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Does the Sarah Palin controversy help or hurt David Letterman in his battle with Conan O'Brien?

June 16, 2009 |  8:51 am

David Letterman spent the first part of last night's "Late Show" apologizing once again to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her family for an inappropriate joke he made last Monday. As Letterman explained last night, "I told a bad joke. I told a joke that was beyond flawed, and my intent is completely meaningless compared to the perception. And since it was a joke I told, I feel that I need to do the right thing here and apologize for having told that joke. It's not your fault that it was misunderstood, it's my fault. That it was misunderstood."

David Letterman Conan O'Brien News 1357924 Emmy Awards While a protest remains planned for today's taping of the "Late Show," Palin has accepted Letterman's explanation. And though the "Late Show" lost one website advertiser – Embassy Suites – because of the ongoing debate, viewers have remained loyal to the longtime late-night talk-show host.

The controversy had swelled as Palin and her supporters rejected Letterman's first attempt at an explanation last Wednesday. Last Monday, he had referenced the governor's older daughter, Bristol, in an off-color remark, not realizing that it was her younger daughter, Willow, who had accompanied her to New York City. As he said last night, "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. I'm sorry about it, and I'll try to do better in the future."

This harsh spotlight was shone on Letterman in the second week of his match-up with time-slot newcomer Conan O'Brien. While O'Brien had got off to a rousing start the previous week as host of the "Tonight Show," by Day Seven, he had fallen behind Letterman in the ratings. Though NBC has ballyhooed the desirable demographics of his dwindling numbers, the edgy O'Brien has failed to retain all of the audience who tuned in to the laid-back Jay Leno for 17 years. 

Stoked by this new competition, Letterman has lined up a string of A-list guests, with the appearance of longtime pal Julia Roberts on last Tuesday's show being the one that put him ahead of O'Brien for the first time. Last night, Letterman welcomed "Year One" star Jack Black, while tonight's lead guest is Michelle Pfeiffer, who rarely makes talk-show appearances these days.

Below is the first late-night appearance of Pfeiffer way back in 1980. She guested on the "Tonight Show," and Letterman's longtime hero, Johnny Carson, was in fine form as he flirted with this young starlet who had just finished her third picture – "Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen."  Alongside Pfeiffer on the couch were Sammy Davis Jr. and two-time Oscar champ Shelley Winters, who shamelessly plugged her bestselling autobiography.


David Letterman beats Conan O'Brien in ratings race

Can Conan O'Brien break 'Tonight Show' Emmy curse?

Jay Leno ends 'Tonight Show' tenure as ratings winner and Emmy loser

Ho, hum — Jay Leno passes the late-night torch to Conan O'Brien

Photo: David Letterman. Credit: CBS

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The comments to this entry are closed.


Yeah, I'm sure all you people saying you'll "never watch Letterman again" are really hurting his ratings. I'm sure you were all real faithful viewers before this happened. And as for all you people saying he shouldn't slander people because he had a child out of wedlock? I got news for ya, people were having kids looooong before marriage was invented. Get over yourselves.

All of you posting disgusting comments about a Lady (SarahPalin) and her family. Should think-one day you'll have children- and I hope they wont have a handicap or won't have to deal with Teenage pregnancy's. David Letterman should shut up since he has a son growing up who was conceived out of wedlock and we don't know yet if he and what he will do.
Remove David Letterman he was never funny to me and is an old disgusting man.

I think he should retire, he's to old. And he does not make me laugh. I'm very glad the women are prosting, David Letterman

Kids (adult or minor) should be off-limits. this was over the line, even if it was meant for the older daughter. Kids don't choose their parents. Slam the politian, celeb and their husband/wife all you want. Rush was wrong as well. People don't like it.
Letterman comes off looking like a bully.

Mayu, what in the holy hell does the military have to do with David Letterman's joke last week?

Last time I checked, our Freedoms come from our Constitution, not our military. To be more blunt, none of our freedoms were ever in jeopardy from Iraq when we chose to invade them for phony reasons.

Palin couldn't resist wrapping herself in her flag, when a simple "I accept your apology" would have sufficed.

In the long run, this doesn't really help Palin. Now that she's basically staked her position that hurtful words have meaning and consequences, it basically invites reporters to ask her the following questions:

1. Considering SNL had run a sketch based on the premise that her husband was in an incestuous relationship with her daughters, why exactly did Palin keep quiet about that as well as appearing on SNL several weeks AFTER the sketch in question aired.

2. Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien both made jokes about John Edwards impregnating Bristol. Where was Palin's outrage and her shock troop protesters then?

3. Now that Palin has appointed herself the humor police, I take it we will hear her denounce the South Carolina GOP official who made a Gorilla joke about Michelle Obama. Or perhaps Palin will chime in about the Tennesse GOP legislative aide who forwarded a racist email depicting Obama as just a pair of white eyes.

