That part felt awkward
October 2, 2009 10:03 AM   Subscribe



 
Wait, so why does having sex with your staff cause you to get banned from Newark Airport?
posted by jeremy b at 10:06 AM on October 2, 2009


Meh.
posted by jquinby at 10:13 AM on October 2, 2009


"I'm David Letterman, and I haven't been particuarly funny for about fifteen years, ever since that Oscar gig. It was the 'Uma' - 'Oprah' thing that started it all. I'm sorrry."
posted by yhbc at 10:13 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


OMG. People have sex with people they work with sometimes. LOL.
posted by monkey!knife!fight! at 10:14 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Many years ago, Dave was stalked by a woman who actually broke into his house several times. One night after this was in the news again, he pulled out the telephone, dialed a number, and waited without an answer; he hung up and said "okay, that's good." Paul asked "who were you calling?" Dave replied "my house."
posted by fatbird at 10:16 AM on October 2, 2009 [26 favorites]


I'm going to say that this was probably the right thing to do. Affairs seem so, well, natural (taking the Dan Savage view here) that it's appalling that they can ruin the lives of people, well-known and not.
posted by LSK at 10:16 AM on October 2, 2009 [9 favorites]


This was probably the best way to deal with the situation. Keeping silent would have prolonged the celebrity-obsessed and scandal-obsessed media coverage.
posted by rocket88 at 10:17 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


If this wasn't in a torrid affair in a foreign country that was flown to on the taxpayer's dime complete with turgid love letters and a tearful incoherent press conference, I don't care.
Thank you Gov. Sanford for raising the bar.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 10:19 AM on October 2, 2009 [40 favorites]


Is that link borked? I keep getting stuck on something about google frame.

Anyway -- I read the NYT article on this topic; it strikes me as a pretty good pre-emptive strike before the gossip got out. You know -- instead of covering it up and letting Smoking gun or the Enquirer splash it all over the covers, just open up and say "alright, here's what happened, and now that you know, the tabloids won't go crazy trying to find 'exclusives', so there it is and we can go past it."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:19 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought it was smart. The details were bound to get out anyway, but by confronting it head-on he's eliminated any future blackmail threats, or tabloid "exclusives," and so on. I imagine it's hard for his wife and kid, though, to have all this personal information out there.
posted by Houstonian at 10:19 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Letterman explained how he’d contacted the Special Prosecution Bureau of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and had given his extortionist a fake check for the $2 million.

What kind of nut takes a cheque as blackmail payment?
posted by Mitheral at 10:19 AM on October 2, 2009 [45 favorites]


If you have YOUR OWN SHOW, why not use it to explain something shitty that's happened to you? I'm not fan of Letterman, but his self-deprecating explanation was the best way to handle this.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 10:20 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I keep imagining the check as one of those giant novelty props.
posted by rokusan at 10:21 AM on October 2, 2009 [45 favorites]


What kind of nut takes a cheque as blackmail payment?

Network executive?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:21 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]




Wait, so why does having sex with your staff cause you to get banned from Newark Airport?

That was a joke feud between Conan O'Brien and the mayor of Newark, no?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:24 AM on October 2, 2009


What kind of nut takes a cheque as blackmail payment?

The same kind of nut who apparently had a well-paying job as a CBS producer and decided that he could "get away" with trying to hide information about a celebrity for money. There are entire shows devoted to what Ashton Kutcher had for breakfast this morning.

Now on the catty note, that Stephanie Burkitt was involved in all this seems so glaringly obvious in retrospect, given that it sort of explains how a member of his office staff who was never funny and has little to no stage presence somehow became a part of every bit he taped from 1999 through 2002 or so.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:25 AM on October 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


I am not looking forward to this sex tape leaking.
posted by Windigo at 10:26 AM on October 2, 2009 [15 favorites]


I keep imagining the check as one of those giant novelty props.

He said on the show that he really wanted to do this, "like a golf tournament," but his lawyer wouldn't let him. How dumb did Halderman have to be to think he could successfully fuck with a guy whose public response to all manner of crazy-ass shit has always been similarly matter-of-fact and unflinching?
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:26 AM on October 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


(Adding, re-reading that I didn't mean that as an attack on Burkitt. She quite honestly had no fault in this AFAIK and the people suddenly attacking her for (gasp!) sleeping with her boss are kinda disgusting. I just meant it seems kinda weird/oogy/funny that there's all these old articles from a few years back about that "quirky girl in all of Letterman's sketches" and that repeated story about eating a lot of slices of pizza and oh yeah, actually she was fucking him. Huh.)
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:29 AM on October 2, 2009


I find the concept of blackmail-ists fascinating. Most other criminals, I can kind of get into their heads and maybe, sorta see where they are coming from; that, under the right circumstances, they might still believe themselves to be the heroes of their own stories, but with blackmail all you are doing is exploiting fear for you own personal ends.

I imagine that people who engage must see themselves as cartoon villains or be utterly immune to cognitive dissonance.

Either that, or they've convinced themselves that their victims are such utterly loathsome creatures as to be beyond caring about, and that seems to be pushing into some other kinds of personal mental problems.
posted by quin at 10:29 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


This may have been as good a way to deal with it as any, and it's bad that someone tried to blackmail him.

But this was not a good work environment. He deserves negative publicity for that.
posted by ibmcginty at 10:29 AM on October 2, 2009


Years ago, I had a cab driver, back during the Clinton impeachment aftermath, who said "you can't go after a man just for having a lot of juice."

That's how I feel. Women too. Who you fuck is your business if it's legal.

Have the moralists who will opine about their disappointment with Letterman today, whether on TV or around the water cooler or right here, will be people who have had affairs. Or more.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:29 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


"It was the 'Uma' - 'Oprah' thing that started it all."

I loved the Uma, Oprah bit. Still cracks me up.
posted by klangklangston at 10:29 AM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Half, not have . . .

And I do make an exception for moralists themselves: who(m) they fuck is publicly useful information.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:30 AM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


This is lame and I'm uninterested until the real scandal is that the husband of the lady Letterman had an affair with gets a new job as a production assistant on the late show.
posted by pwally at 10:31 AM on October 2, 2009


it sort of explains how a member of his office staff who was never funny and has little to no stage presence somehow became a part of every bit he taped from 1999 through 2002 or so.


Actually, I thought her complete and total unsuitability for onscreen activity was part of the joke. You know, the way he put people like Biff Henderson or his Mom on camera to do things -- a "normal person" in a "showbiz" position.

Mind you, when I saw her name attached to this I blinked, and then thought, "okay, yeah, that's not too surprising."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:32 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


That's how I feel. Women too. Who you fuck is your business if it's legal.

Okay, but honestly, just to be devil's advocate on an issue we shouldn't even be caring about anyway, Letterman was confessing to multiple affairs while he was also with his (I don't even know, what would you call it- "real?") girlfriend, who eventually became his wife. For someone who made millions cracking Clinton jokes, a little bit of public shame for something that while not illegal but certainly unethical and hypocritical doesn't seem too outrageous.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:32 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought it was a fascinating and somewhat poignant account of what he's been going through, obviously written with humor as a way to deflect the seriousness of being blackmailed.

