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Bristol Palin: Hypocrite or Courageous Young Woman?

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The fallout over David Letterman’s tasteless joke about Gov. Sarah Palin's daughter has spun out of control ever since it hit the airwaves on June 8, 2009. "One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game," Letterman said, "during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez."

In the midst of the chatter, reactions by the Palin family, and finally an apology by Letterman on the Late Show June 15th, the furor escalated to the point where protesters gathered across the street from New York’s Ed Sullivan Theater on June 16th, holding signs that read “Dirty Ole Man” or “We are ALL the Palins,” and wanted CBS to penalize, suspend, or fire Letterman. I’m still waiting for Janeane Garofalo to claim that this protest was about racism and the protesters are all “racists”!

I must say that this particular news story was over-inflated by many, including the media, and I feel that Letterman’s final apology is sincere, I don’t think he should be fired, it’s time to change the channel on this one! However, I do believe this opens up a bigger issue: the children of politicians should be off limits when it comes to crude jokes and satire.

That being said, no gossip story is complete until The View, starring Barbara Walters, Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Whoopi Goldberg, and Sherri Shepherd, puts its two cents in the pile.

The View, the value of which I don’t see, but which I happened to catch on the news, started off pretty fair and reasonable, with a very accurate reaction to Letterman's joke by Barbara Walters, “There is something about talking about anybody's child, I mean, however you feel about Sarah Palin, she is — and the family, they are a devoted family. You can say anything you want about me. We — I’ll say this: don't talk about my child. And that is something that I guess even humorists have to understand.”

But it quickly digressed, with Behar continually clawing at the Palins and Bristol, complaining, “no, it's the hypocrisy” and “they preach abstinence then she gets knocked up, that’s the joke.”

Although Hasselbeck and Shepherd tried to set Behar straight, she didn’t get it. Give that woman a dictionary! Hypocrisy is the false claim to, or pretense of, having admirable principles, beliefs, or feelings.

First, when Bristol Palin got pregnant she was not publicly preaching abstinence, she was trying to follow her family values and some sense of morality. Second, it is not hypocrisy when you are a parent teaching values to your kids and they happen to break the rules. It’s no different than if you teach your kids to say “no” to drugs and they try them anyway, does that make you and your family hypocrites? NO, but it would be hypocritical to tell your kids not to do drugs while you are sitting there toking on a bong! I wonder what Behar would have to say if Michael Phelps starting doing ads against drug use? Probably nothing!

Bristol Palin is not claiming high morality; she is accepting responsibility for her mistake, with the hopes that other teens won’t make the same one! Is that hypocrisy? I think not. There is nothing false in a scenario about a young girl who made a misstep (a big one at that) by not following her family’s belief that abstinence is the best means to prevent pregnancy (and other obvious problems), wanting to make it right, and trying to educate others on the consequences that stem from teen pregnancy.

MSNBC reported in May of 2009 that "Bristol Palin said that she feels she could be a living example of the consequences of teen pregnancy,” and was quoted as saying, “if I can prevent even one girl from getting pregnant, I will feel a sense of accomplishment.”

Anyone who has any sense would know that teen pregnancies create hardship on our society, on the teenagers involved, and more significantly, on the unborn child, who often ends up aborted, or raised fatherless and in poverty.

Statistics on teen pregnancy are staggering, and the economic impact of teen pregnancy is enormous. The federal government alone spends some $40 billion a year helping families that began with a teenage birth. The human cost is immeasurable, starting with the fact that 30 percent of the teen pregnancies will be terminated by an abortion. The father abandons the pregnant girl 90 percent of the time and pays, on average, less than $800 annually in child support. Poverty is inevitable for an unmarried teenage mother; more than 75% are on welfare within five years of the birth of their first child.

What happens to the pregnant teen is also depressing because only one in four will ever complete high school. Lastly, the future of children born to teenagers is dim; 50% are more likely to repeat a grade in school, have lower standardized test scores, and have higher odds of dropping out of high school than those born to older women. The sons of teenage mothers are 13% more likely to end up in prison, while the daughters of teen mothers are 22% more likely to become teen mothers themselves.

Bristol Palin is one of lucky ones, because she has a family who loves and supports her and her baby. However, she knows first hand that her young life has been altered forever with one of the biggest responsibilities in life–raising a child!

So then, is Bristol Palin a hypocrite or a just a repentant sinner who has learned (and turned) from her error? A hypocrite is one who gives the false appearance of having admirable principles, beliefs, or feelings. Bristol Palin is not giving any false appearance of her morality when it comes to teen pregnancy, she’s merely addressing (both publicly and privately) her mistake and hoping others may learn from it, which is much more courageous!

