Late night soul searching

American media is going into overdrive on David Letterman's claims that he had sex with his staffers.

david_lettermanUnsurprisingly, American media is going into overdrive on David Letterman’s claims that he had sex with his staffers.

The revelation on Friday followed threats of extortion by Robert Joel Halderman, a producer for the CBS news show 48 Hours. He was indicted by a grand jury on Thursday and pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted grand larceny in a New York court appearance on Friday.

When Letterman told his audience of the incident he did so with such skill that audiences laughed all the way throught it, expecting a punchline at the end.

As one TV Tonight reader who was in the audience said, “The audience reaction was really bizarre as when he first started talking about it we thought it was going to be a ‘joke’ story, laughter continued throughout most of the story until the very end. Even when he mentioned the sex most of the people still laughed. It took a while before the audience realised it was serious.”

Letterman’s longtime personal assistant, Stephanie Birkitt, is believed to be the woman at the centre of the claims, with a sexual relationship ending before Letterman was married in March.

But People Magazine notes another sexual relationship with one of his “peers, a woman close to him, not an intern.”

A source says: “It wasn’t a big deal because he wasn’t married. And we heard he had a girlfriend (Regina Lasko, whom Letterman married in March 2009), but she never came around, so it just wasn’t a big deal.”

While some media are stunned by the audience response to the admission, others look at how it might impact on his late-night comedic role.

“How can he ever joke about the sex lives of celebrities or politicians again? Much of the humor came from the hypocrisy of the personalities involved — and it is now he is seen as just such a hypocrite,” says The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik.

And just to prove how circular the world really is, the other talk show hosts are making gags on it. While Conan simply said “No comment,” Jay Leno remarked, “What is going on? First Conan hit his head, and then somebody tries to extort money from Letterman. I’m so glad I’m out of late-night.”

Source: NY Times, People, Balitmore Sun,

15 Responses

  1. @Ben Not much point trying to extort a faithful person, is there? If Dave had been on “a break” during his multiple affairs, would he not have said? Of course he would have. “I had a relationship with a staff member while on a break with my now wife”. Case closed. Instead he said “I had sex with women that work for me.”
    Plus, media is pretty much universally reporting he was having an affair in 2003. He has a five-year-old son. Do the math.

  2. Letterman was in a de-facto relationship at the same time as he was sleeping with his co-workers, so no matter how you slice and dice it, he was unfaithful and blatantly cheating on his partner. One of the sources at the network even acknowledges this with the comment “we heard he had a girlfriend (Regina Lasko)..” Personally, I find him physically repulsive, but there is no accounting for taste. He really had no choice but to brazen it out publicy, but it is all so tacky.

  3. Exactly Jack, if you’ve been with a woman for 17 years (as he had been at the time of the alleged affair) it kinda counts as cheating.

    Although I understand why Dave used his show as a platform to discuss the situation, the uncomfortable laughter made it unbearable. Could he not have prefaced it with “Just to be serious for a moment…”? And after the audience clued into it being a real story, he didn’t need to then try and get laughs again.

  4. Jack, I understand that but we don’t know whether they were together during this period, whether his now-wife knew at the time etc. etc. So how can we say that he’s a hypocrite for making jokes about politicians affairs, because we don’t know anything except that Letterman slept with a co-worker sometime in his 30 year career, at a time where he could’ve been single / in a relationship / in an open relationship / on a break, who knows?! Unless you’re separated, it’s pretty clear when a politician or celeb cheats on his wife..

  5. Rick (12:34pm),

    You’re getting your counties confused. It was actually the French foreign minister who said Roman Polanski is too talented to be extradited to the US & face charges of raping a 13 year-old. Even considering that, the French media or government don’t speak for the whole country all the time. Who knows what the majority of French or Americans feel about that issue?

  6. I think we’ll find that everytime he makes a joke about a celebrity having an affair, he’ll probably end up mocking himself at the same time. I don’t think there was another way he could handle it, and he admitted to the mistake.

    More than most would do.

  7. Oh America you puzzle me.

    While most of the media wants to lynch Letterman for having sex with a consenting adult, they’re demanding a man who drugged and raped a 13 year-old be let go free.

    Go figure!

  8. I like his response on his show, and it’s typical Letterman to mock himself. I doubt it will have a big impact on his opening monologue, I bet he will feed off it for weeks.

    This should be just between those involved and I find it interesting the someone from CBS was going to leak it. And this all happened before he was married so IMO it’s a non story.

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