Step One: TV personalities Greg Gutfeld and Bob Beckel on Wednesday’s edition of Fox News’ The Five talk about how they pull punches for fellow Fox contributor Sarah Palin.

Step Two: They tell the AP they were joking.

Step Three: They revisit the question on Thursday’s edition of The Five, this time citing evidence for their evenhandedness. Said Beckel: “To say about me that I am not tough on Sarah Palin — are you kidding me?”

Hold on there, Beckel. That statement makes it sound as if others have alleged that he was not tough on Sarah Palin. No, it was Beckel who made that allegation, saying the day before: “I’ll be honest — I’ve pulled my punches on her.”

So whenever Beckel says he’s being honest — that’s when you know he’s joking!

Today I am going to check on this matter with my bosses: If I come under fire by critics for something I’ve said or written, can I go with the “joke” defense?