Eugene Cho

shame on you: david letterman & jeremiah wright

letterman and palin

My head has been buried in stuff so I haven’t been tracking with too much current news with the exception of the North Korea (and Laura Ling and Euna Lee) stituation.

But as I was reading through my RSS reader this morning and read Scot McKnight’s blog about inexcusable comments by David Letterman and Jeremiah Wright (two separate stuff), I was pretty downright disgusted myself.

First, heres’ the news about Letterman’s completely inappropriate comments/jokes about the Palin family (via ABC news):

Letterman’s “Top 10” list Tuesday night focused on Palin’s recent trip to New York, and included several cracks: “Bought makeup from Bloomingdale’s to update her ‘slutty flight attendant’ look,” Letterman said.

But it was a line in Letterman’s monolog that set off a firestorm: “One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game, during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.”

Palin was in New York with her 14-year-old daughter, Willow.

I’m shared before on this blog that I don’t like Sarah Palin in that kind of way…but I completely agree with her and her husband. Absolutely unacceptable. David Letterman: While I enjoy the few occasions I get to watch your show, this is inexcusable. Shame on you. His explanation (apology

You have to wonder if the folks that took shot at Palin throughout the election season will do the right thing and stand with her; if the folks that defended Rev. Jeremiah Wright and  in many ways, rightly defended his context of black and liberation theology will say the appropriate thing regarding this situation to this minister: “Repent.”

I love what Scot shares about both David Letterman and Jeremiah Wright:

David Letterman, who will do most anything to get a laugh, especially if he can do so at the expense of a public (and conservative) figure, spoke of Sarah Palin’s daughter, who attended a Yankees game with her mother, being “knocked up” by Alex Rodriguez. He messed up his facts, thinking the daughter was the pre-married pregnant Bristol but who was in fact the 14-year old Willow, and then lamely fessed up to what he had said — but laced up his confession with cynical humor.

I’ve argued for a long time that a steady diet of cynicism destroys respect for humans, and David Letterman has now reached that level. What he said is inexcusable. Not just poor judgment, not just stupid, and not just crossing the line. It was inexcusable.

Jeremiah Wright, who has lived a life of living to craft words in preaching and who therefore knows the potency of words and the prophetic power of what he says, was asked by a reporter about whether or not he is in contact with President Obama. Wright, who says he was in a rush, said something about “Them Jews” who wouldn’t let him get to Wright. Then he came up with a lame claim that he meant “Zionists.” Since Wright is better with words than this, and since he is a man who has spent his life fighting stereotyped words that destroy the fabric of people groups, he needs to be particularly sensitive to other people groups.

Jeremiah Wright’s wrong on two accounts: neither the Jews nor the Zionists are blocking him from Obama. And what he said, since it stereotypes Jews with an age-old conspiracy about who is really in charge behind the scenes, is inexcusable.

Here’s the context/apology from Jeremiah Wright:

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the former pastor at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ and President Obama’s former spiritual leader, got into another jam this week.

In an interview with David Squires, a columnist from the Newport News, Va. Daily Press, Wright blamed “them Jews” for keeping him from talking to President Obama. Wright then made it worse by saying in another interview he meant “Zionists.” But on Friday he said he “misspoke” and issued an apology. I write on Wright and the murder at the U.S. Memorial Holocaust Museum–and President Obama’s two speeches on Holocaust denial–over at

In the case of Wright, his latest remarks about Jews once again put him in the news. In an interview with David Squires, a columnist from the Newport News, Va. Daily Press, Wright blamed “them Jews” for keeping him from talking to President Obama.

“Them Jews ain’t going to let him talk to me,” Wright said. “I told my baby daughter that he’ll talk to me in five years when he’s a lame duck, or in eight years when he’s out of office.” He added: “They will not let him to talk to somebody who calls a spade what it is. I said from the beginning. He’s a politician, I’m a pastor. He’s got to do what politicians do.

Dave: Sometimes, it’s just best to say, “That was stupid, I’m really sorry.”

Filed under: entertainment, politics, , ,

25 Responses

  1. Shaun says:

    It may not be popular but the jokes were borderline. But, I guess what I’m saying is that this is what he does for a living. So, why are our expectatations so high.

