By now, you already know what happened. Sarah Palin and her daughter made a trip to New York and did some sightseeing. Ever topical, Letterman made a joke about it in his monologue, except that it involved a blatantly sexual situation regarding the younger Palin being in New York. Many folks, especially the Palins, objected because the younger Ms. Palin is only 14 years old. Letterman scrambled to point out the joke was targeted at daughter Bristol Palin, who is 18. But because Bristol was not on the New York trip, the Palins retorted, he clearly meant Willow, and that constitutes a joke about statutory rape. Letterman refused to apologize, but did (in a very wink-wink fashion) attempt to clarify he would never joke about such a thing, and regrets confusing folks.
And now, where the Czar gets involved is when New York State Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb sent a letter to Les Moonves (CEO of CBS) demanding that Letterman be fired for this.
Okay, folks, it’s like this.
Did Letterman know the daughter in question was Willow? No, evidently not: but rather than admit the truth—that they took a cheap shot at Sarah Palin without bothering to check what the circumstances of her trip was (that is, that she was touring with Willow, not Bristol)—they stuck to a particularly transparent excuse that we goofed up, not his writers.
Did Letterman seriously intend to joke about statutory rape as something funny per se? No, he seems to be a pretty mellow guy off camera.
Should Letterman be fired for this? The Czar believes not, for one would have to be pretty naive to think this was out of line for Letterman. The Czar is no fan of Letterman—frankly, his show is a grotesquely over-extended shadow of what it was on NBC circa 1985-1988, and succeeds purely on its own formulaic momentum…and perhaps should have been Ol’ Yellered to a tree in 1994—but knows full well that late-night comedy typically features off-color jokes and political potshots. To pretend this is the worst joke he has told, or that we haven’t laughed at worse, is a painful stretch not worth making.
Should Sarah Palin accept his invitation to come onto the show and discuss it? No, and indeed, she has refused; she correctly acknowledges that doing so would provide badly needed ratings for Letterman, and she would wind up being the victim of further ridicule for his hooting sycophants. Take the high road, Ms. Palin: make him crawl to you.
But there are some thoughts that keep haunting the Czar.
If George W. Bush made a similar joke—say, that a Hispanic ball player raped a 14-year-old daughter of Nancy Pelosi, what would the result be? Does this pass the Czar’s George Bush test? Most assuredly not: CNN would be in its 55th straight hour of coverage on this, and Letterman himself would reference it on his show, about how people cannot make something funny out of that. Still, nearly all the coverage on this has been heavily buried. Even on CBS’s own website, the only reference to it is the winking pseudo-clarification video under the title “The Best of Letterman.” Yikes. That’s his best? Guess it has been a while since he was funny.
Second, why make the original joke at all? Assuming we all bought into the idea that Letterman was referring to the absent Bristol, why is that any funnier? Because network television thinks Sarah Palin is funny, and that any horrific attack on her and her family is perfectly all right because—to call it for how they see it—any Republican woman is an idiot. The fact that she was more qualified to be President than Obama or H. Clinton combined (and possibly John McCain!) is too great a threat to liberal thinking to be considered. Remember, an intelligent woman who thinks for herself contradicts liberal notions about Republicans completely. Right, Condi? Therefore, she must be destroyed.
Certainly it wasn’t limited to Letterman: remember the SNL sketch that Todd Palin of incest? Thought not, for that outrage was hushed up as well.
The bottom line is this: Hollywood-oriented comedy (movies, television, cable, etc.) is still absolutely horrified with Sarah Palin and still maintains a merciless fatwa against her. She represents something ugly and alien to them, and they fear that she will be there in 2010 and 2012 to destroy their mindset. If that means humiliating her and terrorizing her family, that is exactly what they will do.