After a semi-apology last week for a joke about one of Sarah Palin's daughters, David Letterman offered an unequivocal sorry during Monday's Late Show monologue "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 joked last week that Palin's daughter was "knocked up" by Alex Rodriguez during a Yankees game. Though he didn't specify which daughter, he said he meant 18-year-old Bristol Palin. The family, however, said the joke targeted 14-year-old Willow, who attended the game with her mother.
Letterman made the full apology Monday after a group called "Fire David Letterman" demanded his removal and Embassy Suites pulled ads from CBS' website over the joke. He said the joke had been misinterpreted, but that it was his fault.
Palin said in a statement that she accepted the apology "on behalf of all young women, like my daughters, who hope men who 'joke' about public displays of sexual exploitation of girls will soon evolve."
The apology wasn't enough to prevent a small protest outside Letterman's studio Tuesday. The protest, organized by the group "Fire David Letterman," included fewer than 30 people, according to a police officer monitoring the scene. A smaller group of Letterman supporters also turned out, as well as a lone person protesting Alex Rodriguez — apparently in jest.
Letterman's apology Monday, as provided by CBS:
"All right, here — I've been thinking about this situation with Governor Palin and her family now for about a week — it was a week ago tonight, and maybe you know about it, maybe you don't know about it. But there was a joke that I told, and I thought I was telling it about the older daughter being at Yankee Stadium. And it was kind of a coarse joke. There's no getting around it, but I never thought it was anybody other than the older daughter, and before the show, I checked to make sure in fact that she is of legal age, 18. Yeah. But the joke really, in and of itself, can't be defended. The next day, people are outraged. They're angry at me because they said, 'How could you make a lousy joke like that about the 14-year-old girl who was at the ball game?' And I had, honestly, no idea that the 14-year-old girl, I had no idea that anybody was at the ball game except the Governor and I was told at the time she was there with Rudy Giuliani...And I really should have made the joke about Rudy..." (audience applauds)
"But I didn't, and now people are getting angry and they're saying, 'Well, how can you say something like that about a 14-year-old girl, and does that make you feel good to make those horrible jokes about a kid who's completely innocent, minding her own business,' and, turns out, she was at the ball game. I had no idea she was there. So she's now at the ball game and people think that I made the joke about her. And, but still, I'm wondering, 'Well, what can I do to help people understand that I would never make a joke like this?' I've never made jokes like this as long as we've been on the air, 30 long years, and you can't really be doing jokes like that. And I understand, of course, why people are upset. I would be upset myself.
"And then I was watching the Jim Lehrer Newshour — this commentator, the columnist Mark Shields, was talking about how I had made this indefensible joke about the 14-year-old girl, and I thought, 'Oh, boy, now I'm beginning to understand what the problem is here. It's the perception rather than the intent.' It doesn't make any difference what my intent was, it's the perception. And, as they say about jokes, if you have to explain the joke, it's not a very good joke. And I'm certainly — " (Audience applause.) "— thank you. Well, my responsibility — I take full blame for that. 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." (Audience applauds.) "Thank you. 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. I'm sorry about it and I'll try to do better in the future. Thank you very much." (audience applause)
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