Palin, Letterman, and the Double Standard About Double Standards

07/13/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

We all heard it. Sarah Palin on the Today show with Matt Lauer...

After a brief discussion of the gas line that glossed over Alaska's new unholy alliance with its old foe Exxon, the topic changed.

Lauer: Can we talk about some of the other ways you've been in the news lately, and you know about this. There's been this feud this week with Late Show...

Palin: (interrupting) If we must...

Lauer: I know.... But there's been a feud this week with David Letterman about some comment he made...

They go on to discuss the issue. Then at 3:37 in the interview, something interesting happened. Palin looks down at the Blackberry she is holding in her hand.

Palin: Let me read to you something that I received in the middle of the night, an email I received from somebody who's not a (dismissive hand wave) known feminist, not someone who is an activist, but this I think speaks to the issue.

She then reads the letter.

If we are led to believe by Palin that she really doesn't want to talk about Letterman... that she'd much rather be talking about the gas line, and only talks about Letterman "if we must," then why does she have a Blackberry in her lap all set up with an email on the screen ready to be read aloud, the subject of which is... David Letterman? Palin was totally prepared and ready to talk on the subject, but took the opportunity to paint the picture that Lauer was the one bringing it up, much to her feigned dismay.

In another lesson on how you can be right in principle (yes, the joke was tasteless and inappropriate as Letterman admitted) and still totally blow it (yes, the Palins now look even worse than Letterman), here's how she reacted when Lauer asked about the statement issued by her spokeswoman Meg Stapleton:

Lauer: (reading) "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." I'd like you to explain what that meant. Are you suggesting that David Letterman can't be trusted around a 14-year old girl?

Palin: Hey, take it however you want to take it...

So if we "want to take it " that she thinks David Letterman is a pedophile, that's OK with her? Lauer gets this, and follows up.

Lauer: But is that not, in fact, in bad taste also governor if you're... if you're suggesting that a 62-year old man can't be trusted...

Palin: It's not in bad taste. It's not in bad taste.


Palin: Hey, maybe he couldn't be trusted because Willow's has had enough of this type of comments. Maybe Willow would want to...uh....uh...uh..react to him in a way that..uh...would catch him off guard. That's one way to interpret such a comment.

In her clumsy attempt to justify this comment, she basically ends up implying that Willow is the one who can't be trusted to act appropriately.

Then she goes on to talk about the "real problem," the oft used Palin talking point -- the double standard.

The problem is... Here's the problem, Matt. It's the double standard that's been applied here. [snip] ...remember in the campaign, Barack Obama said "Family's off limits. You don't talk about my family, and 'the candidate who must be obeyed'....everybody adhered to that, and they did leave his family alone, and they haven't done that on the other side of the ticket, and it has continued to this day. So that's a political double standard.

Since somehow, Barack Obama got dragged into the drama, just for clarity, I looked up his quote from the campaign about families being off-limits, so we can examine this supposed double standard. Here it is:

I have heard some of the news on this and so let me be as clear as possible. I have said before and I will repeat again, I think people's families are off limits, and people's children are especially off limits. This shouldn't be part of our politics, it has no relevance to Governor Palin's performance as a governor or her potential performance as a vice president. And so I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories. You know my mother had me when she was 18. And how family deals with issues and teenage children that shouldn't be the topic of our politics and I hope that anybody who is supporting me understands that is off limits


So, in reality, where most of us live, Obama was actually defending her family specifically.

Now that we've cleared that up, let's have a little thought experiment. Let's just suppose that someone had asked David Letterman if, when he told that joke, he meant to insinuate that Willow Palin has promiscuous sex with older men, and he had said, "Hey, take it however you want to take it."

You know... since we're talking about double standards.