Then he got to the actual confession part...
Letterman: "The [stuff I was being blackmailed about] was that I have had sex with women who work for me on this show."
Audience: <gasps>
Letterman: "Now, my response to that is, 'Yes I have'."
Audience: <laughs, claps>
What. the. fuck. audience? I mean I know it's hard to react to something like that being presented in a format where you're expected to be laughing and clapping, but obviously they understood the gravity of the issue because their first response was to gasp. Is it too much to ask to keep your serious face on for two straight minutes?

I was also pretty blech about his making jokes to the effect of "heh heh bet you didn't think I'd had sex at all, did you?" and "haha this would really be embarrassing for the women if this was made public!" I have no reason to assume he did anything really evil (like using his position to coerce them into sexual relationships) but that's a dangerously fine line for him to joke about so dismissively. I'd be pretty uncomfortable all of a sudden if I was a woman working for The Late Show.
posted by Riki tiki at 10:33 AM on October 2, 2009 [10 favorites]


explains how a member of his office staff who was never funny and has little to no stage presence

Larry "Bud" Melman?
posted by bitslayer at 10:33 AM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Is it too much to ask to keep your serious face on for two straight minutes?

I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure that the people who typically queue up for Letterman and Leno-style talk shows are some of the worst people in the world.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:35 AM on October 2, 2009 [10 favorites]


fourcheesemac, the dude wasn't pulling punches when he was cracking jokes about Clinton.
posted by chunking express at 10:36 AM on October 2, 2009


Not that anyone should really give a fuck about all this. I mean, I don't know Letterman.
posted by chunking express at 10:36 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you think Bud Melman was neither funny nor oozing inherent comedic presence, you had no concept of comedy.

Again, not hitting her for her personal life decisions. But she had no business being on camera. Burkitt got three or so years out of "hey Paul, let's cut to Stephaine wearing a funny hat and occasionally she'll actually look at the camera." Christ, even Rupert Gee knew how to deliver lines.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:36 AM on October 2, 2009


I've always thought David Letterman was pretty hot - I wonder if the show is hiring?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:36 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you think Bud Melman was neither funny nor oozing inherent comedic presence, you had no concept of comedy.

Ahem. I think the joke there was the implication that Letterman was diddling Melman.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:37 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


...that Stephanie Burkitt was involved...I didn't mean that as an attack on Burkitt. She quite honestly had no fault in this AFAIK...

More on Stephanie Burkitt, including:
"Sources tell TMZ that Letterman and Birkitt had a sexual relationship that ended before 2003, when his son Harry was born.

Sources tell RadarOnline.com that 'Birkitt and Letterman slept together for a period of time before he married his girlfriend Regina had their son Harry' and that Birkitt is reportedly 'mortified Halderman is using her fling with Letterman to blackmail her boss.'"
posted by ericb at 10:38 AM on October 2, 2009


So what you're saying is Letterman was having an affair with Bud Melman and Biff Henderson?
posted by billysumday at 10:38 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ahem. I think the joke there was the implication that Letterman was diddling Melman.

Oh. Well that just means I have no concept of comedy.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:39 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


billysumday: So what you're saying is Letterman was having an affair with Bud Melman and Biff Henderson?

Now there's a sex tape I could get behind.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:40 AM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Ok, politicians, pay attention. This is how you handle these things.
posted by bondcliff at 10:40 AM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


I think laughter is perfectly appropriate way of demonstrating you couldn't care less what the guy does with his private life. As far as them being "some of the worst people in the world", certainly. Worse, even, than people that take ferry boats around lower Manhattan or some of the troglodyte nihilists lined up for the 30 Rock Tour. The lot of them should be emptying my spitoons.

Letterman is a national icon and a lot of us over forty grew up on him. There isn't anything he does with his junk that I give two shits about. I hope he makes this a routine part of his show if only to make the whole notion of sexual affairs as interesting as a root canal.
posted by docpops at 10:41 AM on October 2, 2009


Burhanistan: "
I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure that the people who typically queue up for Letterman and Leno-style talk shows are some of the worst people in the world.
"

mmmmno, those are the commenters on the mediaite page; specifically the two DAVE LETTERMAN SPOKE ILL OF PALIN! FATWA! commenters.
posted by boo_radley at 10:41 AM on October 2, 2009


Is it too much to ask to keep your serious face on for two straight minutes?

Not when there's a monitor over your head telling you to laugh.
posted by katillathehun at 10:42 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who you fuck is your business if it's legal.

See, e.g., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, codified as Subchapter VI of Chapter 21 of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.
posted by The World Famous at 10:43 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Having sex with your employees is sorta ... isn't there some sort of policy at CBS, as there is at many other places of work, that this constitutes sexual harrassment of some kind? Would a low-level manager get fired immediately for having sex with an intern? Seems like an abuse of power to me anyway.

On the other hand, we don't know the details of what these encounters were like and how there were started. And frankly I don't want to know.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:45 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


that Stephanie Burkitt was involved in all this seems so glaringly obvious in retrospect

Ha, I immediately thought of her when I heard that he had an affair with a staffer. Letterman put a lot of weird stuff in his show for no reason over the years, but having her on all the time to talk about her weekend or show vacation photos or whatever was so out of place. Especially considering that whenever anyone else who worked on the show got screen time it was always part of some actual comedy bit (like Pat & Kenny Read Oprah Transcripts).
posted by burnmp3s at 10:45 AM on October 2, 2009


When I saw the clip on the news this morning I was impressed that he came right out and said sex, rather than try to hide behind vague and weaselly phrasing like "had an inappropriate relation...". Even though I haven't followed the show in a while, I've always been impressed that Letterman seems to be straight forward and stands by his his word.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:45 AM on October 2, 2009


I really respect the fact that he went to the authorities and that he just came clean. Whether or not you think he's funny or care about him personally, I think he handled this pretty well. It would have been good if he had clued people in on the fact that he wasn't joking when he started though.
posted by Kimberly at 10:45 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The fake $2 million dollar check is pure comedy gold.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:46 AM on October 2, 2009


Uhhh uhh...you got any gum?
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 10:47 AM on October 2, 2009 [10 favorites]


Awkward Sexual Innuendo from back when she was on the show.
posted by delmoi at 10:47 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wait wait wait... a package mysteriously appears on the back seat of his car and his response is to just go ahead and open it?!?
posted by adamt at 10:48 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wait, wait, was he sleeping with Monty?!

I don't want to say "Whoa dude I totally called it" because I didn't totally call it, but every time I saw him joking with her on the program, giving her that nickname she hated, the way she'd roll her eyes when he started asking her dumb questions -- I always got this vibe of "there's something between them" solely based on their interactions. But I figured it was their business.

