You may have heard that David Letterman and the governor of Alaska are in a bit of a tiff over jokes he made in reference to her family — particularly jokes he directed at one of her daughters. After much back and forth, Letterman apologized for the second time last night — this time, without sarcasm. Personally, I don’t think that he should have. Sure, Letterman’s jokes were vaguely crude. Yes, they were televised and, you’re right, the jokes used Palin’s daughter Bristol (not Willow, despite what the Palins say) for laughs. But Bristol has made herself a public citizen, which was never more obvious than when she appeared on the cover of People, clutching Baby Tripp, clad in a cap and gown. There are two sides to being the dual poster child for teen pregnancy and abstinence — Bristol will be celebrated for her “choices” and she’ll be made fun of by late night comedians, perhaps in crude ways. This girl was old enough to have sex and have a baby — shouldn’t she be old enough to take the heat without mommy and daddy demanding an apology from the biggest mainstream comedian to tell a joke at her expense?
When David Letterman apologizes to a hyper “moral” high profile moron like Sarah Palin, it sets a precedent where other comedians will be expected to do the same every time they say something that offends someone. Which they do — often. What does this mean for comedians like Sarah Silverman, Denis Leary, or Dave Chapelle? What would it have meant for George Carlin, who made a brilliant career out of crude humor directed at famous people? It’s Sarah Palin’s right to demand an apology on behalf of herself and her family. But David Letterman wimped out by giving her one.