Sunday, June 14, 2009

TV: He never looked so old

Slutty? David Letterman of the gap teeth and hair growing out of his ears is passing judgment on the looks of someone else? Well it had to happen in the environment the left created in 2008. The left created?


Not all the left. We're of the left. We didn't feel the need to rip apart Sarah Palin in order to build up Barack but we're part of a very small group. That America has a deep strain of sexism running through it is not in doubt unless you live in a state of denial or Denver. But a strong wave of public sexism would usually result in at least a half-hearted effort from the left to combat it. That ceased to be the case in 2008.

First sexism was used to attack Hillary. And for any backlash to be successful, women have to participate. So you had the likes of Laura Flanders and Betsy Reed showing up to insist that Hillary wasn't really a feminist and, for 'good' measure, repeat that Hillary 'cackles.' You had the 'wisdom' of Ruth Conniff, a woman who could write of how charming she found Mike Huckabee but, when it came to Hillary, boil it down to "YUCK!" Yeah, it was so disgusting of Hillary to make us (women) step up and defend her, right? That's why CounterSpin let the whole primary season pass by without calling out the sexism*, right? Because how dare Hillary force us to speak out against sexism, how dare she.

That really was the attitude: "Damn that Hillary Clinton, running for president and drawing all these sexist attacks!"

It was Hillary's fault that Barack Obama was for the Iraq War after it started, it was Hillary's fault that Barack had one shady association after another, it was Hillary's fault that Barack didn't keep his name on the ballot in Michigan, and, no doubt, it was probably Hillary's fault that Laura Flanders was unable to achieve a clitoral orgasm.

Pinning the blame on Hillary allowed a lot of people to pretend that it was okay that they were silent while sexism ran free. Some of them kidded themselves that Hillary was such an evil witch (or worse) that she had it coming. You know, like those rape victims have it coming?

No one ever wanted to get honest and admit that Barack Obama was using sexism and that, no, the woman hadn't been asking for it. Even to this day, they avoid connecting their Christ child to the rampant sexism. They unleashed it to install Barry O and it lingers to this day.

As bad as it was for Hillary, it was worse for Governor Sarah Palin. Why worse? Democrats loved Hillary. That's why she won more votes in the Democratic Party primaries. As bad as it was, she was known and loved by her party. And most Americans -- which is why she remains more popular than Barack in current polling -- had heard all this garbage before. They'd heard it from the right wing so it was surprising to hear it from the left wing but the garbage itself wasn't new and still had the same old stink.

Palin? She was an unknown. And the attacks on her began immediately with lies about whether or not she was the mother of her child. And it wasn't enough to attack Sarah Palin, they had to attack her daughter Bristol.

Bristol was pregnant at eighteen.

Think about it. The Democratic Party's presidential candidate? Whose supporters were screaming "Whore!" at Bristol? His mother was seventeen and unmarried when she got pregnant. And his mother was never married to his father in the United States because the US did not allow bigamy and Barack Obama Sr. already had one wife before he got Ann Dunham pregnant.

Excuse us, before he got her "knocked up."

That is the term David Letterman prefers, right?

Throughout 2008, America was treated to nutcrackers and assorted other vilifications of females who dared to run for the White House. The easiest way to vilify is to outright ignore and that's what happened to the Green Party ticket of Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente. While various 'left' women rushed to do their hatchet jobs on Palin and tell you it was a shame about Hillary but now you had to vote for Barry, you had to, they counted on you never calling them out on their refusal to acknowledge Cynthia's run. The same way various Whites pimped bi-racial Barry as "Black" all the while ignoring Cynthia.

The left didn't just encourage this non-stop sexism, they actively participated in it with very few exceptions. And now we see what comes from that damaging year.

Sarah Palin, a sitting governor, a woman whose success story is something for most to take pride in (we're referring to the fact that she came from humble roots and rose to become mayor, governor and the second woman to be on the presidential ticket of one of the country's two major political parties).

Unless you're David Letterman.

In which case, stoked by a year of non-stop misogyny, you go to town. And then some.

But then David always goes to town. And then some.