And now I wonder if he ever had a threesome with the Grinder Girl and the Hula Hoop Girl. Good lord I need to start thinking about anything else. Quick, someone start humming the Mickey Mouse Club song or something.
posted by Spatch at 10:48 AM on October 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


Awkward Sexual Innuendo from back when she was on the show.

Heh. The name of that bit was "Would You Like To Eat A Sandwich In Dave's Office?". Euphemism, anyone?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:49 AM on October 2, 2009


So what you're saying is Letterman was having an affair with Bud Melman and Biff Henderson?

Now that's a hearty manwich.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:49 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


The fake $2 million dollar check is pure comedy gold.

I hope it was one of those oversized novelty checks they use on the Publisher's Clearing House commercials.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:51 AM on October 2, 2009


I am trying desperately hard to come up with a 'Will It Float?'-related euphemism.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:52 AM on October 2, 2009


NO WAIT

So Larry Bud Melman is fucking Dave's mom and she's blowing Biff Henderson and Biff is fisting Dave in the bum and they're all rolling around in the piss and the shit and the spooge and the blood and they stand up and go TA-DA!

And the talent agent says, "That's a hell of an act..."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:52 AM on October 2, 2009 [17 favorites]


See, e.g., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, codified as Subchapter VI of Chapter 21 of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.

sex != sexual harassment.
posted by delmoi at 10:52 AM on October 2, 2009


I am not looking forward to this sex tape leaking.

Sex tapes should not leak. See a doctor ASAP.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:53 AM on October 2, 2009 [13 favorites]


I thought it was a master's class in controlling the message. Letterman took it public at the very first moment he could, jumping the gun on a lot of the press, and set the narrative: He had sex with an employee, was being blackmailed, and assisted the police in getting the blackmailer arrested. He does not care to talk about the relationship, or relationships, and whoever he was involved with is free to do so, if they like, but he intends to preserve their privacy. The whole experience was tramuetizing for him, and his first priority is making sure his family was safe.

Was his behavior questionable? I'd say yes, but I feel about it the same way I felt about Clinton's behavior -- that, unless it directly affects me, it's not my business.

By taking control of the message this early on, letterman undoubtedly circumvented a lot of how this sort of thing usually plays out, with leaks to the press and advesaries taking what little information out there and using it against him. Politicians would do well to learn from Letterman's performance last night. Be the first with the message, or be the one scrambling to regain control of the information.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:54 AM on October 2, 2009 [37 favorites]


Okay, but honestly, just to be devil's advocate on an issue we shouldn't even be caring about anyway, Letterman was confessing to multiple affairs while he was also with his (I don't even know, what would you call it- "real?") girlfriend, who eventually became his wife.

XQUZYPHYR: Fair enough, but as a commenter pointed out in the Gawker link someone posted up-thread, for all we know Dave and those close to him knew all along he simply didn't have it in him temperamentally to be a "one woman kind of guy," and that's why he put off marrying the mother of his kids for--what was it?--like 23 years. (He may ultimately have only married for the benefit of the kids.) And it's also quite possible he and his wife had a mutual understanding regarding such matters.

Not that these considerations totally disinfect the situation. There's still a certain ick-factor introduced by the power imbalances inherent anytime a boss goes around shtupping his underlings (I mean, did these women implicitly feel pressured to put out at the risk of harm to their careers; or even if not, was Dave putting himself out there as some kind of sleazy sugardaddy to these women, etc., etc.).

But I won't condemn him. His actions have built-in natural consequences that will work themselves out and he's shown himself willing to let those consequences take their course. He may be squaring himself with reality a little too late, but in one way or another, he'll pay for every second of delay with interest, and those are debts he now seems willing to pay. That's more than you can say about the majority of people in similar positions (compare and contrast with how John Edwards and Mark Sanford dealt with the revelations of their infidelity).
posted by saulgoodman at 10:55 AM on October 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


Heh. The name of that bit was "Would You Like To Eat A Sandwich In Dave's Office?". Euphemism, anyone?

"Would You Like To Eat A Sandwich In Dave's Office?" is now my skeevy pick-up line of choice.
posted by Dr-Baa at 10:55 AM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


I thought this was an excellent example of how to handle a scandal. Of course it helps to have your own talk show and a room filled with people who laugh at every other word you say. Smart to place it in the middle of the program too.
posted by hellbient at 10:56 AM on October 2, 2009


This makes me wonder if the topic of employee banging came up at the Madonna/Letterman pizza dinner...
posted by djrock3k at 10:59 AM on October 2, 2009


My favorite Letterman bit was about a zillion years ago and involved one of those "person on the street" games he used to play. This one was called "May We Turn Your Pants Into Shorts?"

I wonder if he ever used that as an opening bit. With the follow up: "May We Put Your Shorts On the Floor?"
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:59 AM on October 2, 2009


National TV you say?
posted by jessamyn at 11:01 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


See, e.g., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, codified as Subchapter VI of Chapter 21 of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.

sex != sexual harassment.


How about sex with a subordinate who is then treated more favorably in the workplace than employees who are not having sex with the boss? (That's not actually a question that I'm asking you to answer. There is no question that, when a boss has sex with a subordinate, it can expose the employer to liability under Title VII and a host of other laws, both as to the employee with whom he/she is having sex (quid pro quo harassment) and as to employees with whom he/she is not having sex.)
posted by The World Famous at 11:01 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


"It was the 'Uma' - 'Oprah' thing that started it all."

I loved the Uma, Oprah bit. Still cracks me up.


I got a chuckle from it. I never did get that thing about him "bombing." I mean, he didn't do great, but look at the standards... Billy Crystal hosted the Oscars like 18 times! I think Dave just made people a little uncomfortable because it wasn't the painfully unfunny but predictable hackery they were used to.

The only person I have ever seen approach actually being funny while hosting the Oscars is Steve Martin.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:02 AM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


I guess this story basically confirms that not a single cast member of Arrested Development could deliver a decent blow job. Before we cart Halderman off to Sing Sing let's see what he has on Lorne Michaels.
posted by any major dude at 11:03 AM on October 2, 2009


For someone who made millions cracking Clinton jokes, a little bit of public shame for something that while not illegal but certainly unethical and hypocritical doesn't seem too outrageous.

Well, it's "unethical" only if his affair(s) with staff somehow affected the show/business. The odds of this are decent, I'll grant you: this is why office romances are a bad idea.

But it would only be "hypocritical" if he had been judgmental or preachy about Clinton, and/or if he didn't joke about his own embarrassment now.

I don't remember him ever doing the former, and I'd bank on the latter in the upcoming weeks.
posted by rokusan at 11:03 AM on October 2, 2009


"Would You Like To Eat A Sandwich In Dave's Office?" is now my skeevy pick-up line of choice.

It's good, but it doesn't really come close to fellow staff-diddler Bob Barker's "What's in Bob's Mystery Pocket" bit.
posted by rokusan at 11:04 AM on October 2, 2009


Who knows, maybe Letterman and his wife do find his affairs amusing, and are raising their son to maybe believe that cheating on your spouse is in the same comedy bracket as dropping a watermelon six stories. If that's the case, then I'm glad he was able to play the whole thing for laughs last night. Can you believe I have sex?? Hahahaha.

