Palin were a Democrat and Liberal the treatment of her from David Letterman and the press would be totally different. Think about it.... tic tic tic.....

    June 14, 2009 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7