  2. yeah gotta disagree with you Eugene and scott. The joke was about the 18 year old who was previously…knocked up, hence the “joke.” It doesn’t even make sense to say it about the 14 year old, and Letterman said he got his facts about who was at the ballgame mixed up. Should we assume he was lying?

    Was it a bit much? Yeah probably. But the dude’s a comedian not a public servant- they make a living saying questionable and “edgy” things, and while I have been offended by some of their content in the past, what now? We can’t ask comedians to leave the gutter because there is a large audience for that, whether I like it or not. Just turn the channel if you don’t enjoy it. I think all this outrage only fuels them to shock further. Vote with your TV remote.

    I actually thought Palin was far more vicious and personal in her response to Matt Lauer on the Today Show, but that’s just me. Questioning whether or not Letterman can be TRUSTED around a 14 year old when that wasn’t even the joke?!? WOW what a response, Palin. I find her actions and words to be historically quite ugly; for a public servant she seems really vindictive and fragile.

  3. commenturn says:

    Let the advertisers know what you think about Letterman’s or anyone else’s smutty remarks. Be passive and you’ve seen nothing yet.

  4. Len says:

    Sarah Palin looks so sexually perverted and creepy.
    Is one of Palin’s favorite words “RAPE”?
    I seems She can’t get enough of that word.
    I think Sarah Palin is the one who is raping her daughter incessantly with words in public.

    It’s Palin and her husband who brought up the word “rape” regarding Letterman’s silly joke in the first place. Just creepy.

  5. Jenny says:

    I have been appalled this week by both of these news accounts. I want to address the Letterman/ Palin one right now.

    As a mother of 2 daughters (21 and 18), and as a woman, I take deep offense not only at Letterman’s inexcusable comments (I don’t find them humorous at all.), but also at our culture’s acceptance of such comments as “entertainment.” A few years back I spent some time in Thailand, and saw first hand a culture’s acceptance of the sex trade as an “entertainment industry.” My concern is that the slippery slope is not that far between sexually demeaning comments and physically demeaning acts.

    It absolutely doesn’t make a difference to me whether he was referring to the 14 year old daughter, the 18 year old daughter, or Palin herself! The comments were degrading of all women. As for Sarah Palin’s response (referenced by Ian, for the Broken Telegraph, above), I wonder if I, or any of us, would have responded any differently had it been one of our children that had been the target of Letterman’s comments.

    Ian is correct in saying that we can “vote with our remote.” We also need to speak out (through sponsors, letters, etc.)and make it clear that such inappropriate comments are not acceptable.

    Thank you, Eugene, for the post and for the opportunity to voice some of my thoughts and concerns over this issue.

  6. jeff says:

    if she can’t handle the comedy, she needs to get out of politics. no pregnant teenage daughter = no pregnant teen jokes… she needs to get on with it and let her 15 minutes of fame die way for the benefit of us all…

  7. jerry says:

    Wikipedia sez: In societies where freedom of speech was not recognized as a right, the court jester—precisely because anything he said was by definition “a jest” and “the uttering of a fool”—could speak frankly on controversial issues in a way in which anyone else would have been severely punished for.

    Monarchs understood the usefulness of having such a person at their side. Still, even the jester was not entirely immune from punishment, and he needed to walk a thin line and exercise careful judgment in how far he might go – which required him to be far from a fool, in the modern sense.

    Perhaps he has he been less than a fool on this occasion.

  8. sandysays1 says:

    It is a sad commentary on the state of our country that we defend the indefensible in the name of agenda and politics. Both right and left are guilty, but to defend Letterman who I enjoy watching in this situation, requires an IQ lower than a hat band size. The guy screwed up, big time, and the worst part as I see it, he wasn’t man enough to admit it.

  9. Dan Hauge says:

    I have to disagree with Jeff: as Obama himself said during the campaign, children should be off limits. I mean, what’s the logic here, if you are a political figure, and your children have problems, then any public ridicule and attack of your kids is OK? Don’t think so.

  10. Eugene Cho says:

    Going to copy/paste a few comments from this post link on Facebook. Too good not to share.