But in my world, you shield you family from public humiliation as much as possible, and you show a certain amount of respect for your spouse. Letterman didn't "need" to comment on this at all, and certainly could have done a press release if he felt he had to get out in front of it. I just found his smirking and wisecracking presentation of this story really yucky. I don't judge the audience for laughing, but it is a very strange way to entertain an audience.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:06 AM on October 2, 2009


My favorite comment about it (so far -- from Wonkette):

Celebrity has affair = “Dog Bites Man”

Family-Values Republican has affair = “Dog with ‘Man’s Best Friend’ Sign Bites Man”
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:09 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who Is David Letterman's Alleged Extortionist?

... um ... Sarah Palin?
posted by octobersurprise at 11:10 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


cheating on your spouse is in the same comedy bracket as dropping a watermelon six stories.

I don't mean to be all hair-splitting but I was under the impression this happened when he wasn't married? I still think having sex with people who are your subordinates is way uncool, but we have no idea what his personal relationship with his now-wife was at the time or what their understanding was.
posted by jessamyn at 11:11 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure that the people who typically queue up for Letterman and Leno-style talk shows are some of the worst people in the world.

Last week, Leno had Michael Moore on his show one night, and Limbaugh on the next.

Everything Michael Moore said got cheers from the audience.

Everything Limbaugh said got cheers from the audience.

I suppose there's a chance the show's producers could have tried to pull in a more liberal audience for Moore and a birther audience for Limbaugh, but the logistics of doing this during the second week of the show make that unlikely. More likely? People who want to sit in the audience for Jay and Dave just enjoy clapping when the people from the teevee say stuff.
posted by hifiparasol at 11:13 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


If those watermelons could talk...
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:13 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


But in my world, you shield you family from public humiliation as much as possible, and you show a certain amount of respect for your spouse.

See, I read what he did as doing just what you said above. He is David Letterman, there's no way this wouldn't have gotten out and not turned into a media circus. By doing it the way he did, he had the opportunity to tell the story in one of the least sensationalized ways possible given who he is (a press release would not have done the same thing).

Now as respect for his spouse goes--we don't really know what's going on in their relationship. Maybe she already knew, maybe she was ok with it. In any case any disrespect would have been the affair itself--although he wasn't actually married to her at the time. He did not talk about her at all except to say that he just wants to protect his family. The self-disparaging humor was an attempt to diffuse the situation and was very much in character.
posted by Kimberly at 11:15 AM on October 2, 2009


Then he got to the actual confession part...
Letterman: "The [stuff I was being blackmailed about] was that I have had sex with women who work for me on this show."
Audience: [gasps]
Letterman: "Now, my response to that is, 'Yes I have'."
Audience: [laughs, claps]
What. the. fuck. audience? I mean I know it's hard to react to something like that being presented in a format where you're expected to be laughing and clapping, but obviously they understood the gravity of the issue because their first response was to gasp. Is it too much to ask to keep your serious face on for two straight minutes?


I read about this on Dlisted (other material is NSFW). The blogger, Michael K, said this about the show:
Dave confessed to it all on his show last night. It was a little awkward, because the audience kept laughing like a laugh-track on loop, and because Dave just got married last year to his ladyfriend of 23 years. They have a kid together.
At least they didn't choose that moment to bring back the Arsenio Hall "woop-woop" and circling fist motions.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:18 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hope it was one of those oversized novelty checks they use on the Publisher's Clearing House commercials.

Letterman made the same joke last night:
"And if there’s a lighthearted moment in any of this, and I’m not sure there really is, the third meeting – the third meeting is arranged whereby he’s given the check. Now I don’t think I’ve mentioned the amount up ‘til now. But he was asking $2 million. (gasps/laughter) Was that the foreigners? (applause) So the check is turned over, $2 million, and because I’m such a bonehead, you ever seen the golf tournaments where they have the giant check when the guy wins it? (laughter) But I couldn’t talk him into that."
posted by ericb at 11:23 AM on October 2, 2009


I just found his smirking and wisecracking presentation of this story really yucky.

Letterman is very odd in general, always has been -- as are, for that matter, many successful comedians (some have different degrees of publicly displaying that weirdness than others). That he would engage in this somewhat cleverly strategized but also undeniably creepy and skin-crawly public display is jaw-dropping, but also fairly unsurprising.

I don't think he really smirked and wisecracked that much, myself. He seemed distinctly and genuinely uncomfortable to me.
posted by blucevalo at 11:25 AM on October 2, 2009


How disappointing.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:31 AM on October 2, 2009


He has always seemed like a person who is awkward outside his professional persona, he maintained a late-in-life bachelorhood and he has mostly kept his real life private. This is a bit dull for the eventual revelation of his dark side. But that's consistent with the tenor of his present show. It's grey-haired dull now too. Every time I stop flipping channels to watch it for a few moments, it's sixty-year old men either talking about the joys of raising toddlers or the profound impact of life-saving surgery.
posted by TimTypeZed at 11:31 AM on October 2, 2009


If David Letterman goes to Hell when he dies, I suspect his torment will be that he has to confess his sins until he is forgiven, but since the audience just cracks up every time he tries to cop to things he's done wrong, he can never, ever get out.
posted by Shepherd at 11:34 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


That he would engage in this somewhat cleverly strategized but also undeniably creepy and skin-crawly public display is jaw-dropping, but also fairly unsurprising.

It's astonishingly expected.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:34 AM on October 2, 2009


"Was that the foreigners?"

Priceless entitlement humor. "I'm rich, I fuck around, I get away with shit because I used to be pretty funny."

God bless America! *slow clap*
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:36 AM on October 2, 2009


I wouldn't give his troubles to a monkey on a rock.
posted by incomple at 11:38 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


But in my world, you shield you family from public humiliation as much as possible, and you show a certain amount of respect for your spouse.

So you're saying he should have paid the $2m? Or what? It's not like this was his choice.
posted by delmoi at 11:39 AM on October 2, 2009


Seventh-decade satyriasis is creepy.
posted by Forrest Greene at 11:40 AM on October 2, 2009


"I think Dave just made people a little uncomfortable because it wasn't the painfully unfunny but predictable hackery they were used to."

I didn't love the whole thing, but what I thought he was doing was making explicit the painfully unfunny and predictable hackery and ridiculing it implicitly. Maybe I was reading too much into a weak routine, but that seemed to explain why people who enjoy watching awards shows were so put off by it—the message was that you shouldn't enjoy this, that it's hacky crap, and that at least Letterman was having fun with his acknowledged hacky crap. Which, incidentally, was a big part of why his show used to be hilarious and why it suffered a lot when he got CBS's full support behind him, as a lot of his successful schtick was "Look at how crummy this NBC network is, look at how crummy this show is."
posted by klangklangston at 11:40 AM on October 2, 2009


Priceless entitlement humor. "I'm rich, I fuck around, I get away with shit because I used to be pretty funny."

