The Situation Room: A Palin/Letterman Album Of Outrage

The shitshow continues! The Good Governor is now expressing her outrage over Dave's lousy jokes to CNN. (NOW's got in on the action too.) After the jump, an (occasionally) updated roundup... because we don't have the energy for anything else.


The National Organization For Women:

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.

The Plum Line's Greg Sargent:

You're kidding yourself if you don't think Sarah Palin is absolutely thrilled to be in a big fight with David Letterman over degrading things he said about her and her daughter.

She's back in her old element. She's practicing the politics that launched her national career - the politics of grievance and resentment. She's an Everymom fighting back against smug coastal elites on behalf of people - and values - supposedly disdained by those elites.

The Awl's Alex Balk:

You could actually make a case that it represents the kind of prudery and disgust with the idea of sexuality of which liberals are always confusing conservatives of being afflicted. Unfortunately, Sarah Palin had to go on the "Today Show" this morning and discuss it, and now I'm like, you know what? Screw everybody. The idea that this woman-the logical conclusion of the forty years of anti-intellectual boob bait Republican strategists have been throwing at the public with phenomenally successful results-is somehow the defender of teen girls and their self-image is more insulting than any joke Letterman could have told.


Margaret Carlson in The Daily Beast:

Palin appears to be squandering her left over fame from the campaign on staying famous, settling scores, making headlines over petty concerns, securing the cover of People magazine for Bristol. She could have been the keynoter at the Republicans biggest fundraiser of the year on Monday night but instead played a coy, will-she-or-won't-she game for weeks.

So in the end, Palin spent a week when she could have given a substantive speech, layout a political philosophy, or choosing the issues she wants to run on, deliberately misinterpreting a bad joke, in the process dragging yet another child into the celebrity scrum.

And by the way, isn't making a federal case out of a tasteless joke exactly what the right-wing loves to ridicule feminists for doing?


TIME's James Poniewozik:

We've discussed the original Letterman jokes, which I agreed were scuzzy, in a couple earlier threads, and by all means have at them again if you like. But let's not pretend this is about the jokes anymore. Once you have expressed your outrage at remarks about you and your family, then done it again, then gone on the number-one morning show in the country to re-express it-it's no longer about the outrage.
Or rather, it's no longer about your outrage. (Nor, sorry, is it about the gas pipeline that provided the fig leaf for the coverage.) What it is, is another of those carefully maintained outrage-a-thons that were so delightful throughout the 2008 campaign. What it is-with the references to the "Hollywood / New York" mentality and the media not getting "our" values-is about positioning Palin for 2012 as the Agnew-esque candidate of cultural resentment against the media, Hollywood and "elites," with a 21st-century twist of identity politics.


Palin on CNN:

"This insinuation that it's ok, that it's acceptable to talk like that and then that it's acceptable for the media to not provide the American public, the listeners, the readers the full context of that joke ... sad commentary on what Americans are fed in terms of full news."


Salon's Kate Harding:

There is no reason on earth to assume Letterman's lying about that — Bristol, not Willow, has spent the last year being the poster child for teen pregnancy — so naturally, that's exactly what Palin assumes. She called Matt Lauer "extremely naive" for taking Letterman's explanation of his genuine mistake (as opposed to his jerky behavior, which is a separate issue) at face value. Both she and her husband, Todd, have been framing this as a joke that makes light of statutory rape, as opposed to the mean-spirited, sexist, wholly inappropriate joke about an 18-year-old it actually was. Todd said in a statement yesterday, "Regardless of which Palin daughter it was, Bristol, Willow or Piper, these sexually-perverted comments are outside the acceptance of mainstream America." Dude, what? Did you really just drag little Piper into this, too?

Therein lies the problem with trying to defend Sarah Palin from a feminist perspective. She and her daughters do not deserve sexist attacks any more than Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem or your mom do, and she's absolutely right that what Letterman said was out of line and indefensible. She's absolutely right that jokes like that contribute to an oppressive culture for women and young girls. But on this rare occasion when she's absolutely right about a couple of things, she can't just stop there. She has to blow straight past reasonable outrage and into disingenuous, over-the-top accusations.


The NY Times' Ginia Bellafante:

But what seems to be the real issue here is the continued lame reliance among late-night talks show hosts on stupid political sex jokes. Are they ever funny? Ever? As the all-new host of the ostensibly revived "Tonight Show," Conan O'Brien is still making jokes about Bill Clinton's appetites. Maybe next week he'll resurrect Larry Craig. Just as tired as Mr. Letterman's Palin bits this week were his jokes about Eliot Spitzer's birthday: his piñata, he said was full of "whores." It's the summer of 2009 and Letterman is still talking about Elliot Spitzer. It's not a cause for outrage, just for turning off the television and going to bed.


We'll keep updating this post as others come in. (We're still expecting Carrie Prejean to chime in.)

Palin Can't Outsmart Letterman [The Daily Beast]
Palin's Daughter [NOW]
Quotes From Palin's Interview With Wolf Blitzer [Time]
Sarah Palin Will Defend, Exploit, Teen Girls' Honor And Self Esteem [The Awl]
The Sarah and Dave Show: The Outrage-a-Thon Continues [Time]
Sarah Palin's Politics Of Grievance Are Back! [The Plum Line]
Letterman And Palin: Both Jerks! [Salon]
The Palin-Letterman Feud [NY Times]



She isn't reacting appropriately to being called a slut in public?

Does she seem to vehement? Is she too angry?

Look, I really hate this woman and her politics, but the way this dialouge is playing out isn't doing any of us any favors. It's not ok to dismiss women as "slutty." It's not. It's not. It's not.

And the one who has been so dismissed does not need to meet certain public expectations in order to deserve sympathy. This is really horrible.