Update: Letterman apologizes! Read about the apology and similar “jokes” in The Washington Post.
Offender: David Letterman on “Late Show with David Letterman”
Media Outlet: CBS, aired 6/8/09
The Offense: Late night TV host David Letterman “joked” that during their recent trip to New York, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s daughter “was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez” during a Yankees baseball game. The next night Letterman said that the hardest part of Palin’s trip was “keeping Eliot Spitzer away from her daughter.”
NOW Analysis: After two nights of “jokes” at the expense of Palin and her family, Letterman tried to explain himself and offer something of an apology. On his June 10 show, Letterman said he was referring to Palin’s 18-year-old daughter, Bristol — not the 14-year-old daughter who actually accompanied Palin on her New York trip. Letterman said “I recognize that these are ugly” jokes. NOW agrees. Comedians in search of a laugh should really know better than to snicker about men having sex with teenage girls (or young women) less than half their age.
The sexualization of girls and women in the media is reaching new lows these days — it is exploitative and has a negative effect on how all women and girls are perceived and how they view themselves. Letterman also joked about what he called Palin’s “slutty flight attendant look” — yet another example of how the media love to focus on a woman politician’s appearance, especially as it relates to her sexual appeal to men. Someone of Letterman’s stature, who appears on what used to be known as “the Tiffany Network” (CBS), should be above wallowing in the juvenile, sexist mud that other comedians and broadcasters seem to prefer.
On that point, it’s important to note that when Chelsea Clinton was 13 years old she was the target of numerous insults based on her appearance. Rush Limbaugh even referred to her as the “White House dog.” NOW hopes that all the conservatives who are fired up about sexism in the media lately will join us in calling out sexism when it is directed at women who aren’t professed conservatives.
Take Action: Write to CBS and tell them what you think.
Lisa Bennett, NOW Communications Director