David Letterman took the highly unusual step Monday night of offering another on-air apology to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, apparently in hopes of quieting a surging storm of outrage over a monologue joke last week about one of the former vice presidential candidate's teenage daughters.
But in a sign the feud now entering its second week is far from over, groups supporting Palin declared Monday that Letterman's second apology did not go far enough, and they still plan to hold a protest rally today in front of the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York, where the "Late Show" tapes.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, June 17, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
David Letterman apology: An article in Tuesday's Calendar about David Letterman apologizing for a joke he told about Sarah Palin's daughter said that the late-night comedian had been criticized by the National Organization of Women. The group is the National Organization for Women.
Last week, Letterman spent about eight minutes on his program explaining, and eventually apologizing for, a joke that New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez impregnated Palin's daughter during a game. "One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game," quipped the late-night comedian last week. "During the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez."
During that first apology, Letterman said he intended the joke to be in reference to Palin's 18-year-old daughter, Bristol (Palin actually attended the game with her 14-year-old daughter, Willow). However, the response, in which Letterman repeated an earlier joke about the governor looking like a "slutty flight attendant," did little to satisfy critics.
Last Friday, Palin fired back at Letterman on NBC's "Today," accusing him of contributing to a culture that abuses younger women and lowers their self-esteem. The National Organization of Women, which disagrees with the Alaska governor on a number of social and political issues, inducted Letterman into its Media Hall of Shame because of his jokes about Palin and her daughter.
During Monday night's program, Letterman was contrite.
"I told a bad joke," Letterman told viewers at a Monday afternoon taping, referring to the Rodriguez joke. "I told a joke that was beyond flawed, and my intent is completely meaningless compared to the perception. And since it was a joke I told, I feel that I need to do the right thing here and apologize for having told that joke. It's not your fault that it was misunderstood, it's my fault."
He concluded, "I'm sorry about it and I'll try to do better in the future."
However, a Los Angeles talk radio host involved with the group Fire David Letterman told The Times that Letterman's apology falls short.
"I'm glad he's acknowledged we're right," said John Ziegler, who wrote, produced and directed the film "Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected and Palin Was Targeted" and who hosts a weekday show on KGIL-AM (1260). "I think it's a good first step in the right direction, but I don't think it's enough."
In some respects, the fracas comes at a propitious time for all parties involved. Letterman is locked in a ratings battle with Conan O'Brien, who just took over NBC's "Tonight Show." Palin is trying to galvanize conservative supporters and possibly gear up for a presidential bid in 2012. And Ziegler started his KGIL show just last week.
Ziegler said he was not sure what sanction Letterman should face, but that options should include suspension and firing. The host could also donate to a charity of the governor's choice, he said. A spokesperson for Palin could not be reached for comment.
CBS did not respond to a request for comment beyond Letterman's remarks.