June 15th, 2009
08:54 PM ET
11 years ago

David Letterman apologizes to Palins over 'coarse joke'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/15/art.palinwave0615.gi.jpg caption="Late night TV talk show host David Letterman apologized to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for the second time after a recent joke by Letterman stirred controversy."]
NEW YORK (CNN) - David Letterman delivered another, more repentant apology for the off-color joke he made last week about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's daughter.

"It was kind of a coarse joke. There's no getting around it," Letterman said in the opening monologue of Monday night's show.

Letterman, who joked last Tuesday that Palin's "daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez" at a recent Yankees game, still insisted he was referring to Palin's 18-year-old, Bristol, who gave birth to a boy in December, and not her 14-year-old, Willow.

Related video: Letterman's joke was 'perverted,' says Palin

Palin has called that a "weak, convenient excuse" for a joke that was"inappropriate" no matter which daughter was the target.

"My 14-year-old was there with me at the game. She was the only one there with me," Palin said.

Letterman said Monday night that he now realizes, "It doesn't make any difference what my intent was, it's the perception."

"As they say about jokes, if you have to explain the joke, it's not a very good joke," he said. "I take full blame for that."

"I told a bad joke. I told a joke that was beyond flawed," he said.

"So, I would like to apologize, especially to the two daughters involved, Bristol and Willow, and also to the governor and her family and everybody else who was outraged by the joke," Letterman said. "I'm sorry about it and I'll try to do better in the future.

The controversy comes at a time the late-night ratings battle between the "Late Show with David Letterman" on CBS and NBC's "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" is in the spotlight.

Letterman has gained ground in the two weeks since O'Brien took over hosting duties from Jay Leno.

Filed under: David Letterman • Extra • Popular Posts • Sarah Palin
soundoff (100 Responses)
  1. Schalaine Ellisor

    I think Sarah Palin is using this as an excuse to keep her name out there. David Letterman is a comedian that made a crude joke. He has apologized- let it go!! Of course she will not. She will milk it for all it's worth. What I find amazing is there are actually people who consider this woman presidential material. Whatever you are smoking...PLEASE STOP!!! This woman needs to please return to Alaska and let the lower 48 alone. We do not want or need your kind down here, We have enough of our own..Rush, Cheeney, Hannity, Beck, Coulture...actuality pretty much all the GOP fall into this category. Manufactured controversy does serve the purpose of never having to have any ideas to actually fix say healthcare, rising energy costs, rising unemployment, two wars.......

    June 16, 2009 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  2. Ralph

    The headline makes it look like Palin was in a competition. The headline should read Letterman apologizes.

    June 16, 2009 12:32 am at 12:32 am |

    this is ridiculous. so this guy is still apologizing for something he said 2or 3weeks ago. I wonder how palin wants to win election by hyping little things to look as if its big. she doesnt even forgive. she said Obama palin arround with terrorist and she didnt apologize now she wants everyone to apologize for making joke. common grow up palin.

    lagos, Nigeria

    June 16, 2009 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  4. Sisterwives

    Okay, he apologized...now can Sarah Palin just go away? She is so irrelevent.

    June 16, 2009 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  5. malabar

    Palin wins

    June 16, 2009 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  6. RStewartIII

    Good for David Letterman to give a sincere apology. Let's hope that all people, conservative and liberal, republican and democrat, serious commentators and comedians, learn from this event.

    June 16, 2009 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  7. Candace

    Oh, Boo Hoo to that woman! It was a JOKE and if she thinks her kids are that innocent, then, she needs to look again. She put herself in the spotlight by accepting the nomination for vice president canidate. We all know that Letterman, as well as other shows make fun of canidates as well as their family. So what if it were her teenage daughter. Its sad that this is the America we live in now. We have to watch every thing we do or someone sues, or, worse, throws a huge hissie fit!
    I love David Letterman, and I find him comedic and twisted humor. Its what I've watched him for 18 years now for. Not so he can get up there and do clean, family comedy. Get a life Sara Palin! Go check your lipstick and YOU leave David alone!

    June 16, 2009 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  8. Karen

    I really think the smirk on his face took away from the apology and the week it took him to come up with the wording – no excuse. If you have to explain the apology, it is not a very good apology.
    "As they say about jokes, if you have to explain the joke, it's not a very good joke," he said.

