Sarah Palin cancels 'Today' show interview after MSNBC's Martin Bashir comments

Martin Bashir says Palin deserves punishment

(CNN) -- Sarah Palin canceled an interview with NBC's "Today" on Wednesday after MSNBC host Martin Bashir made incendiary remarks about the former Alaska governor.

Bashir apologized Monday for suggesting last week that Palin deserved graphic punishment for comparing the U.S. federal debt to China to slavery.

She made the comments during a speech in Iowa earlier this month.

"It's going to be like slavery when that note is due," Palin said, while noting at the same time that the comparison "isn't racist"

Reacting to Palin's comparison, Bashir ripped into the 2008 vice presidential nominee on Friday. He read excerpts from the diaries of Thomas Thistlewood, who wrote about the horrific treatment of slaves in Jamaica in the 18th Century--including a punishment that involved defecating and urinating in the mouth.

Bashir said that "when Mrs. Palin invokes slavery, she doesn't just prove her rank ignorance. She confirms if anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, she would be the outstanding candidate."

After facing intense criticism for his comments, Bashir apologized Monday.

"I wanted to take this opportunity to say sorry to Mrs. Palin and to also offer an unreserved apology to her friends and family, her supporters, our viewers and anyone who may have heard what I said," the MSNBC host said. "My words were wholly unacceptable. They were neither accurate, nor fair. They were unworthy of anyone who would claim to have an interest in politics. And they have brought shame upon my friends and colleagues at this network, none of whom were responsible for the things that I said, and and at a place where we try every day to elevate political discourse and to focus on issues that matter to all of us."

Palin hasn't publicly reacted to the Bashir's initial comments or apology.

In an interview with CNN Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper earlier this month, Palin defended her use of the slavery metaphor in an Iowa speech.

TAPPER: So, you obviously feel very passionate about the national debt. The other day, you gave a speech in which you compared it to slavery.

PALIN: To slavery. Yes.

And that's not a racist thing to do, by the way, which I know somebody is going to claim it is.

TAPPER: Don't you ever fear that by using hyperbole like that - obviously, you don't literally mean it's like slavery, which cost millions of people their lives and there was rape and torture. You're using it as a metaphor.

But don't you ever worry that by using that kind of language, you - you risk obscuring the point you're trying to make?

PALIN: There is another definition of slavery and that is being beholden to some kind of master that is not of your choosing. And, yes, the national debt will be like slavery when the note comes due.

TAPPER: So you're not - you're not work - I mean I'm - I'm taking it as a no, but you're not - you're not concerned about the language --

PALIN: I'm not one to be politically correct, evidently.

TAPPER: OK.

PALIN: And, no, I don't - I don't worry about things like that, because no matter what I say, no matter what a lot of conservatives say, they're, you know, they'll be targeted and distractions will be attempted to be made to take the listener and the viewers' mind off what the point is, by pointing out, oh, she said the word slavery in a speech, and, I did say the word slavery, because I want to make a point.

TAPPER: You can understand why African-Americans or others might be offended by it, though?

PALIN: I - I can if they choose to misinterpret what it is that I'm saying. And, again, you know, I'm sure if we open up the dictionary, we could prove that with semantics that are various, we can prove that there is a definition of slavery that absolutely fits the bill there, when I'm talking about a bankrupt country that will owe somebody something down the line if we don't change things that is, we will be shackled. We will be enslaved to those who we owe.

CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

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