Take Nastassja Kinski. In 1982, she appeared on his NBC show, rushed from a photo shoot to make the show that no one was watching (Sandra Bernhard's frequent appearances on the low rated show would help give it some cache but it was not a hit in its early days). Her thanks for that was to have David mock her, make fun of her and refuse to let up. It should be noted that English was not the first language of the Berlin born Natassja, that she was, at that point, still learning, still finding her way. But xenophobia's always played big with David Letterman. Natassja left the show in tears and Letterman pretended to act sad . . . before following it with a segment where he and John Candy (with a wig styled to look like Kinski's hair) made fun of her non-stop.

Take Stevie Nicks who had to send a cease and desist request to the show to get him to stop making fun of her. Dave was surprised. He was a fan. The fact that he couldn't grasp how offensive what he was doing actually was goes a long way towards explaining what a pig he was and is.

There's a reason Cher told him he was an ass on air. There's a reason Madonna used the f-word with him repeatedly. There's a reason Valerie Perrine was shocked to hear David Letterman had made fun of her on air after her segment ended. David is, as Cher long ago observed, an ass.

And he showed his ass repeatedly last week.

Worldwide Pants is his baby and we should probably note that a mature company doesn't allow execs to act out In The Company Of Men at film festivals across the country. If that's not specific enough for you, two men with a certain show (we can name names if we have to) shouldn't have been encouraged to and, yes, congratulated on 'bagging' various women around the country and then putting the women on speaker phone for the entire office to laugh at. These two men as ugly on the outside as they were on the inside, wouldn't have stood a chance with any of the young women were it not for the fact that they praised the women's writing and told them that they could see them writing a script to explain why America loved Raymond. It wasn't pretty, it was disgusting and the more people in the entertainment community (West Coast) learned what went on in David's "pants," the luckier he was that he's based in New York.

And he does tape his show in New York and he lives in New York which is a point to remember as we do the walk through.

In the climate 2008 fostered, anything and everything could be said about Sarah Palin. Tina Fey had really made it possible via her 'impersonation' which repeatedly sexualized Palin (and Fey was never called out for those 'bits' -- such as lifting her skirt in the Oval Office). So David Letterman felt he could get away with calling a governor "slutty."


First, if we were a man and look liked David Letterman, we'd be thankful for slutty women because discerning ones probably wouldn't give us the time of day. (Unless they had an ear hair fetish.)

But Dave's got a son who turns six this year and he and the boy's mother have been married for three months. Glass houses?

By contrast, Sarah Palin's been married to Todd since 1988.


What is that really, Dave?

The fact that Sarah Palin's an attractive woman and you can't have her? Was "dyke" your next choice of slurs?

Find another governor, male or female, that a late night host could call "slutty" and get away with it? There would be huge protests. CBS would be hearing from the local stations of that state and they would have to address the situation.

Instead, Dave made jokes on Monday and on Tuesday. Along with his 'political' observation of slutty, Dave felt the need to share:

One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game, during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.

Palin attended the game with her husband Todd and her 14-year-old daughter Willow. Willow, for those who have forgotten, was attacked on many lefty blogs last fall for not being ashamed of her brother Trig and for holding him on camera. In the sad year of 2008, a special-needs child, which Trig is, is something to be hidden away. David Letterman's attack on Willow only copied the attacks already lobbed at a fourteen-year-old girl on various websites.

After making Sarah and her daughter Willow jokes for two days running, come Wednesday, David wanted to clear the air. That's when, among other things, Andrew Malcolm of The Los Angeles Times was on the story. More than any outcry, the paper's coverage of it was worrisome to Letterman and staff. They supplied Malcolm with excerpts of their then unaired Wednesday night show:

"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..."
"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. 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..."

"...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 -- I'd love to have you on the show. It'd be exciting..."
"All right, so there, I hope I've cleared part of this up. Am I guilty of poor taste? Yes. Did I suggest that it was okay for her 14-year-old daughter to be having promiscuous sex? No."

Yes, he did suggest it. The 'explanation' was nothing but lies. Bristol, Palin's 18-year-old daughter, was not on the trip. Dave made jokes about Willow. And Willow was covered in the media -- including the New York media -- well before David opened his big yap.

Newsday, reporting on her speech about special-needs children last Sunday noted: "Accompanying Palin on the trip is her husband, Todd, and the couple's 14-year-old daughter, Willow, as well as Palin's sister; Heather Bruce and Bruce's son Karcher, also 14." Ben Smith observed, "She’s traveling with her husband, Todd, and her 14-year old daughter, Willow, as well as her sister and nephew, and the public events are deliberately focused and on a human scale." It was not a secret which daughter was on the trip.

