Lefty Letterman: A Top Ten List of the Outgoing CBS Host's Most Liberal Outbursts

David Letterman shocked the late night talk show world, last week, when he announced he was going to retire in 2015. But over the last few years Letterman had been losing the ratings war to his less liberal competitor Jay Leno. While Leno tried to be more even-handed in his jokes against Republicans and Democrats, Letterman took a decidedly leftist turn. A recent study of Letterman’s 2012 campaign jokes found he took more shots at Mitt Romney (44) than Barack Obama (9).

In the 2000’s Letterman throttled Republicans like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, questioning if they had any “humanity.” He also conducted his own personal war on GOP women as he called Michele Bachmann a “whacko” and depicted Sarah Palin and her daughter in “slutty” terms. But when it came to Obama, Letterman was positively awe-struck when the President came on his show, as he gushed “how satisfying it is to watch you work.”

The following is a Top 10 List of David Letterman’s Most Liberal Outbursts:


10. Rush Limbaugh = “Bonehead Gangster”


David Letterman: “What about this bonehead Rush Limbaugh?...He gets up in Washington and he’s the keynote speaker at some function, and he comes up, he looks like an Eastern European gangster. You know, he’s got the black jacket on, the black silk shirt and it’s unbuttoned, like, oh yeah, you think Rush Limbaugh, when you think, ‘Ooh, let’s see a little flesh.’ [audience laughter] Honestly, you know, what is he doing?”
CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric: “...Although I’m thrown by the Rush Limbaugh flesh in one sentence, but I think it’s sort of indicative of this power vacuum that exists right now in the Republican Party.”
— Exchange on CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman, March 2, 2009.


9. Rachel Maddow is “The Smartest Person in the World”


David Letterman: “You people are very lucky here tonight. Because we have, in addition to a wonderful program we have the smartest person on television - Rachael Maddow. Knows everything!
Letterman: “You’re the smartest person in the world. Ladies and gentlemen, here she is. Rachel Maddow! She’ll be hosting the coverage of both conventions on MSNBC!
— Praising Rachel Maddow during her appearance on CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman, August 22, 2012.

8. Letterman Bashes Pro-Gun Senators as “Stooges of the Night”


“James Inhofe voted ‘no’ on gun control. He said families of Newtown shootings had nothing to do with the debate on gun control, only thought they did, because they were told so by President Obama. There he is. Ladies and gentlemen, our ‘Stooge of the Night,’ James Inhofe. Let’s just leave that up there a little longer.”

— Letterman on CBS’s Late Show, April 22, 2013.

“Senator Jeff Flake voted ‘no’ on gun control legislation just weeks after saying ‘One thing we can all agree on is strengthening background checks for gun buyers.’ Let’s take another look at Jeff Flake. There he is ladies and gentlemen. Good looking guy, winning smile, getting it done.  Jeff Flake, our ‘Stooge of the Night’...Reminds me a little of Gomer Pyle.”
— Letterman on CBS’s Late Show, April 23, 2013

“Senator Cruz voted ‘no’ on gun control reform. He recently received $14,000 in contribution from the Gun Owners of America and the National Association for Gun Rights. Senator Ted Cruz, there he is...How about a background check on his barber?”
— Letterman the next night.

“Kentucky Senator Rand Paul voted ‘no’ on gun reform legislation....Did he have to get a background check before he bought that toupee? I don’t know....You folks in Kentucky elected a toupee to the Senate.”
— Letterman on his May 8, 2013 show. As of his Friday, May 10, 2013 Letterman had singled out for ridicule 15 U.S. Senators who had voted against the liberal gun control bill.


7. Letterman Trashes “Whacko” Michele Bachmann


David Letterman: “How about that Republican presidential candidate, Michele O’Bachmann [sic]? Isn’t she something?”
Paul Shaffer: “Michele Bachmann.”
Letterman: “Yes. She is now publishing her memoirs, and I thought, well, wait a minute, why can’t we pray that away?”
Shaffer: “All right, there you go.”
Letterman: “And Michele O’Bachmann’s got that haircut. Have you seen that haircut on the woman? It’s all the rage. Oh man, if you want to get one of those Michele O’Bachmann haircuts, go into the nearest beauty salon and ask for the whacko. That will get you where you want to be.”
— CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman, August 31, 2011.


