Sarah Palin is attacking David Letterman for daring to make a joke involving her daughter. But it turns out Letterman’s hardly the first late night comic to use Palin progeny as a punchline.
Last September, just days after Palin burst on to the national scene, then-"Tonight Show" host Jay Leno cracked a joke that implied Bristol Palin’s baby daddy was actually a famous politician.
"Gov. Palin announced over the weekend that her 17-year-old unmarried daughter is five months pregnant," Leno joked on the Sept. 2, 2008 edition of "Tonight," according to an ABC News report from the time. "And you thought John Edwards was in trouble before! Now he has really done it."
CBS’s Craig Ferguson also linked the young Palin to Edwards.
"I don’t think that a young lady getting pregnant should even be news, unless John Edwards is the father," Ferguson quipped, according to ABC. "Then that is kinda news."
Emmy-winning comic Kathy Griffin also jumped on the joke bandwagon last fall, taking several pointed jabs at the Palin family.
"Sarah Palin talks about creationism. Well there’s a lot of creationism going on in Bristol’s tummy," Griffin said. "She makes the Bush twins look like nuns. It was shocking when they were running around with beer in their hands. But she’s made it trendy to be a pregnant teenager. I hope she has a really nice trailer park in Alaska."
The Palins, of course, began their war on Letterman by trying to make it seem as if Letterman were attacking their 14-year-old daughter. But even after Letterman explained he was referring to Bristol Palin– who is now 18 and has made numerous media appearances on behalf of her mom– the Palins have continued their rhetorical combat against Letterman.
James Hibberd has an excellent mini- rant on the matter over at The Live Feed. I concur with his point, which is that Sarah Palin purposely tries to turn different segments of American society against each other.
But I’d also like to add a complaint against Todd Palin’s decision to denounce Letterman publicly and to inject the word "rape" into the discussion.
Letterman’s jokes never came close to implying any sort of rape, and for Todd Palin to introduce the idea of his 14-year-old being raped into the public debate is just plain wrong. Moreover, if Todd Palin really did think Letterman was joking about the rape of his 14-year-old, why didn’t he pick up the phone and demand to speak to Letterman directly in order to defend his daughter’s honor?
Oh, wait, that’s right: You don’t score political points or rally the base if you keep truly private matters private.
One last thought: The Palin camp is making a big mistake trying to convince the public that Letterman is part of their newly created Hollywood-New York cabal of evil. Letterman is a midwest man who has always avoided the limelight. He made a star out of his own mom. He still visits his alma mater, Ball State.
In other words, Letterman is no showbiz sleazoid.
Nor, by the way, is he known for left-wing politics. Yes, he stepped up his attacks on President Bush during the last few years of his term in office. But that was just Dave reflecting the national mood of anger toward Bush.
There’s also something just plain sick about the latest line of attack on Letterman, introduced Saturday night by (who else?) Ann Coulter on (where else?) Fox News. She threw out the "bombshell" that Letterman fathered his son out of wedlock, implying… well, I’m not sure what Coulter was implying. She just wanted to say something snarky and mean about Letterman, I suppose.
In the end, though, I suspect that trying to demonize and politicize David Letterman will end up backfiring on Palin and her backers. At least, I hope it does– because, if it works, we all have a lot to be very scared about.