Some of the most convincing and effective advocates come from those who have a personal attachment based on experience, especially those who have made errors in judgment and have to pay the consequences.

While comedy has its place and is actually a good thing, I am just perplexed by comedians who cross the line, especially in such mean-spirited and judgmental ways, like Behar (and Letterman) have done with Bristol Palin. Frankly, I am sick and tired of comedians who can't control their tongues, lack etiquette and in many cases intellect! Comic satire is one thing, but nowadays many comedians use their platform to demoralize or demonize people they don’t like (without even knowing them), by using crude satire and smut, as well hyperbole and propaganda.

Free speech is one of our greatest freedoms as Americans and separates us from many other countries, but we fail to use it wisely. Words are meant to communicate, educate, inform and inspire, as well as to criticize and amuse. Maybe our beloved comedians just don’t realize that words are very powerful, they can either tear people down or build them up — even when they are packaged in the form of a joke!

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About Christine Lakatos

  • zingzing

    letterman was just doing what letterman does. and palin was just doing what palin does. if palin didn’t realize she would be a boon to letterman, then she’s just plain dumb. but, if she did realize it, and also realized that it would mean a boost for her, then she’s not dumb, she’s just evil.

    so, evil or plain dumb? which is it…

  • Clavos

    understanding that what the Palin’s do is politics…

    No. The Palins don’t “do” politics, the Governor “does” politics; her children and grandchildren do not.

    By your standard, it would be OK for anti-Obama comedians to mock and belittle Sasha and Malia as well.

    I don’t think so — they don’t “do” politics either.

  • Zedd


    Let’s all simply acknowledge that we don’t know where this young lady is spiritually or philosophically. We don’t know why she has chosen to go the route that she has. What we can do is accept or reject her message. We don’t know her OR her family really. What we do know is that her family is in the business of politics. We do know for sure is that they do PR. Whether she is repentant or not, good or ill intentioned is a silly point to discuss or advocate.

    On the point of hypocrisy….
    I believe what smacks of hypocrisy is the party itself. All of the principles that this party has been lauding and in many cases screaming at the us about, they have broken significantly. They have sneered, snickered and jeered and others who have been stating for decades that everyone makes mistakes -we owe compassion to our fellowmen. They have responded with labels, high school taunts and attempts to infuse policy which punishes those who don’t meet their standards. They have belittled compassion and have distorted the notion of “personal responsibility” to be a pass for enacting all manner of bullying for those in our species who error. When solutions where being considered to understand, then circumvent some of our society’s ills, they turned to the labels (hippie, bleeding hearts, ivory tower xy or z, etc.) to deter our evolution, growth and understanding (and god forbid, compassion).

    While Behar may have attached the label to Palin’s daughter, understanding that what the Palin’s do is politics, it may have seemed to her that turning the sort of thing that the Palin’s “Christ immersed” party has been irresponsibly jeering at the nation about for decades into an opp or career save for mom, is hypocritical.

  • Cindy, thanks for your analysis!

  • It looked to me in the video like Bristol was in charge of her own interview set up w/o mom. I get the sense that this is about her making her own decisions. It’s just my impression of the interview.

  • When I was growing up (some say I haven’t yet)…

    Thank heavens. (or whatever)

  • Clavos


    My! All the things I miss from NOT watching American television!

    Me too Ruvy. I have to come to BC to find out what is going on on TV.

    When I was growing up (some say I haven’t yet), my parents, both avid readers, refused to even have a TV in the house. I didn’t acquire my first set until I was 30, and I still rarely turn it on, especially since the explosion of far more interesting “programming” on the web.

  • My! All the things I miss from NOT watching American television!

    Me too Ruvy. I have to come to BC to find out what is going on on TV.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Ha ha, we have more than two parties in Canada!

  • Thanks for that, Jordan. I am glad we have two parties; its what makes us a democracy (not an autocratic form of government) and IMO, keeps us balanced.

    This reminds me of a great movie “The Great Debaters”, starring Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Christine, before I forget let me say that I really do enjoy reading what you have to say and discussing this with you. I know I’m far from the picture of rational or intelligent here and I appreciate you keeping your cool with me.


  • Oh My Gosh, Jordan, we finally agree 100% on something!
    “Tim Russert, though, was the epitome of class.”! He was terrific!

  • Jordan Richardson

    I just have a problem when anyone (even comedians) label someone as a racist and hypocrite when it’s not true. And I don’t find it funny.

    Agreed. I think that’s a totally different issue, though.

    However, I disagree with your opinions on Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly, but I will pay closer attention in order to point out their blatant attacks that are unjustified.

