A week ago, if you talked about late night talkshow host David Letterman being in the middle of a war, you'd likely have been referring to his new 11:35 opponent, Conan O'Brien.
But thanks to a few off-color jokes about the Palin family, Letterman is instead in the middle of his very own "lipstick on a pig" culture war (he currently seems to be winning his timeslot war against Conan, by the way).
In his monologue Monday night, Letterman talked about the Palin family visiting New York and made a joke about Sarah Palin's daughter getting "knocked up" by (allegedly) philandering Yankee second baseman, Alex Rodriguez.
The Palin camp reacted strongly, accusing Letterman of advocating the raping of children and even hinted that Letterman himself might be some kind of geriatric sex offender. Letterman responded that while he "can't defend" the jokes, he said nothing about rape and was talking about Palin's 18-year-old daughter Bristol (who is arguably the most famous unwed teenage mother in America), not Palin's 14-year-old daughter, Willow.
When Letterman discussed the incident Wednesday night, he joked that it could be his last show. But today, The New York Times reports that Letterman and CBS have reached a deal to keep him hosting "The Late Show" till at least 2012.
The controversy isn't likely to go away. For one thing, it has gotten Palin back on television and back in the headlines. And for Letterman? He's still joking because controversy usually means ratings.