'Dr. Phil' Chastises Letterman's Deriding of Palin's Bad Parenting

Guest “Dr. Phil” on Wednesday night chastised David Letterman's misunderstanding of teenage sexual behavior and parental influence after Letterman sarcastically complained that if a President McCain “drops dead...don't you want your President to have had the presence of mind to have chatted to her teenaged kids for five minutes about birth control?” (Letterman delivered the same belittling joke the night before too.)

Referring to Letterman's almost five-year-old son, daytime TV host Phil McGraw, aka “Dr. Phil,” informed Letterman:

Let me tell you something, new dad. If you are under the misapprehension that when Harry is 17 that you are going to have even a remote influence on what he decides in the back seat of a Chevy on a Saturday night -- I don't think old Dave's going to be popping in his mind at that point. It's not a 15-minute conversation. It's a dialogue that you need to have starting when he's about eight or nine.

Undeterred from his contempt for Sarah Palin, Letterman asked: “Then why didn't they have the dialogue?” McGraw suggested: “Maybe they did. But when children get that age, at 17 -- see, here's the thing. The body's grown but the brain is not.” Letterman soon sneered: “They don't sell Trojans in Alaska? Come on,” prompting McGraw to point out: “Wasn't Barack's mother like 18 when he was born?” Indeed she was.

Audio: MP3 audio clip (2:10, 650 Kb)

Letterman made a big distinction between whether Bristol Palin is 17 or 18, and while there may be legal rights at 18 it hardly means that if you see 17 as too young to be pregnant all is great with being pregnant at 18: “If she's 18 we're not having this conversation. Because she's 17, it's a whole different deal.”

The exchange, which matches the video, on the Wednesday, September 3 Late Show with David Letterman (video rendered by the MRC's Michelle Humphrey, transcript provided by Karen Hanna):

DAVID LETTERMAN: ...Here's the first thing that came to my mind. Another poor John McCain drops dead in office. He gets elected; drops dead. It's happened. I think Grover Cleveland dropped dead in office -- I don't know. So now she's the President. So I'm thinking to myself, okay, she's the President, fine. But don't you want your President to have had the presence of mind to have chatted to her teenaged kids for five minutes about birth control?

DR. PHIL: Let me tell you, let me tell you something, new dad.

LETTERMAN: Yeah. (Laughter) uh-oh.

DR. PHIL: If, if you are under the misapprehension that when Harry is 17 that you are going to have even a remote influence-

LETTERMAN: Really, really?

DR. PHIL: -on what he decides in the back seat of a Chevy on a Saturday night, I don't think old Dave's going to be popping in his mind at that point. It's not a 15-minute conversation. It's a dialogue that you need to have starting when he's about eight or nine.

LETTERMAN: Then why didn't they have the dialogue?

DR. PHIL: Maybe they did. But when children get that age, at 17 -- see, here's the thing. The body's grown but the brain is not. Your brain continues growing until you're 25.

LETTERMAN: I agree with everything you say, and that's why she should have been counseled all along. Me being snarky about a five-minute conversation is inaccurate. You, of course, smarter than I am, completely accurate (Laughter). But I'm just saying, you know what? There's going to be a lot-

DR. PHIL: I'm so getting set up here.

LETTERMAN: No, no, no.

DR. PHIL: I know what you're saying.

LETTERMAN: What makes it sensitive is the fact that she's 17. If she's 18 we're not having this conversation. Because she's 17, it's a whole different deal. But here, take some protection for God's sakes. They don't, they don't sell Trojans in Alaska? Come on.

DR. PHIL: Wasn't Barack's mother like 18 when he was born? 17, 18 when she got pregnant?

LETTERMAN: I don't know. What's the difference? 17, 18-

DR. PHIL: Have somebody look it up at the break because if it's not right, we need to take it out.

LETTERMAN: 18 is fine, I have no problem with 18.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center