    Well, they aren’t really opinions. I mean, Glenn Beck is the guy that called Nick Berg (the father of the young man who was beheaded by terrorists) “despicable.” And he talked about choking Michael Moore to death. He called Cindy Sheehan a “tragedy slut.” Don’t forget, Beck was the guy that asked Keith Ellison to prove that he wasn’t “with the enemy.” He called Gloria Steinem a “self-centered self-righteous socialist out of control dangerous man-hating bitch” and told her to shut her mouth. And he was the dude that compared Obama’s recent overturning of the stem cell research ban to eugenics and the Final Solution.

    That’s just scratching the surface on that guy.

    I could go on about the rest (ugh, Nancy Grace? Chris Matthews? Really?) but I think you get the picture. I think they’re all crazy, quite frankly, and wouldn’t bother giving any of them the time of day. I can handle a little WTF? Moment and a tongue-in-cheek “Worst Persons in the World” complete with Olbermann’s impersonations. I’m not sure I can handle O’Reilly telling every other guest to “shut up” and wanting their microphones cut.

    Tim Russert, though, was the epitome of class. Totally miss him too.

  • Jordan, thanks for your candor and keeping me on my toes!

    I just have a problem when anyone (even comedians) label someone as a racist and hypocrite when it’s not true. And I don’t find it funny.

    I have to admit that ever since Colmbs left the show, Sean Hannity comes across as a “nagging wife”, and I have a real problem with that. I really don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh and what I have heard I find uncomfortable. However, I disagree with your opinions on Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly, but I will pay closer attention in order to point out their blatant attacks that are unjustified.

    FYI I do watch and like CNN (Anderson Cooper), Nancy Grace, Chris Matthews, Joe Scarborough and Lestor Holt (are they still on?), Brian Williams! One of my favorites was Tim Russert, Meet the Press (wish he was till around).

    Sorry you feel queasy. I have a really good diet book that I wrote that may help!

  • Jordan Richardson

    Plus I would read and re-read those articles to ensure I grasps their message without taking it too personal.

    I’m not all that interested in doing a complete work-up on this, Christine. All I’m saying is that you appear to have greater tolerance towards obscenity and lack of etiquette when it comes to those whose political opinions you agree with. You could probably write one of these articles a day on Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and so forth if you were interested in keeping it balanced. But you watch Beck and Co. and even cite what you’ve “learned” from watching those programs, despite all of the absolutely vile things they say on a continual basis. And I’m not talking about their politics at all.

    I did take note and answered your criticism regarding networks; their bias and behavior and if I remember correctly, I admitted that MSNBC is not the only one.

    You told me that Olbermann didn’t “promote love,” actually, and went on to say that the left and right have competing opinion shows. While I agree, I couldn’t help but notice that you utilized the majority of your reply to once again attack Olbermann’s commentary show while asking “where’s the news?” You continue to watch Beck and those other programs on FOX, however, and only “veer over” to the other networks.

    Let me get at what I’m really trying to say, though. I think you’re caught in a sort of web of biased news coverage and, while you admirably ask “where’s the news?” in other posts and the like, you also do little to contribute to it. Here we are discussing Bristol Palin, Letterman, and The View of all things! Where’s the news, indeed…

    Comedy is all about labeling people, quite frankly. It’s not about being polite or about having etiquette or about being respectful. Joy Behar is, like it or not, a comic primarily. She is not a political commentator, although she has political opinions. When she says “they preach abstinence then she gets knocked up, that’s the joke,” she’s entirely correct in the context of what she does. That is the joke.

    As far as I’m concerned, I’d rather not have my entertainers, musicians, and comedians apologizing for doing what they’re supposed to do. I’d rather not pretend that what Joy Behar says on The View matters beyond that context and I’d rather not think that the Palins would utilize publicity and scorn to help motivate other whackjobs into protesting and wanting a guy who’s a late night legend fired for a single joke akin to other jokes he’s made thousands of times before. The crowd laughed and they laughed when he repeated it, too. What does that tell you?

    When politicians start imposing these standards on entertainers, we’re losing something when it comes to art. When an article like this utilizes Bristol Palin, The View, and Letterman in some sort of bizarre chorus on etiquette, being polite, being respectful, and being “nice,” I feel queasy. It bothers me because I see a double standard and, while I get that you’re a fair, reasonable person overall, I can’t help but feel a strong desire to point that out.

    Where’s the news? I don’t know, exactly. But I’m pretty sure Bristol Palin doesn’t have a clue where it is either.

  • Jordan, this commentary makes more sense and one I can work with.

    Maybe it’s just me but I think I would view a few more articles from a writer prior to making any type of major judgement. Plus I would read and re-read those articles to ensure I grasps their message without taking it too personal.

    I did take note and answered your criticism regarding networks; their bias and behavior and if I remember correctly, I admitted that MSNBC is not the only one.

