Letterman under fire over 'trans' joke

Activists demand apology

Pressure groups have accused David Letterman of ‘feeding an epidemic of discrimination’ after making a joke about a transgender woman.

During his chat show monologue on Tuesday, the comic mentioned the news that Barack Obama had made the first presidential of a transgender woman, giving 48-year-old Amanda Simpson a job as technical adviser to the commerce department.

At which point, the show's announcer, Alan Kalter, feigned panic and ran off set screaming: ‘What? Amanda used to be a dude? Oh my God!’

The Human Rights Campaign has asked Letterman to apologise, writing a letter saying: ‘“The decision to ignore the fact that Ms. Simpson is incredibly well-qualified for this vital national security position and focus instead on her gender identity reflects transphobia.

‘You may not be aware that the punchline in your skit has been used as a defence in nearly every hate crime perpetrated against transgender people that has come to trial.’

‘Your skit affirmed and encouraged a prejudice against transgender Americans that keeps many from finding jobs, housing, and enjoying freedoms you and your writers take for granted every day. We ask that you apologize publicly to Ms. Simpson and the transgender community for this unfortunate episode.’

Jarrett Barrios, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation also demanded an apology, saying: ‘By promoting unfair and cruel reactions to transgender people, the David Letterman Show is feeding an epidemic of discrimination and violence that currently faces transgender Americans.’

Here is the offending scene:


Published: 7 Jan 2010

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