Who said he "gets away with it"?

How do you define "getting away with it" in matters of infidelity anyway? If his wife ends up leaving him somewhere down the road (assuming he had the affair(s) after they were married and she didn't already know about it, which we don't actually know), does that qualify him for "not having gotten away with it"? Or is this a matter where only something severe like Sharia law will do--i.e., cut off the offending member or something like that--would that slake your thirst for justice? It's far too early to justifiably say that Letterman has gotten away with anything, as far as I can tell.

(And he's still funny, dammit.)
posted by saulgoodman at 11:42 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


How serious a crime is blackmail anyway?
posted by xmutex at 11:43 AM on October 2, 2009


I found the moronic audience laughing the creepiest thing about the incident. I mean sure, those of us watching on YouTube already know he's being serious when he starts, and they didn't and can be excused for mistaking it for a bit. But not after five, six, seven minutes.


The worst part is how happy Sarah Palin is today.
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:44 AM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised at the surprise - I thought Dave's affairs with staffers had been an open secret for years.
posted by jocelmeow at 11:44 AM on October 2, 2009


How about sex with a subordinate who is then treated more favorably in the workplace than employees who are not having sex with the boss? (That's not actually a question that I'm asking you to answer.

I know of one case like that, where woman who were not sleeping with the boss sued, because there was an implicit pressure to sleep with him. In that situation the boss had been sleeping with a lot of women in the office and it was common knowledge around the office that the way to get ahead was to screw him.
posted by delmoi at 11:46 AM on October 2, 2009


I think it is very important to Americans that famous people employ their genitalia only in legally approved circumstances.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:47 AM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


How do you define "getting away with it" in matters of infidelity anyway? If his wife ends up leaving him somewhere down the road (assuming he had the affair(s) after they were married and she didn't already know about it, which we don't actually know)

They only married a year ago, although they had a kid together in 2003, which was supposedly after the end of his affair with Burkitt.
posted by delmoi at 11:48 AM on October 2, 2009


Some of the audience laughter is anxious, but Letterman regularly introduces off-the-wall jokes with his straight faced "This is true/It's a fact" line. The audience is primed for a sudden turn from serious to jokey. And he did throw some jokes in with the confession. There is also a lot of submissive laughter on the show. "Monkey on a rock" etc. cannot still be that funny.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:49 AM on October 2, 2009


I know of one case like that

I know of lots of cases like that. Most of them settle, like many other employment cases.
posted by The World Famous at 11:49 AM on October 2, 2009


I have no reason to assume he did anything really evil (like using his position to coerce them into sexual relationships)

I understand not assuming he did that, but isn't it quite possible, even likely? Many commenters in this thread seem to be assuming he didn't.

Some good observations by law professor Ann Althouse (who, full disclosure, is my mom):
He did a good job of damage control, I think. He made it sound as if it was just sex — which implies that you're a prude if you don't give him a pass. But sex with the women who work on his staff? This is the atmosphere of sexual harassment. What are the details that made the blackmailer think he could extort $2 million? Did some women get jobs and promotions because they were sexually available while men and other women lost out?
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:50 AM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


I would like to confess to all the affairs I may have in the future. I apologize to all those I may hurt, but I can't say that I will be truly sorry for what I will have done.
posted by munchingzombie at 11:50 AM on October 2, 2009


How serious a crime is blackmail anyway?

One way I like to think about questions of "How serious a crime is this?" is "How seriously would I take it if someone did this to me?" I think the answer is: pretty seriously.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:51 AM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think it is very important to Americans that famous people employ their genitalia only in legally approved circumstances.

What do you mean -- "famous" people? Non-famous people don't get any free passes here!
posted by blucevalo at 11:51 AM on October 2, 2009


The worst part is how happy Sarah Palin is today.

The best part is how happy Madonna is today.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:53 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised at the surprise - I thought Dave's affairs with staffers had been an open secret for years.

Yeah. SPY Magazine had that out years ago. Women would be gifted with an expensive trinket from Tiffanys when the affair ended. It was like getting a Purple Heart or something.

And yet -- they were all fiercely loyal, even after the breakups (save Merrill Markoe, who was really a peer and not an employee).
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:53 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Letterman: "Now, my response to that is, 'Yes I have'."
Audience: [laughs, claps]
What. the. fuck. audience?


I'm guessing some joker in the crew elected that moment to light up the audience-directing CLAP and LAUGH signs.
posted by exogenous at 11:54 AM on October 2, 2009


Having sex with someone who is below you in a power relationship- anyone you have the ability to punish- is wrong, end of story.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:55 AM on October 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


> would that slake your thirst for justice?

You're as funny as he is, saulgoodman! Dave getting away with shit is OK by me, tiger. I remarked on the joke he made about the small $2M sum. Because the joke is funny because of the fact that, to him, that really is a small sum, and to joke about it is a show of his power. To tell this quaint story, on HIS TELEVISION SHOW, to HIS AUDIENCE, ending with a "nothing further" and some self-deprecation about his unattractiveness isn't anything like real prostration. It's owning it. Owning his shit and his stardom. There's really a tiny sliver of the population that truly drops jaw about "terrible things."

Dave does get away with it, in the big picture. He dies rich, he continues to lawyer his way out of trouble and pleasure himself back into it. What could be the greater privilege? Maybe his wife leaves him and he's sad. That happens to most people anyway. He's still a big winner, by all objective measurements.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:56 AM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, he did speak of feelings of guilt at several points. for whatever that is worth. As for his affairs, who was there ? All the same, he has come across as an extremely complicated personality, high maintenance personality with a dark side. My best friend's little sister was a guest a few times on his show back in the day. On camera, he could be a care free sprite putting the glee in spiteful glee 25 miles an hour over the posted limit. When the camera was off, he was a soul in torment, the very embodiment of clinical depression, staring off into space and speaking to no one

As for his life and loves and the power imbalances between little people and the rich and famous, well, people lie to each other. It's possible that all parties initally could think they were having a little office romance, high maintenance aside.

Celebrities are always under the public microscope, high priests and human sacrifices all in one--it brings to mind those stories of how the Aztecs would honor an especially noble foe by hosting him for a year, dressing him in the finest feathered capes, feeding him the finest dishes and treating him with every honor. And then, at the end of the year, cut his heart out and burnt it on an altar. How things have not changed.
posted by y2karl at 11:56 AM on October 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


Did some women get jobs and promotions because they were sexually available while men and other women lost out?

Well, executive producer Barbara "You Riffle While I Point" Gaines has been out as a lesbian for a while. She started as a production assistant on the NBC show, I believe.

Not to say that perhaps they didn't "You Point While I Riffle" back in the day. But I tend to doubt it.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:57 AM on October 2, 2009


One way I like to think about questions of "How serious a crime is this?" is "How seriously would I take it if someone did this to me?" I think the answer is: pretty seriously.

