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Fire David Letterman? The Social Media Marketing Story continues

2009 June 14

The witch hunt has begun, and it seems that Sarah Palin and her supporters are fervent in their desire to de-throne Letterman because of a couple of jokes he told last week on The Late Show.  There’s a website that launched called Fire David Letterman and it’s creators are staging a “Fire Dave” rally today in front of the Ed Sullivan Theatre in New York City.

There are so many great posts regarding this “outrage” that there’s not much I can add to this discussion, except to say that someone is typically the butt of a comedian’s jokes and the more public the individual, the greater chance that person has of being a joke’s “butt”.

Had Palin not reacted publicly no one would have noticed, cared or talked about Dave’s off color remark.  It would have been just another joke; just another show.  But Palin went public.  Online and on TV.  And now the traditional media and social media circus have propelled “Fire David Letterman” to the top of Google’s search trends for today.

Today with our ability to forward, share, publicly bookmark and re-tweet everything, it becomes really important to think very carefully about what bones are worth publicly picking.  Shannyn Moore‘s blog post in today’s Huffington Post sums it up well.  In it she lists the “Top 10 Reasons Sarah Palin’s ‘Outrage’ is Misplaced and A Little Late . . . “.

So what happens next?

Dave’s ratings will soar, and Conan will have to work even harder to maintain and grow the Tonight Show audience in the face of all of this free publicity for the Late Show.  It’s not unlike the extra push Jay Leno got from his 1995 interview with Hugh Grant after Grant had been arrested in Hollywood after being caught in a car with a prostitute.  That show in which Leno asked Grant, “What were you thinking?” drew a huge audience and propelled Leno and The Tonight Show into first place where it remained throughout his tenure.

An MSNBC Recap of the Story  from “Countdown with Keith Olbermann


2 Responses leave one →
  1. Virginia Kuenster permalink
    June 17, 2009

    Too bad your essay is missing several important concepts. Palin HAD to respond for several reasons:
    1. Emotionally – as a furious mother having had her 14 year old daughter made the focus of a tasteless, sexual joke on national TV. Can you imagine the razzing Palin’s daughter received at school for this? The insulting teasing. With HER name attached – not her political mother. As a parent could you NOT strike back in defense of your child’s pain? Could you? For her sake. For Your own angry sake.
    2. Strategically – As a political animal, if she didn’t make a strong public response she’d be branded as “uncaring” and a family values hypocrite. You know it would have been spun that way by her vigorous liberal opposition/media hounds. And, for a lot MORE “amusing” column inches.
    3. Intellectually – Yes, “intellectually”. There IS a dumbing down in American culture. Where anything goes to stimulate our minds to grab our attention. I agree with Palin that our culture in many ways is devolving and good taste has become irrelevant.

    In summary: Letterman’s humor was cheap. And a large segment of his audience, upon reflection after the media storm, realize it. And I don’t think that they feel very good for elevating him as an icon. We’ll see how his ratings go.

    Gini Kuenster

  2. June 18, 2009

    Hi Virginia –

    Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I appreciate you checking out my blog.

    Though I do agree with your point #3, that Letterman’s humor was cheap, I disagree with you on the first two.

    Comedians are always stepping on toes. I know of many charities that NEVER hire a comedian for an event, even someone as mild and funny as Bob Newhart – as someone is always insulted. That being said, Letterman was off base.

    I blog about social media and social media marketing, hoping to add insight to stories that are generating web 2.0 buzz as this story did.

    I disagree with your points #1 & #2 for one very fundamental reason. Sarah Palin showed, by accepting the nomination for VP, that she placed her political career ahead of her family, and certainly ahead of her daughter Bristol’s privacy. I am a parent and thought a lot during the election about Bristol Palin and the pain that she had to be enduring by being thrust into the spotlight as an unmarried pregnant teenager on stage before the whole world.

    Once again, I do agree that Letterman’s joke was a cheap shot, though I think it was aimed more at Alex Rodriguez then Palin’s young daughter. But I feel that Palin showed disregard for Bristol and her child’s father by making their situation so public. It would have been much more thoughtful and protective had Palin thanked John McCain for the terrific honor of being asked to be his running mate while respectfully declining the nomination. He would have understood that family came first, and Bristol would have endured much less scrutiny.

    So, I will stand by contention that the best thing Palin could have done would have been to ignore Letterman’s remarks, and let someone else take up her fight, if in fact, it was a fight worth waging.

    Dave’s on air apology was a direct result of the “Fire Dave Rally” that had been so well publicized on the “Fire David Letterman” website, and throughout the social media universe.

    Again, thanks so much for reading my blog and for commenting! Though we may not agree on this issue, I hope you can see how integral social media was in telling the story.

    Best Regards,


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