David Letterman may have experienced a ratings boost but he also suffered an ego blow recently for joking that Sarah Palin's daughter got knocked up by New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez during a seventh-inning stretch.
Letterman contends that he thought he was making the joke about Palin’s 18-year-old daughter, Bristol, and not 14-year-old Willow, who was actually at the game with the Alaskan governor.
Regardless, Palin expressed outrage not only on behalf of her child but for young girls everywhere, claiming such jokes contributed to "the atrociously high rate of sexual exploitation of minors by older men who use and abuse others."
Letterman's first attempt at addressing the fury seemed like a cop-out to a lot of people, and Palin wouldn't let it go.
Maybe that was because he didn't actually apologize but instead admitted only to poor judgment.
"Am I guilty of poor taste?" he asked. "Yes. Did I suggest that it was OK for her 14-year-old daughter to be having promiscuous sex? No."
So a few days later he came back and said, "I'm sorry about it, and I'll try to do better in the future." Palin accepted his apology.
Letterman isn’t the first star to put his foot in his mouth and cause a stir. Lots of big names have had to man-up over the years and say they were sorry. Here are some of the most notorious celebrity apologies.
Michael Richards Apologizes to Everyone
In perhaps one of the most uncomfortable TV moments ever, Michael Richards appeared via satellite on "Late Show with David Letterman" in 2006 to apologize for an insanely inappropriate racist rant he made during his stand-up act.
His dear friend Jerry Seinfeld tried to soften the blow by introducing Richards on the program and explaining that he’d asked his former co-star to apologize.
But when Jerry chastised the audience for giggling during Richards' mea culpa ("Stop laughing, it's not funny"), the tension got even thicker.
Richards was clearly devastated and obviously angry with himself, promising to get to the bottom of his personal issues.
Apparently he did, going into therapy to deal with his obvious anger problem.
And according to "Seinfeld" and Kramer co-creator Larry David, Richards is "like a new man. He really went through something. He used to be very angry and bitter. He's completely different now. You can see it, and he can feel it. I'm very happy for him."
But will audiences accept Richards again? We'll see when he joins Larry and his former "Seinfeld" castmates on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" this summer.
Sharon Stone Apologizes to China
Sharon Stone should have stuck to talking about movies on the Cannes red carpet in 2008. Instead, when asked about the devastating earthquake in China, she said that she’d asked herself, "Is that karma?" because of the Chinese treatment of Tibet and its exiled leader, the Dalai Lama.
In the aftermath, Stone issued several statements including this one: "Yes, I misspoke. I could not be more regretful of that mistake. It was unintentional. I apologize. Those words were never meant to be hurtful to anyone. They were an accident of my distraction and a product of news sensationalism. I am deeply saddened by the pain that this whole situation has caused the victims of the devastating earthquake in China."
Still, Sharon was dropped from Chinese Christian Dior ads and publicly not invited to the Shanghai International Film Festival.
Alec Baldwin Apologizes to the Philippines
Letterman’s "Late Show" stage seems to be fertile ground for celebrity faux pas.
Not long before Dave’s Palin blunder, guest Alec Baldwin joked that he might need a "Filipino mail-order bride" so he could have more children.
Former-action-star-turned-Philippine-Senator Ramon Revilla spoke out against the star’s remarks, saying, "Let him try to come here in the Philippines, and he'll see mayhem" (which apparently means a butt-kicking), adding that the country has a strict law against mail-order brides.
Baldwin apologized in a blog on the Huffington Post for his flippant and (as he himself pointed out) outdated remark, and directed people to an organization called Love146 that raises awareness of sex-trafficking issues worldwide.
Sienna Miller Apologizes to Pittsburgh
There's probably a long list of people that Sienna Miller should to apologize to (Mrs. Balthazar Getty comes to mind), but in 2006 she found herself apologizing to an entire city.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, the starlet, then shooting "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh," gave the titular town a derogatory nickname (let's just say it rhymes with "Pittsburgh" and starts with an "s").
So Miller apologized and played the old "taken out of context" card, saying, "What I have seen of it is beautiful. I came once before to visit The Andy Warhol Museum whilst researching a film and found both the city and its inhabitants warm and gracious."
Tom Cruise Apologizes to Matt Lauer
Apparently, Tom Cruise found Matt Lauer a lot less glib in 2008 than he did in 2005. I
n their earlier meeting Tom called Matt the "g" word and raged that the "Today Show" host was less knowledgeable than he on the history of psychology.
But while promoting the film "Valkyrie" three years later, Cruise said he felt he came across as arrogant back in '05 and could have handled the conversation better.
Although he never officially said the words "I'm sorry," he did admit that he didn't communicate as well as he’d hoped. Cruise has not yet, however, apologized for "Valkyrie."
Sinead O'Connor Apologizes to the Pope
Audiences were shocked on October 3, 1992, when "Saturday Night Live" musical guest Sinead O'Connor ended her performance of Bob Marley’s "War" by tearing up a photo of Pope John Paul II while singing the word "evil."
Viewers were not pleased, and the dress rehearsal performance (where Sinead tore a still of an African child) replaced the controversial clip in all rebroadcasts.
And while Sinead has publicly said that she doesn’t regret her statement against sexual abuse within the church, she did ask the Pontiff for forgiveness in a 1997 interview with the Italian newspaper Vita, calling her stunt "a ridiculous act, the gesture of a girl rebel."
That would also explain the haircut.
Bill Clinton Apologizes to the United States
Everyone on the planet knows the sordid tale of the President and the intern.
"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss [Monica] Lewinsky," Bill Clinton said.
Then there was that small matter of impeachment ... nothing major or distracting at all.
On December 11, 1998, as the world waited to learn the promiscuous President's fate, Clinton stepped into the White House Rose Garden and said he was sorry.
"What I want the American people to know, what I want the Congress to know," he confessed, "is that I am profoundly sorry for all I have done wrong in words and deeds. I never should have misled the country, the Congress, my friends, and my family. Quite simply, I gave in to my shame."
He was acquitted two months later.
Jane Fonda Apologizes to Vietnam Vets
In 1972, Jane Fonda went on a two-week trip to war-torn Vietnam, where she visited with locals, attended plays, toured textile factories, and posed in front of an anti-aircraft cannon to protest U.S. bombings.
But in 1988 she went on "20/20" and told Barbara Walters that while her goal had been to curtail killings and stop the war, she was sometimes "thoughtless and careless about it" and was sorry for offending Vietnam veterans and their families.
Rosie O'Donnell Apologizes to Asians
There was a lot of tension on the set of "The View" in 2006 during Rosie O'Donnell's tenure as moderator, culminating with her on-camera row with co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck and an almost-instantaneous departure from the series.
But Rosie's moment of public apology was sparked by one of the comedienne's unfunny jokes after Danny DeVito’s Limoncello'd-up "View" appearance made world news.
Rosie thought it odd that people everywhere were talking about the segment and reenacted an imaginary Chinese newscast repeating the phrase "ching chong" as gibberish for the language she could not speak.
When complaints started pouring in, Rosie turned to the Asians on the talk show's staff, who said that they did, in fact, find the statement upsetting, since they’d been teased with those very words as children.
Rosie chalked it up to a bad joke and said she was "sorry for those people who felt hurt or were teased on the playground."
Hasselbeck’s still waiting for her apology.