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!