Going up against comedians is usually full of peril. Especially comedians who have millions of viewers and have been national TV icons since the early 1980s. Yeah, like David Letterman.
Letterman usually wins. He's got the charisma, the humor, the microphone, and a big loyal following. Although John McCain kissed his ring last fall when he fell out of favor with the late night comic, McCain's former sidekick is not bowing down or shying away.
Anything but. She's taking on Letterman like she said she would do with anyone who talks negatively about her children -- like a mama grizzly. And like that mama grizzly, she appears to think she can win the battle.
The latest lob between Letterman and the Palins came after the late night host's clarification yesterday that his joke about a Palin daughter getting "knocked up" by Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez was aimed at the governor's 18-year-old daughter Bristol. Not 14-year-old daughter Willow.
"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. ... Am I guilty of poor taste? Yes. Did I suggest that it was OK for her 14-year-old daughter to be having promiscuous sex? No," Letterman explained last night.
The problem with Letterman's "clarification" is that his joke made mention of the Yankees game Palin attended on Sunday. She attended with her 14-year-old daughter not the 18-year-old.
And the Palins are taking his statement literally.
Do they accept his clarification? Absolutely not. When asked if the Palins would accept Letterman's invitation to appear on his show, Palin spokesperson Meg Stapleton indicated that Letterman would be a threat to Willow.
"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," Stapleton said.
It's not just Palin's spokesperson either. Yesterday, both parents ripped into Letterman.
"Acceptance of inappropriate sexual comments about an underage girl, who could be anyone's daughter, contributes to the atrociously high rate of sexual exploitation of minors by older men who use and abuse others," the governor said in a statement.
Todd Palin added, "Any ‘jokes’ about raping my 14-year-old are despicable. Alaskans know it, and I believe the rest of the world knows it, too."
"Instead of acting as though he's the victim of someone else's misunderstanding, as he did last night, Letterman ought to simply admit he blew it, big time, and personally apologize to the Palins and his viewers," Chapman writes. "He also should to keep in mind that if you're going to ridicule someone's sex life, you might pick on someone your own size. And make very sure you have the right person."
Media Critic Eric Deggans thinks Letterman made a mistake but the Palins have more to lose.
"If I were Dave, I would have apologized for not making it clear that he was referring to Bristol, who is an adult, and not Willow, who is not," Deggans writes. "That said, I think the Palins are making the biggest mistake here; their aggressive response may play well with their hardcore fans, but adding this feud on top of open conflict with Newt Gingrich is liable to wear out their welcome with the general public quickly."
The ball is in Letterman's court. If he backs down and apologizes the controversy will end much more quickly. After all, the Palins have shown they aren't afraid to fight. And although Letterman's on TV much more than Sarah Palin, she can get air time any time she wants.