6. Mitt Romney is a “Felon”


David Letterman: “Americans would most like to see: Six percent said Mitt Romney’s tax returns. Yeah, wanna get a look at those tax returns because I believe we will discover that the man has not paid a nickel in the United States federal income tax. That’s right. We have a felon running for president.”
— CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman, October 5, 2012.


5. Letterman Asks Michelle Obama “Has Your Husband” Ever Said To You “John Boehner, What An Idiot?”


David Letterman: “I have conversations with my wife. Paul has conversations with his wife.
Michelle Obama: “Yeah.”
Letterman: “Married men and women have conversations all the time.”
Obama: “We tend to talk.”
Letterman: “Tend to talk. That are for no one else in the world but one another.”
Obama: “That’s right. But-”
Letterman: “Hypothetically speaking, at the end of the day has your husband ever come home and said to you ‘Oh that John Boehner! What an idiot!?’”
Obama: “It has, it has never happened. Never, never. He is always upbeat, particularly about Congress.”
Letterman: “Yeah well it’s, how can you not be upbeat?”
— CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman, March 19, 2012.


4. Is There “Any Humanity” to Bush and Cheney?


“Is Cheney a goon? I don’t mean that to be like a smart ass, but he seems like he might be a goon....My feeling about Cheney — and also Bush, but especially Cheney — is that he just couldn’t care less about Americans. And the same is true of George Bush. And all they really want to do is somehow kiss up to the oil people....Is there any humanity in either of these guys?”
— CBS’s Late Show host David Letterman interviewing former White House press secretary Scott McClellan, June 11, 2008.


3. Letterman Plays Mock Video of Dick Cheney Flatlining


David Letterman: “This is fascinating. Remember Dick Cheney? Former Vice President Dick ‘Boom-Boom’ Cheney.”
Paul Shaffer: “That’s the guy.”
Letterman: “Had a lot of trouble with his heart. The guy had four or five heart attacks. And had many, many procedures. Had a heart transplant. And now he’s written a book and he claims to be a changed man. And he relishes every day. He was on the weekend show with George Stephanopoulos. ABC on the weekend, the weekend show. What do they call it? This Week on ABC with George Stephanopoulos is what they call it. Take a look at Dick Cheney.”
Clip of Dick Cheney: “I wake up every morning, literally, with a smile on my face. Grateful for another day I thought I never thought I’d see. And...[Sound of flatline beep plays]...and the other thing that comes through loud and clear after you’ve been through something like that.”
Letterman: “Well that was, that was some high drama. Wow!”
— CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman, October 29, 2013.


2. Letterman Mocks Sarah Palin’s “Slutty Flight Attendant Look” and Makes Sex Joke About Her Daughter


David Letterman: “One awkward moment though during the game, maybe you heard about it, maybe you saw it on one of the highlight reels. One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game, during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked-up by Alex Rodriguez.
Wow! Baffles the mind, doesn’t it?”
Letterman reciting from Top Ten Highlights of Sarah Palin’s Trip to New York: “Number two. Bought makeup from Bloomingdale’s to update her ‘slutty flight attendant’ look.
— CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman, June 8, 2009. Letterman was forced to apologize to the Palins but then later told Oprah Winfrey he only did it because he wanted to “continue to be able to make fun of” Sarah Palin.


1. Stroking Obama’s Ego: “How Satisfying It Is To Watch You Work”


“I know whenever you invoke like Great Britain or Canada people start to shudder, people go, ‘Oh, my God, it’s socialized medicine! Oh, my God, it’s socialized medicine!’ And I’m not a socialist, but it don’t sound that bad to me....I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to watch you work.”
 — David Letterman to President Obama on CBS’s Late Show, September 21, 2009.

— Geoffrey Dickens is Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center. Follow Geoffrey Dickens on Twitter.