I'm thinking of it like how many years is a brother going to get for blackmail? A year? 20 years? Probation? I have no idea.
posted by xmutex at 11:58 AM on October 2, 2009


Well, it's "unethical" only if his affair(s) with staff somehow affected the show/business.

There is the whole "he's their boss and possibly created a work environment teeming with sexual harrassment" angle, but hey, wanna buy a monkey?
posted by waraw at 11:58 AM on October 2, 2009


Having sex with someone who is below you in a power relationship- anyone you have the ability to punish- is wrong, end of story.
posted by Pope Guilty


Eponysterical.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:59 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The worst part is how happy Sarah Palin is today.

I don't know, Letterman just handled what could have been a huge drama with brutal clarity, honesty and insight.

How will would Palin handle it?
posted by rokusan at 11:59 AM on October 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


To tell this quaint story, on HIS TELEVISION SHOW, to HIS AUDIENCE, ending with a "nothing further" and some self-deprecation about his unattractiveness isn't anything like real prostration.

So what would be the appropriate prostration, then?
posted by blucevalo at 12:00 PM on October 2, 2009


When the camera was off, he was a soul in torment, the very embodiment of clinical depression, staring off into space and speaking to no one.

I think Terri Garr once told the story of leaning over during a commercial break to ask him "How are you doing?" and Dave scribbled on a card "I HATE MY LIFE" so no, not surprised.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 12:01 PM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Having sex with someone who is below you in a power relationship- anyone you have the ability to punish- is wrong, end of story.

But ohhhhhhh so right.
posted by katillathehun at 12:02 PM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


How do you define "getting away with it" in matters of infidelity anyway?....

saulgoodman,
You're doing it again.

Your hair-splitting parsing of comments that don't put the best possible spin on Letterman's admission is turning me into a raving puritan!

I think the guy is brilliant & handled a very tricky public situation with some aplomb.
But it's fairly likely the woman long known as his SO, if only lately his wife, is not entirely100% thrilled and that canoodling with your underlings creates obvious potential problems for co-workers and is very, very often trickier for the lower totem pole lover.

If you keep this up, I'm gonna start thinking he really is a heel! (Possibly!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:03 PM on October 2, 2009


I'm thinking of it like how many years is a brother going to get for blackmail? A year? 20 years? Probation? I have no idea.

Oh, I have no idea, but I'm sure it varies wildly based on the particulars of the case. Extortion for $2 million and blatantly threatening to ruin someone's reputation? I would bet the sentence would probably be on the high end.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:03 PM on October 2, 2009


I once blackmailed David Letterman with the threat of exposing evidence that his opening monologues were the same three recycled jokes, told over and over again, and had been for years. He just laughed at me and said everybody already knows.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:05 PM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I could give a good goddamn who he's shacking up with. Ain't my business, wasn't that blackmailer dirtbag's business, ain't none of your business either.

David Letterman's still wicked funny, by the way. Plus, he did the nation a service in helping to discredit John McCain during his "suspending my campaign" make-up session.
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:06 PM on October 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


Having sex with someone who is below you in a power relationship- anyone you have the ability to punish- is wrong.

You're right, that's the actual bad thing. You just can't do that with work inferiors.

But the "morality" and "hypocrisy" crap is unwarranted here, I think. He didn't ever claim to be a family values Republican, after all.

If someone turns up a clip of Serious Dave admonishing someone for hanky-panky, I'll change my mind.
posted by rokusan at 12:06 PM on October 2, 2009


"Having sex with someone who is below you in a power relationship- anyone you have the ability to punish- is wrong, end of story."

Do spankings count?
posted by klangklangston at 12:06 PM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


My favorite Letterman bit was about a zillion years ago and involved one of those "person on the street" games he used to play. This one was called "May We Turn Your Pants Into Shorts?"

God, I used to think Late Night was hilarious and that Dave was one of the best (pop culture) interviewers on TV. What happened? (Or did I just grow up?)

Regarding the "scandal," he handled it beautifully. If nothing else he is a consummate TV host.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:06 PM on October 2, 2009


So, just what is the current prurient interest rate, anyway?
posted by metagnathous at 12:09 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


5 percent, same as in town.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:10 PM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Having sex with someone who is below you in a power relationship- anyone you have the ability to punish- is wrong, end of story.

Eponysterical.

And I also call SHENANIGANS!

I met my wife when we were colleagues at a startup company. We started "dating" (having sex) when we were both reporting to the same supervisor.

Later, after massive layoffs, I became her supervisor. Should we have stopped having sex? I THINK NOT!

We married a few years ago and now have a little baby girl. You would deny us that? You're worse than the real Pope!

SHENANIGANS!!
posted by mrgrimm at 12:11 PM on October 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


I hope it was one of those oversized novelty checks....
Letterman made the same joke last night:


Okay, look, you got me reading the links before I snark already.

Now I have to watch the teevee too?
posted by rokusan at 12:13 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


MrGrimm, you weren't her boss when you started hitting on her (or vice versa). That makes a very big difference.
posted by rokusan at 12:13 PM on October 2, 2009


the "morality" and "hypocrisy" crap is unwarranted here, I think. He didn't ever claim to be a family values Republican, after all.

Huh? Does morality only apply to "family values Republicans"? I'm not saying Letterman acted wrongly, but if he did (for instance, by using sex with subordinates as a quid pro quo), then it's wrong, period. You can be wrong without being a hypocrite. In fact, hypocrisy isn't nearly the worst way to be wrong.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:13 PM on October 2, 2009


I loved the Uma, Oprah bit. Still cracks me up.

Me too. Maybe they meant it was so funny every joke post Uma/Oprah pales.
posted by tkchrist at 12:13 PM on October 2, 2009


Yeah, I remember the Teri Garr story. From the New York Times:
Most of the staff admired Letterman for his commitment to excellence. But Dave's post-mortems for each show could be witheringly negative. Letterman wouldn't beat up the staff; he would beat up himself, pointing out spots where he could have filled in a slow moment if he had only been quicker with a line. On some of the nights he felt he had totally fouled up, he would lock the door to his office to review the show on tape, and the staff would hear crashing noises through the door.

During a commercial break on the set in the mid-1980's, the band was playing so loudly that it was impossible for Teri Garr, one of Dave's favorite guests, to make herself heard. When she all but shouted at him "How are you doing?" Letterman grabbed a pad on his desk, scribbled a note and passed it to her. "I hate myself," it read. Garr was a bit stunned. But when she tried to reassure Dave that he was, in fact, truly a wonderful guy, Letterman grabbed the note, underlined "I hate myself" twice and passed it back.
Poor miserable bastard. But misery does spread, too. Even though he would apparently blame himself more than his staff, it must have been pretty damn unpleasant to watch him pull this shit.

Everyone on the show, male and female, gay and straight, had to be affected by his self-loathing. But the female staffers, whether or not they had affairs with him, or were approached by him and declined, or approached him and were declined, or just prayed that they would continue to evade his gaze, had that extra issue to deal with. I guess there's nothing new about show business being like yet another deeply dysfunctional family. Some people find it all worth it, despite the strains, others break or run.
posted by maudlin at 12:15 PM on October 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


Huh? Does morality only apply to "family values Republicans"?

Didn't you know? As long as you never talk about morality, it doesn't apply to you. Rookie mistake.
posted by The World Famous at 12:16 PM on October 2, 2009


Later, after massive layoffs, I became her supervisor. Should we have stopped having sex?

You're right, it's totally cool to be engaging in sexual activity with someone you can fire or punish. That's a great idea and I can't see any ethical problems with it or any severely negative issues that could be caused by it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:16 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can someone explain the "Was that the foreigners?" joke to me? Because $2mil is a small amount or because demanding money shouldn't be shocking?
posted by geoff. at 12:16 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sure the company's lawyers totally signed off on the whole thing, Pope Guilty.

(No, I'm not.)
posted by The World Famous at 12:17 PM on October 2, 2009


So what would be the appropriate prostration, then?

Exactly my point.

In terms of his private life, there's no simple "getting away with it" (whatever that means) in his future now, unless you assume that he's an anti-social personality type incapable of feeling anything as the personal social consequences of his actions play out. Sure, if you do assume that and simply imagine Letterman as some glib, soulless ass who won't feel suffering in any meaningful way as the personal relationships impacted by these revelations come under increasing strain or even fall apart, you could arguably dream up a scenario in which he suffers no meaningful consequences for his actions. But the man is no island. Assuming he's a human being, he's going to feel some serious pain over this, to the extent he's brought that misery on himself in terms of how forthright and decent he's been in his dealings with those closest to him. That's unavoidable.

There's no satisfactory penance he can pay to the public because this is inherently a private matter.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:18 PM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Can someone explain the "Was that the foreigners?" joke to me? Because $2mil is a small amount or because demanding money shouldn't be shocking?"

Invert it. $2 million is shocking and large—people are naturally surprised. But the joke is making out the normal reaction to be the reaction of rubes and n00bs, ergo "foreigners."
posted by klangklangston at 12:21 PM on October 2, 2009


You're right, it's totally cool to be engaging in sexual activity with someone you can fire or punish. That's a great idea and I can't see any ethical problems with it or any severely negative issues that could be caused by it.

THIS is exactly why Jim didn't put any Boston Baked Beans on the picture of Pam. I think we can all learn a lesson here.
posted by hifiparasol at 12:23 PM on October 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


Having sex with someone who is below you in a power relationship- anyone you have the ability to punish- is wrong, end of story.

While I agree with this in the context of employment, there are power relationships between all sorts of people, they're almost unavoidable.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:24 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


My girlfriend could certainly beat me up, but I'd rather she not use this as a reason not to have sex with me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:25 PM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


While I agree with this in the context of employment, there are power relationships between all sorts of people, they're almost unavoidable.

But in the context of employment, there is a specific body of civil rights law pertaining to precisely this situation.
posted by The World Famous at 12:25 PM on October 2, 2009


But in my world, you shield you family from public humiliation as much as possible, and you show a certain amount of respect for your spouse. Letterman didn't "need" to comment on this at all

I guess we all know who to blackmail now.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:26 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


While I agree with this in the context of employment, there are power relationships between all sorts of people, they're almost unavoidable.

I'm curious as to what your minimum standards for consent look like.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:26 PM on October 2, 2009


The problem is the blackmailer asked for too much. If he had gone with, like $83 in cash, I don’t think he would have gotten caught.

S’funny, I was vaguely aware of Letterman for a while, but typically I’d be out of the house, training, etc. and I never really watched t.v. (I’m not an anti-t.v. guy, just usually I was out of the house.)

So a bit back I had a head injury and I’m in the hospital and I’m watching t.v. with a bunch of other people who were pissing by remote control and Letterman’s on and I say “Who the hell is this guy?”
They all looked at me like I was nuts. So, having a head injury, I pressed on.
“He’s just riffing on how stupid other talk shows are by being stupid.”
Again, glares. “Well, this show won’t last. This guy's a dick.”

Glares. “Smed, he’s been on for years. It’s one of the most popular shows on t.v.”

“… oh.




Hey, his music director is the guy from the Blues Brothers!”

Glares.
“And Spinal Tap!”

Fortunately, I had a head injury. Not sure if I mentioned that. So they cut me some slack.
Plus I had a head injury at the time.

(But I’ll pistol whip the next guy who says SHENANIGANS)
posted by Smedleyman at 12:31 PM on October 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


Art does not excuse rape! Comedy does not excuse... uh... consensual sex!
posted by hermitosis at 12:31 PM on October 2, 2009


Well, PG, unless you want to deny that there still exist serious, broad social and economic imbalances in the modern world between men and women, then arguably, women in general are on the losing side of an imbalanced power relationship with men, and therefore, no man should ever sleep with a woman. If I were from a wealthy family background, should I abstain from sex with women from middle class or poor backgrounds?

I agree that there's good cause for raised eyebrows (and who knows--there might even be legal action further down the road) over the fact that Letterman was carrying on sexual affairs with employees. But you seem to be taking what IMO should be a more nuanced position as an absolute.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:32 PM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


David finally married the mother of his child after the birth of Harry. As a live-in of some duration, she could not pretend to be surprised at his tomcat tendencies.
posted by Cranberry at 12:39 PM on October 2, 2009


Having sex with someone who is below you in a power relationship- anyone you have the ability to punish- is wrong, end of story.

If that were true, nobody would *ever* be able to have sex because you can never have a perfectly equitable power relationships. If it isn't employment status, it's economic status, caste, looks, confidence, intelligence, etc.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:40 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Smedleyman: So a bit back I had a head injury and I’m in the hospital and I’m watching t.v. with a bunch of other people who were pissing by remote control

I am fascinated by this sentence.
posted by hifiparasol at 12:42 PM on October 2, 2009 [10 favorites]


Invert it. $2 million is shocking and large—people are naturally surprised. But the joke is making out the normal reaction to be the reaction of rubes and n00bs, ergo "foreigners."

To me (a fairly regular Letterman watcher, although I did not watch last night) it read like that with the addition that I think "the foreigners" was a set up he made somewhere else, perhaps even during pre-taping audience warmups. "Where you from" sort of stuff.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:43 PM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


The problem is the blackmailer asked for too much. If he had gone with, like $83 in cash, I don’t think he would have gotten caught.

And so the industry of microblackmail was born.
posted by xmutex at 12:43 PM on October 2, 2009 [21 favorites]


Hey Farva, what's the name of that restaurant you like with all the goofy shit on the walls and the mozzarella sticks?
posted by rainperimeter at 12:44 PM on October 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


For someone who made millions cracking Clinton jokes, a little bit of public shame for something that while not illegal but certainly unethical and hypocritical doesn't seem too outrageous.