  11. Joe says:

    Much ado about nothing, in both cases. Sarah Palin has opened herself up to criticism, even tasteless jokes by comedians, and is fair game. As for the second issue, anyone with a working brain doesn’t need to have what Rev. Wright said spelled out to them in oh-so-specific terms. Poorly worded? Sure, but so what? It wasn’t a prepared, measured speech. It was an off-the-cuff remark, Rev. Wright isn’t a politician (which everyone just loves to forget), and he’s under no obligation to correct his speech in order to mollify someone else. Besides, if it can be proven that the President has absolutely zero staff members of Jewish ethnicity (thus negating what Rev. Wright said), then it should be proven.

  12. JT says:

    her 14 yr old was the one at the baseball game. it is a sick joke. if i had a teenage daughter (or any age daughter) and someone would say that, especially a dirty old man, i would be pretty upset too. we are way too accepting of giving people a pass just because we think if you are in the public eye, there is no limit to criticism.

    it is much ado about alot. i wouldve called him out too.

  13. peter says:

    I agree with JT. It is not much ado about nothing. Regardless whether Letterman is talking about the 14 or 18 year old, the joke is tasteless. This has nothing to do with Palin opening herself up for criticism. How is this stupid, uncalled for joke, a criticism against Palin? Is this what we have become? To subject children of politicians to the kind of circus that we ourselves might not even desire for ourselves. There is no justification for sexual jokes on teenage daughters of politicians. Besides, Letterman’s joke is scripted, which means he has more than enough time to vet through the kjoke before he said it.

    WE should not allow our political views affect how we look at this sorry episode of bad late night show comedy. I was disgusted that the audience laugheed so heartily. Wonder if they would laughing of the joke is about their daughters.

  14. Jin says:

    As a big fan of Lisa Lampanelli and Russell Peters, i have to confess that I really enjoy tasteless jokes. I’ve even memorized lines from Eddie Murphy’s stand ups and am already missing Leno’s monologue (but not Letterman’s, he’s not that funny). Stage is important, whether it’s a nightclub in Sacramento or on CBS at 11:30, this difference determines what you can or cannot say. Did David Letterman mess up on a national stage? Yes, he admits it, he would’ve never said the joke on a daily national stage if he knew it was a 14 year old girl. Would Sarah Palin have said anything back if it was her 18 year old? No, she couldn’t have because of Bristol’s history. And that’s why Letterman would’ve said it if it was the older daughter. Letterman was obviously upset about Palin sort of inferring to Matt Lauer that he was a dirty old man for saying that joke. But remember, she said that thinking that Letterman knew it was about a 14 year old girl and still was saying that joke. Misunderstanding caused by a bad research team on the Late Night.
    But i loved #7 of Top Ten Things For Sarah Palin To Do In NY: Key Tina Fey’s Car.
    As for Jeremiah Wright, he can say whatever he wants, he shouldn’t even be in the news. But he can’t shut up. And he clearly doesn’t like Jewish people by what he said….twice. Does this demonstrate that he is a racist? Absolutely.

  15. Joe says:

    It’s much ado about nothing because Letterman already apologized for it. Palin hasn’t apologized for her stupid remarks, however.

  16. JT says:

    apologize for defending her family?

    i didnt hear an apology. i heard 8:01 of excuses, tongue & cheek and playing it off. the words “i’m sorry” or “i apologize” would have fit in there nicely. i guess not. plus, can i say whatever i want as long as i say sorry?

    here is the ummm…apology?

    i could care less of the politics of it iall. what is right and what is wrong?

  17. Peter says:

    Exactly. Why should Palin apologize for defending her daughter? I have heard Letterman’s so-called apology, and it is no apology. In fact, he used it to milk for more laughs at the expense of the Palin family.

    The Palin family have every right to attend a public event in NY or elsewhere. This does not give the media the right to attack her family. Even if the campaign is still on, and it is long over, such hateful attacks disguised in the form of a bad joke in a late night show are despicable.

    Anyway, I don’t see why we are feeding this fodder. Are we becoming as mean spirited, saying the stuff we say about Palin and/or her family? Especially the latter.

