Palin Ignored Worse Jokes Than Letterman’s
Via Twitter, Jeff Jarvis links this interesting bit from WaPo’s Paul Farhi:
So, the strange case of Palin v. Letterman appears to be resolved with Letterman’s very classy apology last night. I say “appears” because, based on my email, some people just won’t let it go. They insist, despite TWO on-air explanations, that Letterman really, really was aiming his crack at 14-year-old Willow Palin, not 18-year-old single mom Bristol Palin. I won’t defend the joke–even Letterman concedes it’s not defensible–but I got news for some of you: The joke makes no sense in reference to Willow. But I guess vendettas and political ax grinding know no logic, or even facts.
I do find this whole episode curious, primarily because of its timing. As I wrote in today’s paper (hey, I like quoting myself; at least I won’t be accused of a misquote), variations of this sort of “joke” have been around since Palin came to national prominence last summer at the Republican Convention. Yet dozens of both milder and harsher iterations (Saturday Night Live’s insinuation that Todd Palin raped his daughter is especially outrageous and revolting) were ignored by Palin, the Republican Party and the outraged types who are now venting in my email box. Sarah Palin even made a now-famous appearance on “SNL” just a few weeks after that skit aired. So what’s different this time?
An interesting question, indeed. A week ago, I wrote a post titled Letterman Palin Jokes Cross the Line, both excoriating Letterman for his remarks but defending him from the ridiculous charge that he was some sort of pervert who liked to joke about 14-year-olds. Since then, Letterman first explained his remarks and subsequently apologized for them profusely. And rightly so.
But I have a hard time believing Palin was legitimately confused days later about the target of the joke and, in light of the previous jokes told about Bristol’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy, particularly outraged at this one. Instead, she took advantage of the initial media brouhaha over the Willow/Bristol confusion and made a big spectacle, hoping to both remove the Bristol mess out of the realm of legitimate ridicule and reframe herself as an aggrieved party rather than a rather cartoonish figure.
We’ll see how she does. My guess is that the Letterman experience will in fact remove the Bristol jokes from the late-night comedy circuit, which is just as well. As for Sarah Palin’s own rebranding, she’s going to have to do that on the public policy front, not by garnering sympathy as an aggrieved mother.