Update: David Letterman issued another, more apologetic apology today. which prompted me to contact one of the organizers of the “Fire David Letterman” campaign, John Ziegler, to see if they still planned to carry out the event. I’m not sure if I got John’s subtle inference, you tell me: (via email)
Me:Are you still putting this on despite the apology? John Ziegler:Yes
Gotcha! Leno Told Statutory Rape Joke, Too!
There’s a new, inevitable twist in the David Letterman-Gate joke scandal. Alan Colmes notes that Dave’s late-night rival, Jay Leno, told his own underage Palin daughter sex joke during the campaign: (h/t HuffPo)
On September 2, during the presidentia campaingn, Jay Leno told this joke:
“Gov. Palin announced over the weekend that her 17-year-old unmarried daughter is five months pregnant. And you thought John Edwards was in trouble before! Now he has really done it.” — “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”
Both Colmes and HuffPo wonder if there’s some kind of double-standard being applied here. The answer to that is yes. And no. Or, “We’ll see.”
Let me start by saying that “double standard” arguments don’t impress me. Left or right, deal with your own dirt. Pointing the finger at what the other guy did just says that you need your opponent to set your own moral compass.
Now, as I’ve said before, hanging Letterman’s words on the left is a huge reach, as is hanging Leno’s on the right. That said, let’s examine the comparison anyway.
The jokes themselves are, indeed, similar. While the construction of Letterman’s joke was more crass, they both cross the same line. Although Letterman doesn’t cop to the mistake being his own fault, he clearly thought he was making a joke about Bristol, not Willow. In the details, each joke has its own distinct flavor of bile.
The answer is that it shouldn’t have, but here’s why it did. Leno’s joke came amid a hurricane of coverage of Sarah Palin and her family. There were lots of bigger fish in the frying pan, both substantive and not . This joke should have stood out, and If I had heard it, I would have been all over it.
So, the Leno joke slipped by. I guess we’ll see, now, if there’s a double-standard being applied, since Leno’s joke is now being placed in context with Letterman’s. Meghan McCain, in her excoriation of Letterman, had this to say of Leno:
During the election, one of the things I never got over being shocked by was the sexism the media held toward my mother and Sarah. I recently read an interview in GQ magazine with Jay Leno where he credited some of his success to never letting the public know where his politics lay. I have always respected that about Jay Leno. I have absolutely no idea how he feels about Sarah Palin or President Obama personally, and at the end of the day I don’t care. He was always respectful toward me and my family even in the jokes (and he has in the past directed some at me personally during his monologue).
Now that Leno’s joke has been brought to light, I wonder if it will change her opinion of Leno, or Letterman, for that matter. I’ve also often wondered what Meg said to her dad when she found out about his Chelsea Clinton joke, another item that’s been coming up lately.
It makes little difference to me. I don’t need “the right” to tell me Letterman was wrong, and the fact that Leno did pretty much the same thing doesn’t lessen the offense one bit. I also don’t need the Leno example to know that the reaction of some on the right is an overreach.
There’s also the matter of the left trying to deflect Letterman’s issue with old Chelsea Clinton jokes. Again, no sale, as this only serves to enhance the false notion that David Letterman is somehow representative of liberal political thought.
So, what happens to Letterman? Well, my friend John Ziegler is involved in an effort to have Dave fired. I don’t think that’s going to happen, nor do I think it should. John equates this to the Don Imus firing, and I agree that Letterman’s offense is at least as great. I just don’t think Imus should have been fired, either. I think firing, in both cases, shifts public attention away from the central issue and onto the firings.
A better move would be for Sarah Palin to accept Letterman’s invitation, on one condition. Sarah Palin appears on The Late Show as guest host, and Letterman takes the night off. Then, Palin can spend that hour however she wants, including trying to explain how the media ought to treat women. Hell, I would definitely watch that.
Speaking of Ziegler, as I was going through my old Palin articles, I found something I wrote on the very day that her nomination was announced that I think John would get a big kick out of:
(T)he Brian Williams’ and Katie Courics of the world will play a big part in how well this works. Let’s see which side of the bed they woke up on this morning.