  18. Faye says:


    David Letterman’s hate is as old as some ancient Hebrew prophets.
    Speaking of anti-Semitism, it’s Jerry Falwell and other fundy leaders who’ve gleefully predicted that in the future EVERY nation will be against Israel (an international first?) and that TWO-THIRDS of all Jews will be killed, right?
    Wrong! It’s the ancient Hebrew prophet Zechariah who predicted all this in the 13th and 14th chapters of his book! The last prophet, Malachi, explains the reason for this future Holocaust that’ll outdo even Hitler’s by stating that “Judah hath dealt treacherously” and “the Lord will cut off the man that doeth this” and asks “Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother?”
    Haven’t evangelicals generally been the best friends of Israel and Jewish persons? Then please explain the recent filthy, hate-filled, back-stabbing tirades by David Letterman (and Sandra Bernhard) against a leading evangelical named Sarah Palin, and explain why most Jewish leaders have seemingly condoned Palin’s continuing “crucifixion”!
    While David and Sandra are tragically turning comedy into tragedy, they are also helping to speed up and fulfill the Final Holocaust a la Zechariah and Malachi, thus helping to make the Bible even more believable!
    (For even more stunning information, visit MSN and type in “Separation of Raunch and State” and “Bible Verses Obama Avoids.”)

  19. Letterman is a deranged slob- and his tired 1985 schtick’s about as funny as a train wreck. I say give Todd Palin five minutes alone with this creep- maybe then he’d get the hard education in moral clarity that he so obviously lacks.

    And if Sarah Palin is SO silly and irrelevant, why the obsession?

    Clearly the Left noted her appeal, and are out to eliminate the threat- it’s not like it’s not obvious. She’s been highly successful in life while ignoring the left-wing feminist model… this helps to explain the extra dose of venom in the attacks.

    Go get em, Sarah- and don’t mind the press, nobody will be listening to them anymore after the pending Obamamania implosion- can’t wait til this nightmare is over.

  20. Matthew says:

    I don’t watch Letterman: I don’t think he’s that funny, and I heard about this story way, way after the fact. (I watch Stewart and Colbert instead.) In all seriousness, why is so much attention being paid to a fifth-rate late-night comic making bad jokes at a politician’s expense, while so little is being done to counteract the CONSTANT stream of hate-speech against entire political sectors and minority groups from O’Reilly, Beck, Malkin, Gingrich et al? Is it just ennui on our part?

  21. mike says:

    I don’t defend either person’s remarks, but I do defend them as people. The disgust and “shame on them” reactions, I suggest, should be held up to criticism as well. Hasn’t anybody else ever misspoke? Hasn’t anybody else ever crossed a line before? Hasn’t anybody else ever sinned? There is a big decision between “repent” and throwing stones, and this post felt like throwing stones. I am not either of their friends, but I’d like to think that both of them just made a mistake, and are good people at heart.

  22. elderj says:

    One useful way of determining whether something is outrageous or not is to do a substitutionary comparison, that is to put someone else in that place and compare if it if offense or not.

    Would it have been okay for Letterman to do a top ten disappointments about the Obama’s date in New York that they discovered that they’re favorite restaurant didn’t serve fried chicken and watermelon. Now we all know what the response (rightfully) would be.

    What Letterman said was not only sexist, it was reprehensible, and it did describe a statutory rape scenario. TO suggest that Palin “opened herself up to it” is ridiculous in the extreme. She opened herself by being a politician? By being a woman? By having opinions? By being attractive? Come on!!

    Even so, as her comments to Matt Lauer suggests, she seems to have little problem shrugging of critiques of her (like the “slutty flight attendant” line) but thinks that attacking her family is off limits, which indeed it is.

    To suggest that Letterman was somehow unaware that it was the 14 year old who accompanied her to the game is silly, since he has a staff and writers and access to ample information. If we know it was the 14 yr/old, how could he not? Even if it weren’t, would it matter?

    I have heard not one joke about Obama’s children, or Biden’s children, or come to think of it, almost any other politicians children. The double standard is shockingly absurd.

  23. Josh Spencer says:

    Hey Matthew,

    I was just wondering if you could provide some example of the “CONSTANT stream of hate-speech against entire political sectors and minority groups from O’Reilly, Beck, Malkin, Gingrich…”

    I watch O’Reilly and Beck almost every day, and while I’ve seen them use tough language, I’ve never seen them say anything that would justify such a serious charge as “hate speech”.

  24. Rick in Texas says:

    Time to say “OK Dave, it shouldn’t ever have been said in the first place, but at least you have now offered a serious and honest apology.”

  25. Matthew says:

    Josh –

    Some examples of hate-speech from O’Reilly and Beck (among numerous other figures on the extreme right) can be found verbatim, without additional commentary, at David Neiwert’s blog, including calls for the mass killing or mass incarceration of political opponents.

