The Letterman Saga.

I’m going to be serious for a bit.

If you haven’t heard about this yet, a man was arrested today for blackmailing celebrity talk-show host David Letterman. The story goes that a man claimed to know terrible, creepy things about Letterman and that he oughta pay up or else this guy would write a book and a screenplay about it. The whole fiasco is summed up here nicely by the New York Times.

In response to this, Letterman went on his programme and told everyone about exactly what he had done that might have been worth the extortion money: he had “had sex with women who worked on the show.”

The video will undoubtedly be up and down from Youtube as CBS goes into damage control mode. At the moment though, you can view it here.

Now, I’m a huge Letterman fan. I’m saying that upfront. He’s a polarising figure with a unique style that is hard to replicate. His jokes are dry and predictable – and on top of that he repeats them a lot – but nevertheless, I find myself laughing at them each and every time. So it’s perhaps expected that I might try to come to his defence. But at least bear with me as I explain myself.

Dealing with the “confession” first.

The so-called confession was perfectly executed in a way that should go into every spin doctor text book in the world.


Letterman never actually admits to doing anything wrong. Nor does he apologise. Instead, he weaves an elaborately rehearsed and astutely delivered story in which he describes the events that he’d been through in the past three weeks. He is in total control the whole time and he is able, as a result of years of experience, to make his audience eat from the palm of his hand as he feeds them his monologue. They laugh and cheer as he tells them he has had sex with women who have worked on the show. Not a woman. Women.

It wasn’t so much a confession as it was an explanation. He told the truth and pretty much said: Go on, judge me. See if I care.

What he didn’t do was call a press conference, get his wife to sit beside him and read from a sheet of paper. What he didn’t do was get evasive and try to suppress all the information. What he didn’t do was drag the story out. In short he didn’t make the same mistake that countless celebrities and politicians have made (or should I say; have been advised to make) countless times before.

In so doing it is my belief that he will come out of this relatively unscathed. Sure, there will be those who don’t like him, who don’t like his politics, who don’t like his humour and who don’t like his behaviour, who will try to raise hell and attempt to crush him and his career. They’ve tried before (think Palin-gate) and they’ve failed.

But Letterman won’t loose his job, his ratings won’t budge a great deal in the long term, and he will be able to get on with his live. This will all happen because he has grabbed the story with his fist, shaken it in front of our faces and then thrown it on the floor at our feet. And if we picked it up, we’d be picking up something that’s already been done and dusted. And it will feel stale.

Now, on to the actual things he has done.

There is no way, given the facts we have available to us at this stage, that we can say he has had home-wrecking affairs. Sure it looks that way, his wife doesn’t work on the show so the ‘women’ to whom he refers cannot be referencing her in any way. But we don’t know anything about their relationship or sex lives. They could have been raging swingers for the last 20 years, they could have had an arrangement whereby what went on in the studio stayed in the studio. They could have an agreement to be non exclusive when it comes to sexual partners. We can never know these things, and for this reason we can’t pass judgement on the guy, and say he’s done terrible adulterous things.

Or at least that’s the way I see it.

Time will tell what effect this will actually have on his marriage, his career, his ratings and his popular reception. But I just think it’s important that everyone gets some perspective on all this before they jump on some big anti-Letterman bandwagon.

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