    As far as comedians, I was addressing particular cases that had more to do with labeling people (inaccurately and as racist and hypocrites), then whether I like their political views. That would be an entirely different approach.

    If you are referring to my alliance with Dennis Miller, well, I have actually seen him admit to having to apologize for times HE crossed the line with his comic satire. And I actually have a lot of respect for Letterman after his apology this week! And if you noticed I do like Bill Maher (you commented on my review of his movie), even though I don’t agree with his political stance. As far as my alliance with Eminem, well, I have mixed emotions about him and don’t even know his political views.

    I was never a Sarah Palin fan and didn’t quite understand all the hoopla! That being said, IMO you may be too harsh on the Palin family because does anyone really know what their motives are? I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to motives, however, as you can see, I am critical of actions that are blatant attacks on others.

    Is that enough honesty?

  • My! All the things I miss from NOT watching American television! Fighting over jokes over a teenage girl getting pregnant!

  • Jordan Richardson

    Christine, I think you dodged the crux of my argument. In terms of “judging you,” how else do you propose one gathers a sense of your opinions and the thought processes behind them if one can’t gather that from your articles?

    Furthermore, I’ve made a similar point before to your finding MSNBC’s commentators obnoxious and crude but having no problem with the grossly-offensive commentators on the FOX network.

    My point is that it’s difficult to take your being “sick and tired” of comedians lacking etiquette (are comedians examples for etiquette? Someone should have told Richard Pryor, then!) and their lack of control of their “tongues” in the context of other things you’ve revealed your support of. It seems to me that you level moralistic judgment (don’t swear! Control your tongues! Be respectful!) to those whose political positions you disagree with, while you have no problem supporting and even enjoying those with similar (if not worse) “etiquette” if they happen to align themselves with your philosophies and your politics.

    I still stand my statements about the Palins and the fact that I believe they’re using their daughters and their situation for publicity. I don’t think Bristol gives a shit about sex education or being a role model. I think she’s a normal young person who was trotted out into the spotlight. I feel sorry for her, frankly, and wish she and the rest of her family didn’t have to be used as publicity targets just because her mommy lost to Obama.

    Your values and morals are to be respected and appreciated for what they are. All I’m asking for is a little honesty in the contest of this discussion.

  • Cindy:
    Thanks for taking a look and commenting back. It is nice when people get all the facts prior to making a final judgment. But then again you were open-minded prior, KUDOS!

  • Christine,

    I just watched the video. Thanks for referring me back to your link. I thought she did a great job. She didn’t give advice about abstinence at all. She presented a very practical perspective. Based on that video, I think she might be a great advocate and role model.

  • Wow, Jordan, why all the hostility? Did I offend YOU?

    “No, you’re sick and tired of people who don’t share your views.” Really now Jordan, you are going to judge me based on a few articles here on Blog Critics? Has it really come to that?

    Cindy, actually Bristol Palin has been quoted as saying, that teens should avoid sex, but abstinence is “not realistic at all.” This is from in the MSNBC.com report!

  • Christine,

    I don’t necessarily think the young woman is a hypocrite. But I can see how someone might. It’s a bit different than what you are arguing against though.

    She could be considered a hypocrite for promoting a method of prevention she has the experience to know did not work for her. One could argue that she’s not speaking from that real life experience, but rather promoting a solution that does not work (and she can be considered evidence for this) and offering instead the same ideological religious based advice that she got.

    Now, I have no idea what goes along with her promotion of abstinence. But if it isn’t birth control education and choice, that might be not only hypocritical, it might be problematic for young women who do find themselves in her situation and unprepared because they followed her advice.

  • Jordan Richardson

    And if anyone knows intelligent, rational, and objective debate, it’s Arch!

    Seriously. Christine, you say you don’t see “the value” in a television show and then continue to go on and on about it. And you claim that Bristol Palin can’t possibly be a hypocrite because she has a loving family (one that was ready to shotgun her right into a wedding with the bonehead that left her because she was pregnant) and because she’s sorry for her mistake.

    Let me ask you this: how do you know she’s sorry for her mistake? What makes you think the Palins are above using this nonsense for publicity (you’re talking about it, aren’t you?) or that they’re above using their daughters for additional press?

    Seriously. Protesting Letterman? Getting pissy over The View? Has it really come down to this?

    Frankly, I am sick and tired of comedians who can’t control their tongues, lack etiquette and in many cases intellect!

    No, you’re sick and tired of people who don’t share your views. You have no problem with right-wing “comics” like Dennis Miller, apparently, and you even have found value in Eminem as long as he doesn’t take the Lord’s name in vain. Just be honest, for crying out loud.

  • Well said, Arch!

  • Arch Conservative

    Joy Behar is to intelligent, rational, and objective debate what Britney Spears is to the advancement of the field of theoretical physics.