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. Roberto in Maine

    The lowest forms of popular culture have become the news, getting the ratings up is the objective. Events that actually may shape the future of the world are now just afterthoughts. The decline and fall is so predictable.

    June 14, 2009 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  2. S M R

    This women can't even handle a simple interview or a simple question. How in GODS name could she ever handle being President ? Could you amagine as flighty as she is with her finger on the " RED BUTTON ".

    June 14, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  3. Mike Ciletti

    The media may have a crush on David Lettermen and his self-amusement that passes for comedy, but no one should get a pass for joking about statutory rape. Why aren't women's rights groups up in arms? Or do they duck this one because Sarah Palin's family is the target? For shame.

    June 14, 2009 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  4. lola

    She's old news and Letterman needs to drop her from his opening monologs now. Why waste his time when he can be funny and sarcastic about someone who's more current in the news. That's what he does best .Us regular viewers know when he's just being amusing and we are not idiots enough to actually think he's being seriously hateful and mean. She's in the same newsworthy catagory as Paris HIlton, Britney Spears and Lindsey Logan. Just another tiresome,boring ,hot mess.

    June 14, 2009 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  5. Mike S.

    Letterman's joke was mostly offensive to Alex Rodriguez, not so much Palin's daughter. He apologized. She didn't accept it.

    What is more offensive to me is that Sarah Palin would put the Fox News spin on the situation to insinuate, more than once, that Letterman is somehow a pedophile, and that her daughter wouldn't be safe around him. That's pure right wing neocon nutjob stuff, and that's why she and the senile maverick lost by a landslide.

    June 14, 2009 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  6. Amanda

    Palin loves to be the center of attention. I find her repulsive.

    June 14, 2009 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  7. Carol

    Why is she (Palin) any different than anyone else in the public eye? You run/hold a polictical office you had best keep your house clean The solution? Stay out of the kitchen... One more thing, she must get over herself! Carol

    June 14, 2009 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  8. General

    Sarah Palin, I love you and you can do no wrong. You slammed Letterman and he deserved it before he took it too far. He was already getting creppy and lazy. Let's hope this straightens him out. He can thank you later for giving his failing career a much needed boost. Everyone who needs help is more then welcome to call on Sarah Palin. Just don't be surprised when she doesn't exactly act according to plan. Palin is God!!!

    June 14, 2009 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  9. DaBird

    If RUSH had said the same thing that Letterman did about Obama's oldest daughter, then all the media nuts and liberals would have thrown a hissy fit. LIBERAL HYPOCRITES

    June 14, 2009 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  10. Mark

    I bet Lettermen like being called a pedophile as much as Palin liked the joke about her daughter. I say Palin rubbed his nose in it with that comment Go Sarah

    June 14, 2009 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  11. Marty, Grand Rapids

    She has coverage because American's love gossip. They should have a "political gossip ticker" so I wouldn't have to read the drivel and 90% of the stories on Palin could go there. There is very little that is news worthy of the woman.

    June 14, 2009 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  12. susan

    I respect Gov. Palin as I lived in Alaska many years and am aware of her abilities and concerns.Why does David Letterman not go after the Obama family?Has He been warned "hands off" or is just afraid to ,after all these are only jokes.How would He feel if someone placed his son in the same position{his Father is in the limelight}?

    June 14, 2009 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  13. ED

    With multiple news outlets scratching for something, anything to fill the airwaves, too much time was spent on the Letterman/Palin dialog. It was a political joke and fair game because of Palin's family values stance, the 18 year old's pregnancy, and the playboy Yankee.

    It was not Letterman at his best, but it was pertinent. Thank you, Melissa, for focusing on the real issue, which is the complete lack of real substance on "news" networks. I wish the networks would spend more time educating than sensationalizing. Instead of slamming Letterman, how about a real discussion on teen pregnancies?

    June 14, 2009 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  14. Anne

    Governor Palin....Oh man, CNN, you almost got me.

    June 14, 2009 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  15. zippy29

    Palin won't run...she actually cannot win. Be serious for a moment and really think about it. Would you want a hysterical woman with so many issues. Even her base whatever that is doesn't believe in her.


    June 14, 2009 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  16. Chris Andoe

    I am so tired about hearing from and about Sarah Palin.

    June 14, 2009 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  17. mary

    What is Palin so heated up about? She is a Grandma. The facts are all there. She needs to cool it! And, face up to the truth.

    June 14, 2009 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  18. Notfooled

    These reporters are looking for ratings, PERIOD!!

    They are a bunch of PHONIES!!

    June 14, 2009 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  19. More Objective than You

    The only reason this whole thing received so much coverage is because the media, above all else, is a business. And they know that Sarah Palin draws consumers. Period.

    June 14, 2009 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  20. Lisa

    Now the media is helping the media make excuses for lousy coverage? The entire U.S. press has become the New York Post – or even worse – FOX News. Distract us with crap, ignore the truth.

    June 14, 2009 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  21. john

    if the U.S. made Sarah Palin there president you would be the laugh stock of the world!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 14, 2009 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  22. jeremy

    Stop reporting on this garbage. The real story is the uprising in Iran.

    June 14, 2009 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  23. JR

    This whole flap has a smell to it that Palin is continuing it on purpose just to get some attention for her run in 2012.

    June 14, 2009 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  24. Larry

    Sarah Palin is useless to the GOP. If Republicans fel she can help the party they better think again. She is low class and stupid.
    The longer she remains as a front runner for anything in the Repbulican party the less creditablity the party has.

    June 14, 2009 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  25. Chuck

    Thank you Sandra for being a reasonable and polite Sarah Palin critic. It seems most of her critics are very mean and attack her as a person, not her policies.

    As a republican, I agree that Sarah Palin is probably a really good person, but she is not who I want leading my party. Her ideas aren't fresh, and most of her energy platform is just drilling for more oil here in the US (which is just stalling the problem, not fixing it).

    I think if the GOP really wanted to dismantle the Obama juggernaut, they should get behind Ron Paul.

    June 14, 2009 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
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