    By comparison, a couple of lame jokes about A-Rod and Sarah Palin look like pretty weak tea.

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People often ask, "How does one stand all that rain in Seattle?" Actually, it doesn't rain that much. I like the rain. Keeps everything "evergreen" and clean. Keeps our air fresh. What's challenging is the gray weather. Give me a few more sunny days. 99 more days to be specific. 
Regardless, still love this city. Checking out Canada in case I need to move up North after the presidential election. Just saying, eh.

Downtown Toronto. Fascinating architecture. Amazed by the diversity of this city. We desperately want our children to not just be captivated by the beauty of creation...but more importantly, to the actual Creator of all that is good and beautiful.

Actually, we want and need this truth for our souls, too. What a privilege. This isn't possible without all those who give, pray, and support the work of @onedayswages. This week, I signed and mailed grants to three partner organizations totaling over $170,000. These grants will empower people by supporting maternal health care, refugee relief efforts, access to clean water, provide education, etc.

Sometimes, the brokenness of the world feel so overwhelming but let's keep running the race with endurance. Let's keep pursuing justice, mercy, and humility. Let's be faithful and may we be spurred on to keep working for God's Kingdom...on earth as it is in heaven.

Again, thank you so much for your support for @onedayswages! My wife, Minhee, and I stand on the shoulders of praying mothers. I'd like to take a moment to honor my mother-in-law. It's hard to put words together to embody her life but she is a very special, anointed person. I'm so blessed to have her as a mother in my life.

She was a devoted wife until she lost her husband to cancer, mother to three daughters, and later became a pastor. She became a follower of Christ as an adult and as such, led her her family to Christ. In her late 50s, she obeyed God's calling to go to seminary and be a leader in the church. She graduated #1 in her class and reminded us that it's never too late to follow a new dream or calling.

As she'll soon celebrate her 80th birthday, I'm especially grateful for the ways that she poured into and prayed over Minhee and her other children.  Even though she's officially retired, I'm inspired that the concept of retirement is not in her vocabulary.  She continues to serve the local church, evangelize and bear witness to Christ, and goes to the early morning prayer meeting at 5am everyday to pray for our family, our church, and for others. 
Jangmonim, we love and honor you. 어머니, 사랑합니다.

Someday, I hope that when my kids speak of Minhee and I...above all, they would say with integrity that their parents prayed for them and kept pointing them to Christ. On this Mother's Day, I want to take a few words to honor mother.

There’s a moment from a few years ago that will stick with me until the day I die. It’s regarding Sung Wha, my mother.

Minhee and I were at a point of transition, between working at an ethnic Korean church in the northern suburbs of Seattle called Lynnwood and launching Quest in urban Seattle. As I shared earlier, I was in desperate need of a job. I had a mortgage to pay. A pregnant wife. A kid at home. 
Then, praise God, after months without work, I finally landed a job.

My mom was in between jobs at this point in her life. She was in her late fifties, but she had such bad knees and degenerative hips that it was, and is, difficult for her to walk. My mom is like a human barometer—when a storm is coming and when it rains, her hips throb. Although my parents lived in San Francisco, she was visiting us in Seattle to encourage us in this difficult season.

As I prepared to go to work one early morning, I walked downstairs to put on my jacket and shoes, and forgot that my mother woke up early every morning to pray. In fact, she had been praying for months that I would find a job. “Eugene, where are you going?” she said when she saw me.

I hadn’t told my mother the news that I had just recently been hired for the janitorial gig at Barnes and Noble. I chose not to because I thought she and my father would be devastated. I didn’t want them to think that after laboring, sacrificing, and doing so much for us over all those years that their son had failed them.

But I couldn’t lie to her, so eventually I told my mom that I got a job and was going to work. “Great! What job? What are you doing?” “Um, I’m working at Barnes and Noble as their custodian,” I said finally.

Without asking another question, my mother got up from the dining table where she had been reading her Bible and praying. She slowly walked slowly toward me.

She approached me, then walked past me without saying a word, and I realized she was headed toward the closet. She opened the closet door, put on her jacket, turned around and said to me (in Korean), “Eugene, let’s go together. I will help you.” This is my mother.

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