Sounds like a personal vendetta ahead of genuine regret. CBS Late Show host David Letterman admitted to Oprah Winfrey, in an interview first aired Sunday night, that he backtracked after outrage erupted following a sex joke he told involving Sarah Palin’s then-14-year-old daughter Willow, not because it was highly inappropriate, but primarily so he could continue ridiculing Willow’s mother:
I’ll tell you why I apologized. I felt like Sarah Palin was somebody I wanted to continue to be able to make fun of and I felt like if I don’t apologize, if I don’t sincerely express my regret, I will not be able to go forward making fun of her.
The monologue joke, in June of 2009, was really targeted at Yankees player Alex Rodriquez with an unnamed Palin daughter cited as Rodriquez’s victim: “One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game, during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.”
Audio: MP3 clip 
An exchange from an interview conducted several weeks ago inside the “David Letterman Communication and Media Building” at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, and aired Sunday night, January 6, on Oprah’s Next Chapter on her OWN cable channel:
OPRAH WINFREY: I saw the apology that you made to Sarah Palin’s daughter. It seemed that you were genuinely apologetic there.
WINFREY NARRATION: After Sarah Palin attended a New York Yankees game with her 14-year-old daughter Willow, David cracked a sex joke about a baseball player and the young girl. Letterman says he thought Sarah Palin was with her oldest daughter, Bristol, who made headlines when she became pregnant at age 17.
WINFREY TO LETTERMAN: Why did you apologize?
LETTERMAN: I’ll tell you why I apologized. I felt like Sarah Palin was somebody I wanted to continue to be able to make fun of and I felt like if I don’t apologize, if I don’t sincerely express my regret, I will not be able to go forward making fun of her. And truly, I felt bad for the 14-year-old. You know, that was just like, oh nice going, you got the wrong daughter. That was just dumb, stupid joke that fell into dumb luck and got worse.
-- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here  to follow Brent Baker on Twitter.