Friday, Palin appeared on NBC's Today Show and Matt Lauer brought up Letterman's 'comedy' routine. On being said to resemble a "slutty flight attendant," Palin responded, "And my first thought was, hey, don't disparage flight attendants. They work hard. We love them, you know? How condemning of them. Don't say such a thing. And then I found out later the comment that was made about statutory rape of my 14-year-old daughter Willow -- knowing that crossed the line and, then, others chiming in on other comments that Letterman has made, just, you know, quite, I think, a sad commentary on where we are as a culture, as a society to chuckle and laugh through comments such as he had made the other night. I think it's quite unfortunate."

Lauer noted Letterman's claim that the 'joke' was about 18-year-old Bristol and not Willow and Palin pointed out, "Okay, Matt, I would say that that you and anybody else are extremely naive to believe that very convenient excuse of David Letterman's the other day. It took a couple days for him to think of that excuse. No, he wasn't talking about my daughter who was there with me at the game, the 14-year-old. He was talking about some other daughter. Well I think it's a quick excuse. And, you know, regardless, it was a degrading comment about a young woman. And I would hope that people really start -- really rising up and deciding it's not acceptable. No wonder young girls especially have such low self-esteem in America."

You know them's fighting words to Keith Olbermann who declared war on women long ago. One thrust Keith wasn't going to stand for it. Like most women, we go out of our way to avoid Keithie. So we first learned of his latest antics from Bob Somerby's Friday column at The Daily Howler:

According to KO, Letterman apologized, atoned, said he was sorry -- had done so Wednesday, for eight heartfelt minutes! Sorry! So you'll see how Olbermann’s limbic brain works, this is how Letterman actually "apologized" and "atoned" for the joke which said Palin looks slutty:
LETTERMAN (6/10/09): Now, here's the other joke they're upset about. "Number two: Bought make-up at Bloomingdale's to update her slutty flight attendant look." The only thing I can say about this is that I kind of like that joke. [Laughter]
To KO, that sounded like an apology. Maybe he couldn't hear Dave's words over his own noisy efforts.
Olbermann has played these games for years. Truly, we hadn't known there were still "liberal" men who had such demons in their heads about girls. But KO is one such fellow -- and Letterman is another. Maybe they should drive too fast up to Greenwich and rent themselves a room at the club. They could spend the rest of their lives with the Buckleys. Which is what such big losers deserve.

Yeah, we were going to have watch. And we did Friday night knowing Keith would still be harping on in his shrill way. It was Keithie's usual blustering. A televised tantrum which brought to mind J. Fred Muggs and finally provided the missing link to Olbermann's infotainment lineage.

As Somerby noted, Keithie insisted an apology had been made when it hadn't been. Keithie loves to string together words for their mere sound and he hopes they make him sound intelligent. They don't, they just make him sound prissy, or, if he'd prefer a word with more syllables, persnickety. And that's when it hit us why he brings Richard Wolffe on: The mincing, flamboyant Wolffe makes Keithie almost seem like 'Regular Joe.' Dick Wolffe offered, "Well -el, let's talk with what we can all agree on. If you're a self-respecting parent and someone makes your child, whoever it is, the butt of a late night joke, then you'd be offended. And you would be well within your rights to go out and say you were upset about it. But, of course, Governor Palin went well beyond that. And knowing the limits of where she should be and what she should talk about, has never been her strong point."

'Sarah Palin didn't know her place' is the thrust of Dickie Wolffe's criticism. She "went well beyond that," he insists carefully avoiding what "that" was. "That" was tying in David Letterman's sexist routine (wherein the mother's a slut and the daughter is raped) with the devaluing of women in our society.

Sarah Palin's exactly right and watching Dickie Wolffe try to drum his sunken chest and squeak out, "Woman, know your place!" only proved it more so.

