Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Letterman Stirs Up Controversy, Ratings Skyrocket

David Letterman consistently came in second to "The Tonight Show" when Jay Leno was the host. Conan O'Brien, who started out with high ratings, has seen the "The Tonight Show" lose ground nightly since his debut a few weeks ago. Last night Letterman passed up O'Brien in the ratings, and he can thank Sarah Palin. Letterman and his "Late Show" writers have had a field day with the Alaskan governor ever since she burst onto the national scene last August as John McCain's running mate. On the show Monday night, Letterman referred to Palin's trip to New York last week when he joked in his monologue that during the seventh inning of a Yankees game "her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez." Then, in his "Top 10" segment, he joked that she "bought makeup at Bloomingdale's to update her slutty flight attendant look." On a radio interview Tuesday, she said Letterman's comments were "pretty pathetic." But Letterman wasn't done. He joked in his opening monologue Tuesday night about Palin's visit to Yankee Stadium, when she sat next to Rudy Guiliani: "They had a wonderful time. The toughest part of her visit was keeping Eliot Spitzer away from her daughter." The reference to the disgraced New York governor who was caught with a prostitute didn't go over well with the Palin family and many conservative pundits and radio and TV personalities. Palin released a statement: "I doubt he'd ever dare make such comments about anyone else's daughter." Letterman didn't say which daughter he was referring to, but since her 14-year-old daughter Willow was travelling with her, Palin's husband Todd referred to Willow, calling the jokes about his daughter "perverted" and "disgusting". As to the joke about Palin being "slutty," conservatives are saying it's demeaning to women in general and Sarah Palin in particular. Letterman has also gotten the attention of flight attendants, who are infuriated over the less-than-glamorous name. Letterman continues to let the media spin out of control without making any public comments about the subject, other than continuing his nightly monologues where evidently no joke is off limits. To be fair, Letterman will make offensive jokes about just about anyone, if given the chance. And Sarah Palin has given him a lot of material since her meteoric rise to celebrity status. This time though, Letterman may have crossed the line. But his ratings are way up, and that's the most important thing for Letterman and CBS, the network that carries his show. Look for more controversy from Letterman. After all, he's got the #1 show. Conan O'Brien's writers are now working overtime to counter Letterman's resurgence.


  1. I always liked David Letterman, but in this case he crossed the line. It's sad that the public loves this kind of controversy. I guess in the long run, Letterman wins in a situation like this. It's all about the ratings.

  2. I was never a big fan of Letterman. I find Jay Leno funnier, although I'm not too thrilled Leno is taking up five hours of primetime and knocking my favorite shows off the schedule. I know you've mentioned this in your column, and I totally agree. Leno should stay away from primetime and leave it for scripted shows. I mean, besides Law and Order, there's no room for anything else. Back to the Letterman situation, I think he may have crossed the line, but at midnight he should be given a little extra leeway. And Sarah Palin is a public figure, as is her daughter Bristol, who is famous for getting pregnant. Hopefully the media attention will die down and we can go back to real news.