This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 11, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Does Dave get it? Was that an apology or really a lame excuse? Now, everyone is talking about the sex joke David Letterman made about Governor Sarah Palin, and worse, about her 14-year-old daughter. Last weekend, while she was in New York, Governor Palin took her 14-year- old to a Yankee game. And this week, in his monologue, David Letterman made a raunchy sexual joke about the governor's daughter being knocked up by a Yankee baseball player.
Letterman now claims he was talking about the governor's 18-year-old daughter, Bristol, not her 14-year-old. Really, Dave? You think your remarks about sex and getting knocked up are OK if they are directed at an 18-year-old woman and not a 14-year-old? That makes it OK?
Well, here's what Letterman said. You decide if this is dripping with sarcasm, like I just was, or whether it is genuinely sorry and that he gets it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": I'm not necessarily proud of these jokes.
LETTERMAN: I mean, we do stuff all the time, and our objective here is to get a laugh. And thank God, you know, we don't have to go to the Hague before the World Court to defend them.
LETTERMAN: It's a joke. That's all it's supposed to be. That's what this is. Now, here's the other joke they're upset about.
LETTERMAN: One awkward moment, though, during the game. Maybe you heard about it. Maybe you saw it on one of the highlight reels, one awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game. During the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.
LETTERMAN: You can see how that'd be awkward.
LETTERMAN: Now, cut that out! Get back in the dugout! I'm telling you, I recognize that these are ugly.
LETTERMAN: These are actually ugly. These are borderline -- but again, in an act of desperation, to get cheap laughs, which is what I've been doing for the last 30 years. Why didn't we hear from Alex Rodriguez?
LETTERMAN: But now, everything the governor and Todd said I absolutely agree with. 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.
Here's where you draw the line. Yes, maybe these are questionable because the girl who actually -- excuse me, but -- was knocked up is now 18 years old. So the difference there is 14 years old and of legal age. OK. Now, I can't really defend the joke. I agree, unpleasant, ugly. But I would never, never think that it was funny to use a 14-year-old girl as a joke like this, for God's sakes. Now, here's the other joke they're upset about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Number two: Bought make-up at Bloomingdale's to update her slutty flight attendant look.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LETTERMAN: The only thing I can say about this is that I kind of like that joke.
LETTERMAN: So summing up now -- and I'm going to ask questions and then answer them. Were the jokes in question in questionable taste? Of course they were.
LETTERMAN: Do I regret having told them? Well, I think probably I do. But you know what? There are thousands of jokes I regret telling on this program.
LETTERMAN: Would I do anything to advocate or contribute to underage sexual abuse or misconduct? Absolutely not, not in a thousand years. Look at me!
LETTERMAN: Do I look like I'm trying to make trouble? No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the controversy was a hot topic on "The View."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELISABETH HASSELBECK, "THE VIEW": Quite honestly, I mean, when I first heard it, I thought, Wow, you know, maybe I was wrong because I thought he was just being a jerk when he said it. And then when I realized...
HASSELBECK: ... the wrong daughter, I thought, Oh, he's not a jerk. He's just being an ignorant jerk to say something like that!
HASSELBECK: ... but he was right to apologize. This is a real one.
JOY BEHAR, "THE VIEW": Bristol's always got that the baby in her arms. Maybe he thought it was Bristol.
SHERRI SHEPHERD, "THE VIEW": ... whoever wrote the joke for him should have done -- we always talk about doing research. He should have found out which daughter was because Bristol wasn't there.
BARBARA WALTERS, "THE VIEW": You know what?
SHEPHERD: So it was the 14-year-old.
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 all say this. Don't talk about my child. And that is something that I guess even humorists have to understand.
BEHAR: Yes, but Barbara, you don't parade your child out...
WALTERS: Doesn't matter.
BEHAR: ... a poster child for abstinence.
WALTERS: Don't talk -- don't talk about my daughter!
SHEPHERD: You can believe in abstinence -- you can believe in abstinence. But we're all imperfect people, so you can believe in it. Sometimes we fall. Sometimes you just get caught up in the moment. It does not demean the fact that you believe in abstinence.
BEHAR: I know, but they traipse the kid out as -- she's a walking punchline!
HASSELBECK: What do you mean, "traipse her out"?
HASSELBECK: We have seen politicians' children with them throughout the course of elections, throughout the course of their presidencies. We only see this type of attack when it comes to Sarah Palin's children. And because she had daughter -- because her daughter had a child...
BEHAR: No, it's the hypocrisy.
HASSELBECK: It is not hypocrisy!
BEHAR: It's not because she has a child.
HASSELBECK: It is human nature that you can believe something is right and then...
BEHAR: They preach abstinence and then she gets knocked up. That's the joke.
HASSELBECK: That is awful and it's not a joke! That is not a joke!
WALTERS: We like each other very much! As you can see, we never argue!
