A Few Thoughts on Letterman

Late last week David Letterman made an on-air announcement that he had engaged in sexual relationships with women he works with on the Late Show with David Letterman.  A short video clip (out of a much longer televised discussion) can be seen below.  The remarks that Letterman made just prior to those shown in this clip related to how he had been contacted by someone who knew of some unseemly things about Letterman, had proof to that effect, and wanted to be compensated $2 million to remain silent.  If he did not receive payment, the extorsionist planned on going public with a book and/or screenplay.  The extortionist, it turns out, is (was) a producer for the CBS News program 48 Hours Mystery.  This clip gets to the heart of the subject about which Letterman was being blackmailed, and contains his admission to the facts.

[Note:  Disregard the invitation in the video to click on another website address.   It takes you nowhere.]

Apart from this whole situation being very sad on many levels, especially for Letterman’s wife, young son Harry, and his “Mom” (who is occasionally featured on the show),  it barked out several observations for me.

  1. Confession without contrition is just conversation.  I’ll grant you that he conceded to the allegations brought up by the extortionist, but what Letterman has done so far, is just one step removed from denial.  That is not to trivialize what he has done thus far.  A confession, on the level he has done it, is really rather remarkable given that he has publicists and others who could have acted as his spokesperson admitting to the matter, “with no further comment.”  But Letterman, in an extraordinarily matter-of-fact manner, confesses to a number of very serious lapses, not the least of which are the betrayal of his wife, and likely a breach of a number of state or federal laws relating to sexual misconduct in the work place.  And for as much as I have been able to research, I have found nothing in the way of apologies or expression of regret.  Maybe it’s out there, but I have not been able to find it.  And at such time as there is some sort of apology, one might be justified in assuming that it may be grounded in regret over having been exposed, rather than for his moral failure and gross misconduct.  Any apology will likely be qualified with something to the effect of “if I have hurt or offended anyone I am deeply sorry.”  But we’ll see.  I hope that I stand to be corrected and there really is a changed heart that comes out of this for Letterman.
  2. Surprisingly, Letterman’s audience laughs at and applauds the confession that he has had sex with women who he works with at the show.  I’ll concede that it may well have been difficult for the live audience to know with certainty if this was a part of some larger comedic bit, or if it was a serious discussion.  Nevertheless, I have to ask, is it actually funny, or praiseworthy when someone admits to adultery and  fornication?  I might have prefered to hear a few gasps, groans, or sighs when he acknowledged his misdeeds, but that certainly was not the case, as you can hear in the clip.  And it did not seem like uncomfortable laughter, but more like what you would expect from his audience when there is pure comedy taking place.  I’ll grant you that the audience at the taping of a Letterman show is hardly a cross section of America, and certainly does not represent those who hold more conservative, or faith influenced values, but really, is this audience’s reaction one they would like to defend?
  3. Much has been made lately about the lack of journalistic professionalism and objectivity within the mainstream media.  How much less confidence do we, or should we have when a highly placed producer of a CBS News Division program is the alleged extortionist in this case?

Letterman is scheduled to return to his studio this afternoon for the taping of tonight’s show.  Irrespective of how or if he chooses to address the matter tonight, it is a virtual certainty that his viewer numbers will be high as people tune in to see how this train wreck continues.

Update:  Was interested to see this article from the press (albeit the “conservative” daily) in NYC.

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