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David Letterman apologizes, Sarah Palin accepts

Finally, an apology.

In an extraordinary mea culpa last night, talk show host David Letterman told viewers of his program that his monologue joke regarding Sarah Palin's daughter "was beyond flawed," and added, "I would like to apologize, especially to the two daughters involved, Bristol and Willow, and also to the governor and her family and everybody else who was outraged by the joke.

"I'm sorry about it and I'll try to do better in the future."

The Alaska governor accepted Letterman's apology, "Of course I accept [the apology] on behalf of young women like my daughters." A statement from Palin was shown on this morning's "Today."

Read more about Palin accepting the apology here

Letterman - and doubtless, CBS - hopes the apology will douse a firestorm created by his joke that Palin's daughter, while visiting New York, was "knocked up by Alex Rodriguez."

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Late-night host apologies to public figures are exceedingly rare, if not unprecedented, but Letterman's joke - which he disavowed last week and which he has continued to say was about Palin's adult daughter, Bristol, and not her 14-year-old sister, Willow, who was at the Yankee game - has assumed a life of its own.

Indeed, this afternoon a conservative activist - with the support of state Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua)- plans to hold a rally outside Letterman's Ed Sullivan Theater. Michael Patrick Leahy, who was also an organizer of the so-called "tea party" tax protests in April, said yesterday "if he has sincerely apologized, that's a good first step," but said the rally will go forward.

The joke was told during the June 8 broadcast, couched in a couple of otherwise good-natured jabs at Palin. But Palin issued a statement on her Facebook page blasting the joke and followed that up Friday with an interview on "Today" demanding that Letterman "apologize to women."

Last night, Letterman said he had been "watching the Jim Lehrer 'Newshour' (when) this commentator, the columnist Mark Shields, was talking about how I had made this indefensible joke about the 14-year-old girl, and I thought, 'Oh, boy, now I'm beginning to understand what the problem is here. It's the perception rather than the intent.' It doesn't make any difference what my intent was, it's the perception."

Palin's spokeswoman, Meghan Stapleton, couldn't be reached for comment.

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