    June 16, 2009 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  9. kcl

    The joke was out of line. Letterman has apologized. It's time to put it to rest.

    June 16, 2009 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  10. Deb

    Good for Dave, but I still question why he thought it was OK to tell that joke, even when he intended it for 18 year old Bristol.

    June 16, 2009 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  11. GOPer

    Palin needs to get over herself and get back to work for Alaskan's. She will run in 2012 and make a total fool of herself and the GOP.

    June 16, 2009 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  12. mary

    Surely Letterman does not deserve anything better from CBS than what Don Imus received from NBC for his vile sexist/racist comments: A pink slip and a kick out of the studio's door!
    It's irrelevant what political affiliation you have; Letterman's "joke" was a very serious attempt to rob the Palin girls of any human dignity. To expect their mother or father to sit silently by or to laugh it off, would be insane! We witnessed enough woman-hatred during the primaries and during the election. You don't have to be a neanderthal or a conservative to think that Letter crosssed the line and the river of societal decency. And his apology was in fact a further slap on the face to girls and women everywhere. Enough is enough. Fire this pathetic perv!

    June 16, 2009 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  13. Rok

    This shows that Letterman is the better and higher person! I believe Sarah Palin, especially the one who ran for the Vice President, should be more concern about the current situation of U.S. and world economy rather than shows her emotion over someone's joke. If she can be swayed by someone's comment, then how dare of her, even thinking about running for U.S. Vice President. How a person, who cannot manage her own household, child and emotion, could even think about managing the world leading country (United States)? She does not even know how she should behave at her age and her status as a mother and a governor. Honestly, I don't know. Maybe I am the one who does not know what is right!

    June 16, 2009 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  14. Rick

    I just watched the so called apology. There were no apologetic words uttered in that speech. It was a speech, not an apology. He almost, but did not directly apologize to the family. He should still be canned, fired, whatever to get this idiot off the air. A "JOKE" should never be directed at another human being, deserved or not. That JOKE was not only without taste, it was inappropriate, and disgusting. David Letterman, listen to me now. I will not be listening to you in the future. I have tuned you out. You are not on my list of shows to watch.

    June 16, 2009 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  15. Josh- Rochester, MN

    I am a Republican and I can honestly say...

    Fair enough. Let's move on.

    June 16, 2009 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  16. Nebraskan

    CNN is crap for continuing to report on this....personality conflicts and he-said/she-said gossip instead of news on the issues and things that affect the rest of us.....

    CNN is drifting heavily towards infotainment....

    June 16, 2009 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  17. John

    Wow Mr. Letterman, you let me down. Can't believe you actually cowed down to Miss Airhead. You definitely lost some of my respect. I guess your perceived image is more important than your integrity.

    June 16, 2009 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  18. Stephanie

    It's a new world! Liberals have been decrying the way women are characterized and treated for years, while being berated by conservatives for being "politically correct." I guess the Republicans just needed a dose of their own medicine, and I for one am glad they finally are getting it.

    June 16, 2009 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  19. Rick

    Celebrities feel that their position gives them freedom to do anything, say anything they want about other people. They don't have to worry about the consequences of the things they say. They are above what is expected from the rest of society. In my corporate position, if I had made similar "jokes" about one of my c-workers I would have been fired on the spot. Should a celebrity be immune from that policy, I think not. David Letterman, retire and fade off into the obscurity you so richly deserve.

    June 16, 2009 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  20. From the Island...

    if Dave has the smarts to come out with an appology, maybe Nancy can do the same and Sonia can say she is sorry for what she said!

    Good on ya, Dave...you are off the 'blocked show' list in my house!!

    June 16, 2009 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  21. Chris

    The kids should be left out of it all. They aren't the ones choosing to run for office...all their flawed parents' are.

    June 16, 2009 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  22. Gilbert

    who really cares what the palin Tribe thinks or has to say. Go gut a moose sarah

    June 16, 2009 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  23. Dave Clark

    YOU GO Sarah !!!!
    This country was cheated when Mccain/Palin lost . Hopefully Obama will be ousted in 2012.

    June 16, 2009 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  24. Vicky

    Ugh, don't apologize. She's playing the victim, yet again. If she wants to parade her family out in public as political leverage, then she doesn't get to complain about how the media takes shots at them too. Leave them at home if you don't want them in the crossfire. The blame is squarely upon Gov. Palin's own head.

    June 16, 2009 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
1 2 3 4