I have a question for all of you Palin concern trolls proudly proclaiming that you will no longer watch a program that in all liklihood you never watched to begin with. Have you ever seen a more thin-skinned politician in your entire life than Sarah Palin? Reagan used to have the crudest stuff said about him by comics (especially Richard Belzer), and NOT ONCE did Reagan go running to a sympathetic reporter to whine about how mean people were to him.

Why isn't Letterman fired as Don Imus was after his degrading remark! He most certainly was talking about Sarah's 14yr old daughter...she was the one with her at the game, not the oldest! But, no matter who he meant it was discusting! It just shows what he thinks of girls and women! He didn't get married to his present wife for years and years...even after his baby was born. How would he like someone saying sometthing about his wife (who wasn't married when she had his baby). Get rid of him...another Don Imus that thinks he's God and can say anything he wants! I won't watch his program anymore!!!

Palin was almost hysterical over a joke! She could never handle the Presidency.

WHO THE H E L L CARES ABOUT "SARA PALIN"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


What is the difference between Sarah Palin's mouth and her vag1na?

Only some of the things that come out of her vag1na are retarded.

It hurt Letterman when he apologized.

No doubt the hidden political hand of Westinghouse Corp (big in nuclear and war products) showed itself and he was ordered to buckle.

When Sara Palin cast herself as 'Soccer Mom', she invited the spotlight to shine on her dysfunctional family.

If The Soccer Mom isn't fair game for a satirist, nobody is.

it helps. It simply points out the hypocrisy of conservastives and their rants about free speech. Here they are trying to get someone fired for free speech. Particularly over something Sarah Palin LIED about

The David Letterman joke on Governor Palin and her family last week was a tasteless jokes. However, Letterman apologizes for his actions. The Late Show will continue to still have viewers even after this controversy. You can see the apology on this site.

Oh, that Sarah! What a kidder. She does that cute little whine of hers and people actually thinks she means it. Adorable!

What? What's that? You took her seriously?

You're kidding, right?

You didn't see thru this thinly veiled, self-serving exercise in "Hey look at Me! I'm still here" ?

Why would a professional make this comment in teh first place? After the uproar of everything PC and the amount of material that he could make jokes on Obama or his Cabinet of tax cheaters, oh yeah that is off mark, well then he could recycle old Bush jokes. Is he so completely out of touch ? I watch reruns of anything before watching this hack anyhow.

I think Letterman has gone in the wrong direction recently and this is just too much. For a 60+year old who has a child out of wedlock he is not the person to be slandering others, especially children. What gives him the right to go after people with those types of jokes. does he really believe that we think he cares which daughter he was referring to!

As far as my wife and I are concerned he is no longer on TV.

Help him, Palin used her overly sensitive view was meant to help her and try to hurt Letterman. We know he didn't mean her young daughter, please. Mr. Letterman, do not apologize again.

Everybody tip-toe around Sarah. At what point is Palin going to apologize to the American people for the venom she spewed during the election? What about the lies and public deceptions? I was deeply offended by her atrocious behavior. These loud mouth cry babies that have gotten themselves in leadership positions show little respect for anyone. They say what they think will garner them the most attention and rile the public. It's embarrassing to be represented by these folks. I like calling a spade a spade; like Leon Panetta. We need to find a way to put the power back in the hands of the people and get it out of the hands of crack-pots like Palin and Cheney. What good are they doing? What good? It’s embarrassing, this ship of fools.

Go Letterman! At least a joke is honest.

I'm a 56 yr old male. I did not vote for Palin. I don't see why it matters who the mom or woman is - she is correct and Letterman just does not get it yet - but hopefully he is coming off his celebrity pedestal and getting enlightened some on this problem of the way teen girls are looked at and treated. Has any one in the media even asked themselves how those girls must feel right now? Thats the point. It hurt Letterman.

David who?

I think above anything, it helps Palin.

Especially her appology acceptance where she says she is glad he has the freedom to make whatever joke he wants, but she is glad she has the equal freedom to respond to said jokes, thanks to the men and women who put their lives on the line for us to have that freedom, and that she hopes comedians and politicians use it to promote equality rather than tear people down.

I think it makes her look like the bigger person... and Conan look like a more friendly "Leno" type.

I lost a lot of respect for Letterman, and I am only watching Conan from now on personally.

"Everyone knows the Clintons have a cat. Socks is the White House cat. But did you know there is a White House dog?" Limbaugh said on TV, before holding up a picture of Chelsea......this was a quote that Rush was never required to back down from regarding the daughter of the President......not the daughter of some Governor of Alaska.......left media media bias....please!.....pull my other leg cause this one is sore already!

For those interested, you'll find an audio clip in the following article where Palin is laughing it up with two radio shock jocks as they rip apart one of Palin's female adversaries who happens to be a cancer survivor. They question the woman's love of her children, refer to her as "a cancer" and a b**** and Sarah finds it just so amusing. Not only was there no outrage but she was tickled by it.

Discover a bit of the real Sarah Palin for yourself :



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