When Obama was elected president, I assumed that it would be another 3 or 4 years before Palin would be back in the spotlight and up to her crazy antics. Fortunately, people like her just have a way of getting attention, and this week, she proved that to be the case by being involved in a controversy involving David Letterman. The controversy is based on several jokes told by Letterman on his T.V. show. One joke was made during one of Letterman's Top 10 lists, in which he said that while in New York, Palin bought makeup to "update her 'slutty flight attendant' look." As you'll see in a video clip later in this post, Palin took the joke with good humor and didn't make a big deal about it. However, Letterman offended her with another joke about the Palins' visit to New York. This time, he said that "The toughest part of her visit was keeping Eliot Spitzer away from her daughter." Personally, I don't see why this would be offensive to Palin since the butt of the joke is clearly Spitzer. Furthermore, the joke does not at any point suggest that in the hypothetical scenario, Palin's daughter was actually engaged in sexual activities, nor did it suggest that she invited such behavior. In other words, it's calling the former governor, and not Palin's daughter, a pervert. The last joke , which got the most attention was about Palin's daughter getting "knocked up" by Alex Rodriguez during a Yankees game.
Letterman responded by pseudo-apologizing, claiming that joking about statutory rape is inappropriate, but that he did not do so:
Several groups, including NOW and the Palins themselves, have condemned the joke on the grounds that it targeted someone who is "off-limits," and that it made light of rape. So, did the joke cross the line? In my opinion, the answer is that the joke did neither of those things, so, while it's not exactly tame, it's not overly disrespectful. The reasons for this view were best expressed by another blogger by the name of Jason Zengerle, who said:
"...is it really so hard to believe that the joke Letterman was making about a Palin daughter getting 'knocked up' was about the Palin daughter who, you know, got knocked up? And when you consider that said daughter has decided to make herself a poster- (and cover-) girl for teen abstinence, then, by stepping into the media spotlight, she's exposed herself to the jokes (funny or not) of late night comics."There's really no way to say it any clearer. The joke about a Palin daughter getting "knocked up" by a baseball player (who has been involved in his own sex scandals) was funny because it inferred "mechanical inelasticity" on the part of Bristol Palin. ("Mechanical inelasticity" is a term that refers to a humorous scenario in which someone repeats his or her normal behavior even though that behavior isn't well-suited to the current situation.) The joke would not make any sense in reference to any of Palin's other children since none of them have ever been "knocked up." Therefore, the joke had to have been a reference to Bristol. (Some people have contended that the fact that Willow was the daughter who actually attended the baseball game suggests that she was the unnamed daughter referred to in the joke. However, this is a weak argument since the whole joke is based on hypotheticals. The idea that Bristol was at the ballpark is just as accurate as the idea that either daughter had sex with A-Rod.)
As for the complaints that the joke made light of rape, that does not appear to be the case. The term "knocked up" refers purely to an unintended pregancy. It does not have a connotation suggesting that the pregnancy is from non-consensual sex. Therefore, considering my previous argument that 18-year-old Bristol was the target of the joke, there is nothing implying rape.
But despite what I think, plenty of people were took offence, including Palin herself:
As you can see, Palin articulated her concerns pretty clearly, showing genuine concern for her daughter and disgust for those who joke about statutory rape... until about 3:30 into the clip, at which point she nearly laughed at a joke she made about Letterman raping Willow.
Stay classy, Governor Palin.