Let's move over to NOW for a moment because Lisa Bennett called out Letterman and he made it into NOW's Media Hall of Shame:

After two nights of "jokes" at the expense of Palin and her family, Letterman tried to explain himself and offer something of an apology. On his June 10 show, Letterman said he was referring to Palin's 18-year-old daughter, Bristol -- not the 14-year-old daughter who actually accompanied Palin on her New York trip. Letterman said "I recognize that these are ugly" jokes. NOW agrees. Comedians in search of a laugh should really know better than to snicker about men having sex with teenage girls (or young women) less than half their age.
The sexualization of girls and women in the media is reaching new lows these days -- it is exploitative and has a negative effect on how all women and girls are perceived and how they view themselves. Letterman also joked about what he called Palin's "slutty flight attendant look" -- yet another example of how the media love to focus on a woman politician's appearance, especially as it relates to her sexual appeal to men. Someone of Letterman's stature, who appears on what used to be known as "the Tiffany Network" (CBS), should be above wallowing in the juvenile, sexist mud that other comedians and broadcasters seem to prefer.

While we're glad NOW called it out, there was no apology. Not "something of an apology," it was no apology. Somerby was right and so was Andrew Maclom ("Taping tonight's program in New York, Letterman made for him a lengthy explanation or clarification, though no apology.")

As the week drew to a close, we noticed that, as per usual, Women's Media Center didn't have a damn thing to offer women. Apparently they forgot their own "Sexism Sells But We're Not Buying It"?

We thought the worst was over but then came yokel faced Margaret Carlson. Carlson, for those not in the know, disgraced herself in 1999 and 2000 by repeatedly lying about Al Gore. Were Media Whores Online still around, we're sure they'd be celebrating Mag Cartlon's fall. In the midst of her whoring, she could be found on all the chat and chews and had a post at TIME magazine. These days she begs for space at The Los Angeles Times and does freebies for The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast? How apt.

It was there, on Friday, that Mags wanted you to know "Palin Can't Outsmart Letterman." What she really wanted you to know was that a media whore can pass their sale-by-date but they still can't stop whoring:

Who said anything about a 14-year-old girl? Not Letterman. That would be… the Palins. It turns out it was Willow, not Bristol, who went to the baseball game. But who knew that until the Palins brought this "disgusting" comment so painful to their younger daughter to the attention of the 300 million people not tuned into David Letterman?

Who knew? Mags, we find over 79 articles in major publications published before Letterman made the 'joke' which noted that Willow was accompanying her parents on the trip. Just because you don't know how to read doesn't mean the bulk of America is also illiterate. You'll notice Mags blames the Palins for the 'joke' Letterman made. If they'd stayed silent, according to Maggie, it would have been better for Willow. It never ceases to amaze how someone so stupid can repeatedly maintain that she knows best.

Mags then goes on to trash Bristol and you have to wonder how she'd fill if someone put her own daughter through the "whore" glass? And to prove how truth-free and classless Margaret Carlson is, she then insists Sarah Palin should have sat down on David Letterman's show because it would have been "every bit as good as make-up sex." Yes, it does appear she's the daughter of Clayton Williams and, no, that's not a good thing.

We didn't vote for the McCain-Palin ticket last year. We never even considered it. That was settled for us long before Palin was even picked. But that didn't mean we stayed silent while she was attacked or lied about or smeared. It was interesting because a few woman got it at the start of 2008 and they would say, "It's not about Hillary." And it wasn't. Hillary was just the then-current target. It was about women. The attacks on Hillary were about women. The attacks on Sarah were about women. The silence on Cynthia was about women. And that's why it needed to be called out.

And if Hillary supporters and Cynthia supporters and Sarah supporters could have gotten it together to stand together and say, "No more!" . . . Well it would have been a powerful moment and would have gone a long way towards refuting the left's embrace of misogyny last year. But that didn't happen. And we're living with the after-effects. And when Sarah Palin tries to point that out, Richard Wolffe flutters in insisting she doesn't know her place. And instead of being laughed off your TV set, he's still an MSNBC fixture. 2008 was the breeding ground for what happened last week and, here's the scary part, that was likely just the first phase.

* CounterSpin, the last Friday in May 2008, finally noted sexism in the primaries. This was their 'full' critique of it: "One of the most disturbing features of the media coverage of the Democratic presidential race is the way racism and sexism have been expressed. CNN viewers were treated to one pundit explanation that people might call Hillary Clinton a bitch because well isn't that just what some women are." We first noted that May 25, 2008 and have noted it repeatedly since including last week. CounterSpin's a weekly, half-hour critique of the media and never found time to call out the sexism though they found plenty of time to praise and promote the sexists during the same programs which found them silent on sexism.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }