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Letterman Addresses His Affair on Tonight's Show

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | October 5, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | October 5, 2009 |

I’ll try to refrain, tonight, from being a judgmental asshole with regard to the Letterman controversy. And maybe, given my personal closeness to the man, I oughtn’t be discussing it anymore. But I was weirdly heartened by a lot of the comments left on last Friday’s post, most of them defending Dave. Ironically enough, as harsh as I was on him in that post, I nevertheless spent much of the weekend defending his actions to my wife. Although, it’s hard not to sympathize with her point: Dave slept with subordinates. And in a manner, consent — real consent — is impossible in that situation. It’s hard to defeat that argument, and most of my attempts were futile or weak. That Dave is an exception to the employer/employee rule — he’s a recluse, and the only women he’s ever likely to see are those he works with. That he’s not the type of person to take advantage of his position. That he’s been doing this for decades, and no one has brought a complaint, so it must be OK, right?

Weak sauce.

I’ve read pretty much every article I could find on the situation over the last few days. I know that the affairs were apparently broken off before the marriage. But then again, the marriage was only in March, and I don’t know that they were broken off before Harry was born. Moreover, it’s become apparent — especially in light of comments Dave made for tonight’s show (below) — that his wife wasn’t aware of the affairs while they were happening (excluding the possibility of an “arrangement”). Also, there was a room in the Ed Sullivan theater that was used, specifically, to sleep with women. That’s got creepy written all over it. On the extortion front, it was Stephanie Birkett’s diary, pages of which were allegedly stolen by that CBS producer, that formed the basis for the blackmail.

The jury is still out. I do admire Letterman’s candidness. I respect the way he’s handled the situation, even if I do not respect the situation he’s gotten himself into. And tonight, he addresses the situation further. He’s taking it head-on, and turning himself into a punchline, in the hopes — probably — of taking the sting away from other late-night hosts. I dunno. I’m curious as to what Jon Stewart might say tonight.

In the meantime, here’s a snippet from tonight’s opening monologue. You gotta admit, it’s the best monologue he’s had in years.

And finally, here’s a portion of what Letterman had to say about the incident, from a transcript that Nikkie Finke was sent:

“I’m terribly sorry that I put the staff in that position. Inadvertently, I just wasn’t thinking ahead. And, moreover, the staff here has been wonderfully supportive to me, not just through this furor, but through all the years that we’ve been on television and especially all the years here at CBS, so, again, my thanks to the staff for, once again, putting up with something stupid I’ve gotten myself involved in.

“Now the other thing is my wife, Regina. She has been horribly hurt by my behavior, and when something happens like that, if you hurt a person and it’s your responsibility, you try to fix it. And at that point, there’s only two things that can happen: either you’re going to make some progress and get it fixed, or you’re going to fall short and perhaps not get it fixed, so let me tell you folks, I got my work cut out for me.”

So, now that we know a little more about the affairs, about the circumstances, and even about the extortion, where does everyone stand now? I’m honestly just curious. And maybe someone can help me out in my defense of Dave.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.