SHEPHERD: I believe in celibacy, and I'm trying really hard, but I might fall! But I believe in celibacy. It's not a joke.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's clear where Rush Limbaugh stands.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Let's not forget all of the hate and venom that was directed at Sarah Palin last summer and continues to this day in the form of so-called comedy from the pathetic David Letterman, who himself -- he used to have -- his shows was, I remember, back on NBC. It was great. It was one of the funniest TV shows ever. He's just an angry old man now. Every night, angry, filled with rage about somebody, and genuinely wrong about everything he says, suggesting that Palin's daughter was raped at 14 years old during a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. And who's denouncing it? Who denounced any of the hatred against Sarah Palin?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: So where is the feminist outrage over this? We called "MS" magazine. They had no comment. We asked the National Organization for Women to send someone to appear on our show. They declined but then added Letterman to its Web site's "Media Hall of Shame." But is this enough?
Joining us live is Jane Swift, the former governor of Massachusetts. She is the first woman to ever hold that office. Good evening, Governor.
JANE SWIFT, FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: Good evening, Greta. How are you?
VAN SUSTEREN: Very well. Governor, let's start first with David Letterman. At least the way I listen to him, he seems to think it's OK what he said if he were talking about an 18-year-old instead of a 14-year- old. Yes or no?
SWIFT: No. I think Barbara Walters had it right. And apparently, the politics of personal destruction has now morphed into the politics of family destruction. And what kind of people are going to run for political office, men or women? Although this seems to happen more to women. What kind of women are going to run for leadership positions if this is how they can expect their minor children to be treated?
VAN SUSTEREN: Where are the feminists? And I'm a feminist. I have defended Secretary of State Clinton, Governor Palin from personal insults, not on policy. They're fair game for policy. But where are all the feminists in their outrage? Is it because this is the child of a Republican?
SWIFT: You know, who knows what it has to do with party politics, although I think Rush Limbaugh should get credit for standing up for a common standard of decency, and I doubt there are many liberals who will recognize that. But the truth is, it's wrong. It was a bad joke. David Letterman maybe should go back to his "Stupid Pet Tricks."
And I think the other thing people are missing is this isn't, like, an unscripted moment. This is a joke that's written beforehand and that he chose to deliver. And I think that carries with it a special responsibility versus perhaps just saying something that you later regret. And in terms of an apology, this is what constitutes an apology, "I'm sorry."
VAN SUSTEREN: You know what I found interesting about it is that he made -- and I took notes on it. He said that -- something that -- about the fact that she was knocked up by the Yankee. And incidentally, it was the 14-year-old that was there at the Yankee game, not the 18-year-old, although I don't think that makes any difference. But he said, "knocked up," and used that as rape and making fun of the 18-year-old, when the irony of it is, is that the mother of his child was, quote, "knocked up" and he didn't marry her until last March, when the child was about 5 or 6, so he's the worst hypocrite on this.
SWIFT: Well, and violence against women is never funny. And so saying things like somebody being knocked up or raped, particularly when you're using those words to try to so-called apologize or regret what you said, it's just not appropriate. None of us would want anybody to say that about our children and none of us would tolerate it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Imus -- Don Imus said horrible things about that basketball team, that women's college basketball team, it was at Rutgers, which was terrible. And there was an unbelievable public outcry, as there should have been, as there was. Where -- is this going to happen with CBS? Is CBS going to get it, or do you think they're just going to let him off the hook? Oh, I thought it was an 18-year-old and it's OK to say those things about 18-year-old women.
SWIFT: Well, you know what, Greta? Thanks to you and to "The View" today, to give them credit, hopefully, the popular opinion will come to bring to the attention of CBS, and you know, to David Letterman, who I'm sure is a -- you know, a decent person, that what he said was wrong. An apology is warranted and he probably needs some new joke writers.
VAN SUSTEREN: But he -- it's funny. It's, like, you know, he had his chance to give his apology. You know, I'm not sure he really gets it because he was dripping with sarcasm. And I was dripping with sarcasm when I started the show. But he says that -- you know, he thinks it's OK because it's 18. I don't think he gets it, so I wonder if CBS gets it.
SWIFT: Well, hopefully, enough voices will speak out so that they get it. This is not about whether or not she's -- first of all, it's not about whether she's 18 or 14. It's about family members shouldn't be subjected to this kind of vulgar discussion of their private lives. That's number one.
Number two, if that crosses the line, which I believe and I think many decent people believe it does, it was clear that the person who was there was her 14-year-old daughter. And again, the Imus show is unscripted, right? Imus said something probably in the heat of the moment that he has apologized for, he has made amends for. He went and met in a private setting with those young women and got to hear from them how that hurt them. I don't think that that's the kind of that David Letterman has gotten to and that he needs to understand.
And when something's a written joke, somebody could have figured out that it was a 14-year-old girl. And since when is it a criminal offense to sit with your mother at a baseball game when you're a 14-year-old girl? In fact, to me, that's a pretty nice thing.
VAN SUSTEREN: And to repeat, because I know some people are going to disagree with me, but I want to repeat I'm a feminist and I think women candidates for office and women in office should get aggressive grilling by the public but that it should be fair, never go into sexism and certainly not pick on the children. And David Letterman, I really don't think, gets it and I hope CBS at least does something. Governor, thank you.
SWIFT: Happy birthday -- belated.
VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you very much!
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