Scandal Makes Letterman Himself Late Night Fodder
JACKI LYDEN, host:
Comic David Letterman found himself caught up in the sort of compromising situation he so often skewered on late-night TV on Thursday. The host of the "Late Show with David Letterman" used 10 minutes of his show to make a public confession. First, Letterman told his viewers, someone was trying to blackmail him. Then he said why.
(Soundbite of TV show, "Late Show with David Letterman")
Mr. DAVID LETTERMAN (Host): I have had sex with women who work for me on this show.
LYDEN: Joining us to talk about the controversy surrounding Letterman's admission and his forum for it is HollywoodReporter.com editor Andrew Wallenstein.
Andrew, you've seen it all in all in your job. Where does this fit?
Mr. ANDREW WALLENSTEIN (Editor, HollywoodReporter.com): Oh, it's right up there. I mean certainly it seems like every month there's a new celebrity scandal that often has, you know, sex or drugs involved. But you know, even when you take the great ones of recent memory, like Eliot Spitzer or like Chris Brown, this one really has the ability to be the biggest yet.
LYDEN: Well, the irony, of course, is that a good part of Letterman's career and performance is that he has a bully pulpit from which he is provocative towards other people. And he's used it to skewer the very men that you just mentioned and others who were caught in the act.
Mr. WALLENSTEIN: And that's exactly the crux of the problem here in terms of the future of his career. Let he who is without sin cast the first joke.
LYDEN: I wonder too, Andrew, if the audience didn't feel somehow compromised. I'm talking about the studio audience there in New York, along with perhaps the women on the show who still have to work there.
Mr. WALLENSTEIN: The way Letterman had constructed his speech was such that you didn't understand till the very end that he actually was culpable for something - that being his sexual exploits - and that was the result of the very extortion attempt. And I don't think the audience there really understood. And so really they had been sort of politely clapping and cheering all along, not really knowing what was going on.
LYDEN: Well, what is the reaction that you're seeing in the entertainment community and elsewhere?
Mr. WALLENSTEIN: The responses have really been all over the map. I think right now there's more confusion than anything, in the absence of a lot of the facts and details as to the nature of the relationships Letterman had. I think once that comes out, you're going to see more of a rush to judgment, whether pro or con.
LYDEN: By saying that he was doing this because someone was extorting money from him, does he put the onus of the problem on somebody else?
Mr. WALLENSTEIN: In a strange way, it's almost as if the extortion attempt was doing him a favor. The reason I say that is that because Letterman himself was able to use that in a way that cast himself as the victim, and the extortionist as the villain. But if this was something that unfolded more like, say, John Edwards, where, you know, The National Enquirer just came out and exposed his affair and such, we would have seen Letterman left as exposed and on the defensive as Edwards was.
LYDEN: HollywoodReporter.com editor Andrew Wallenstein, thanks very much for joining us.
Mr. WALLENSTEIN: My pleasure.
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