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Video: Palin: Letterman 'crossed the line'

TODAY contributor
updated 6/12/2009 9:01:09 AM ET 2009-06-12T13:01:09

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said Friday that “Late Night” host David Letterman “crossed the line” when he joked about her daughters.

“I would like to see him apologize to young women across the country” for contributing to a culture “that says it’s OK to talk about statutory rape,” Palin told Matt Lauer on TODAY. “It's not cool; it's not funny.”

During his opening monologue on CBS’ “Late Night” Monday, Letterman poked fun at Palin’s visit with her family to a New York Yankees game this past weekend. “There was one awkward moment during the seventh inning stretch,” Letterman said. “Her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.”

Letterman also said the hardest part about the Palins’ trip to New York was “keeping [former New York Gov.] Eliot Spitzer away from her daughter.”

“I don't find it humorous,” Palin said Friday. Speaking by satellite from Texas, where she’s championing a $26 billion natural gas energy pipeline for her home state, Palin criticized “acceptance of a celebrity being able to get away with a disparaging comment that does erode a young girl’s self-esteem and does contribute to some of the problems we have in society.”

‘From the heart’
Letterman did give an apology of sorts later in the week when it became clear that it was Palin’s younger daughter, Willow, 14, who had come to town — not Willow’s older sister, Bristol, who has broken up with the father of her infant son. But Palin declined Letterman’s offer to appear on his show, saying “it would be wise to keep Willow away from” him.

On TODAY Friday, Lauer asked the governor if she had been implying that Willow would not be safe around the late-night comedian. “Take it however you want to take it,” Palin replied. “It was a comment that came from the heart.”

“Hey, it's not in bad taste,” the governor added. “Maybe he couldn’t be trusted because Willow has had enough of these kinds of antics, and maybe she would want to react in a way that would take him off guard.”

Video: Palin: Letterman’s jokes ‘perverted’ Palin told Lauer that she first heard about Letterman’s jokes while being interviewed on a radio show Tuesday — including one that alleged that the governor was in New York to pick up some “slutty flight attendant” lipstick.

“My first opinion was, ‘Don't disparage flight attendants,’ ” Palin told Lauer. “They work hard. We love ’em.” Only after that, she said, did she learn there was a joke “about statutory rape about my daughter, Willow.”

‘Sad commentary’
On Friday Palin said that the attitude displayed in Letterman’s routine “does contribute to some acceptance of abuse of young women.” She called it “a sad commentary on where we are as a culture, as a society, to chuckle and laugh through [such] comments.”

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As for Letterman’s excuse that he didn’t realize Willow was at the game and not Bristol, “You and anybody else are extremely naive to believe their convenient excuse,” she told Lauer. “It took him a couple of days to think of that excuse. Regardless, it was a degrading comment about a young woman.

“During the campaign, Gov. Obama said family is off limits,” Palin told Lauer. “The ‘candidate who must be obeyed’ adhered to that,” she said. “But they haven't done that on the other side of the ticket. So that's a political double standard.”

On Wednesday night’s “Late Night,” Letterman addressed the brouhaha for nearly 8 minutes. “We were, as we often do, making jokes about people in the news and we made some jokes about Sarah Palin and her daughter, the 18-year-old girl, who is — her name is Bristol, that’s right, and so, then, now they’re upset with me,” the comedian said then. “These are not jokes made about her 14-year-old daughter. I would never, never make jokes about raping or having sex of any description with a 14-year-old girl,” he said, looking directly into the camera. “I mean, look at my record. It has never happened. I don’t think it’s funny. I would never think it was funny. I wouldn’t put it in a joke.

“I’m not necessarily proud of these jokes,” he said. But, he added, “We do stuff all the time and our objective here is to get a laugh, and thank God we don’t have to go to The Hague and the World Court to defend them. It’s a joke and that’s all it’s supposed to be. Am I guilty of poor taste? Yes. Did I suggest that it was OK for her 14-year-old daughter to be having promiscuous sex? No.

Slideshow: Sarah Palin: Her life in pictures “Governor Palin, if you’re watching, I would like you to consider coming to New York City, you and Todd as my guests — or leave Todd at home,” Letterman concluded, to laughter. “I’d love to have you on the show. It’d be exciting.”

Thanks but no thanks
A posting on Palin’s Facebook page followed: “The Palins have no intention of providing a ratings boost for David Letterman by appearing on his show. Plus, it would be wise to keep Willow away from David Letterman.”

During her TODAY appearance, Palin also defended a prospective 1,700-mile natural gas pipeline that, if approved, would connect Alaska to Canada and then the contiguous U.S., calling opponents to the plan “absolutely shortsighted.”

Americans need the gas “to continue to heat our homes, run our businesses” ourselves rather than “rely on foreign source of energy controlled in some cases by regimes that are volatile, dangerous, don’t like America,” she said.

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