You are assuming she didn't know and cared. She may have been accepting or even excited by the affairs.
posted by Kickstart70 at 12:50 PM on October 2, 2009


To me, the most surprising thing about this story is that "48 Hours" is still on the air.
posted by killy willy at 12:54 PM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm curious as to what your minimum standards for consent look like.

Two billiard balls in a sock.

"I'm the daddy now!"
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:54 PM on October 2, 2009


Later, after massive layoffs, I became her supervisor. Should we have stopped having sex?

Let's just say if I was a coworker of your wife, and you were also my supervisor, I'd be pretty upset about it. It suggests that if I have a complaint about her work, or another problem with her, that I cannot come to you to resolve the problem. It also suggests that any "perk" she gets, from tasks to assigned offices to whatever may not be on her merits as a worker but on her merits as a sex partner, whether that's actually true or not.

Sexual relations with staff effect more folks than just the two having sex. I always despised working in places where some of the office general staff is related to some of the muckety-mucks.
posted by maxwelton at 12:58 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sexual relations with staff effect more folks than just the two having sex. I always despised working in places where some of the office general staff is related to some of the muckety-mucks.

There are other kinds of places to work?
posted by saulgoodman at 1:01 PM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


The staffers aren't going after Letterman. I'm guessing that if one of them did, they would probably get their fifteen minutes and a solid chunk of money. Maybe one of them will in the future but until that happens I would bet that Letterman is not creating a hostile environment.
posted by rdr at 1:02 PM on October 2, 2009


I think this was exactly the right thing to do. The simple fact is, he 'fessed up, in order to see to it that an extortionist was sent to jail. He could've hushed it up, but he didn't. He could've said who he had the affairs with... but he left that option to the women in question.

Simple fact is, he wasn't even married at the time. Live and let live.
posted by markkraft at 1:03 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe one of them will in the future but until that happens I would bet that Letterman is not creating a hostile environment.

The point being made is that, no matter how nice and generous Letterman is about it, the simple fact of sleeping with some direct reports is sufficient to create a hostile environment.
posted by fatbird at 1:06 PM on October 2, 2009


Can someone explain the "Was that the foreigners?" joke to me? Because $2mil is a small amount or because demanding money shouldn't be shocking?

The "foreigners" bit was something he started with Paul Shaffer in the monologue before the whole disclosure part of the show, so any reference to "foreigners" in the disclosure part is going to seem out of context if viewed apart from the monologue.

The "foreigners" were a bunch of (presumably) non-Americans in the audience who had what seemed to him funny laughs. The bit was unfunny. But the subsequent "foreigners" references were following up on that.
posted by blucevalo at 1:08 PM on October 2, 2009


"Having sex with someone who is below you in a power relationship- anyone you have the ability to punish- is wrong, end of story."

"You're right, it's totally cool to be engaging in sexual activity with someone you can fire or punish. That's a great idea and I can't see any ethical problems with it or any severely negative issues that could be caused by it."

Could be there is a continuum between these two views.

Besides practically anyone rich and/or powerful has the ability to punish practically anyone.
posted by Mitheral at 1:08 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you're rich enough, the whole world is your employee.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:11 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I understand why I didn't get the joke, I thought that $2mil was small, and indeed telling of the sophistication of the blackmailer. When people shop thing slike this around they often have shockingly high expectations. Letterman has been making $14mil/year since 1993. The NYT states his salary is now up to $32mil/year. I assumed an CBS executive would know this very well, to the point where I assumed that $2mil probably sat around in a petty cash fund somewhere that Letterman could discretely draw from, the sort of information someone like Stephanie Birkitt would be intimately aware of as she helped with his charities and Indy team. If there was ever a place for money to go missing and not arouse suspicion it would be in these areas and she'd know exactly how much could be drawn without raising eyebrows.

You don't blackmail $40k because that itself is suspicious. That says "recurring payments."

It appears from Gawker that this guy was sort of at his wits end and maybe I'm reading too much into this. He sounded really desperate and overextended rather than cold and calculating. Birkitt herself is suspiciously not mentioned in any reports. At least I haven't seen the "is not suspected to involved" tag that usually follows articles. They might have insufficient evidence and are simply playing wait and see.

I do notice Wikipedia has her down as a law student from Cardozo. Not exactly the best time to be graduating from a non-top tier law school in New York. Not a good time to be graduating from any law school. Suddenly those loans begin to look scary.
posted by geoff. at 1:13 PM on October 2, 2009


Remember the two pretty girls in cocktail dresses who came out for the Will It Float bits? One of the girls rotated frequently but the other one was always the same person. She was a brunette with kind of collegeny lips.

I'll be she was one of the affairs too. Just a vibe.
posted by Bonzai at 1:13 PM on October 2, 2009


Oh the foreigners bit was a reference to an earlier bit, well that makes sense.
posted by geoff. at 1:15 PM on October 2, 2009


If you're rich enough, the whole world is your employee.

Politicians are always fucking the taxpayer, but I'm confused about who is in the position of power.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:16 PM on October 2, 2009


There's no satisfactory penance he can pay to the public because this is inherently a private matter.

Yes -- I detest our current culture of forced-at-gunpoint ritual public apologies by celebrities and public figures. Kanye West should apologize; Serena Williams should apologize; David Letterman should apologize; etc.; etc.; etc. The apologies are inevitably insincere and unrepentant and the premise that a boilerplate public apology suffices for every type of offense or crime is ludicrous. The net effect of endless forced public apologies is that no penance ever seems sincere anymore.
posted by blucevalo at 1:16 PM on October 2, 2009


I'll be she was one of the affairs too. Just a vibe.

More than a vibe, maybe. David always paid a lot of extra (vocalized) attention to her on the show.
posted by blucevalo at 1:19 PM on October 2, 2009


David was married briefly once before, in the 1970s, to a college classmate who became a Macy's buyer. It didn't last long.
posted by droplet at 1:21 PM on October 2, 2009


Plus I had a head injury at the time.

But, but, what about short term memory loss ??

And another thing, what about short term memory loss ??

Which bring me to my main point: What About Short Term Memory Loss ??

The point being made is that, no matter how nice and generous Letterman is about it, the simple fact of sleeping with some direct reports is sufficient to create a hostile environment.


I am confused by this sentence.
posted by y2karl at 1:23 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, look, you got me reading the links before I snark already. Now I have to watch the teevee too?

No, but the hyperlink in my comment is to a transcript which you can read.
posted by ericb at 1:23 PM on October 2, 2009


David Letterman is the head of a multi-million dollar corporate entity, and started having sex with this employees. Replace "David Letterman" with, say, any other CEO in the universe, take Dave's cute little jokes made on his television show, and have the CEO say them on the front steps of his office headquarters, and it might add some perspective. No matter what he does for a living, he's a very wealthy and powerful man who can afford to laugh this shit off. The same laws that would get the manager of a Taco Bell fired faster than you can say "meximelt", for doing the same thing Dave did, just don't apply.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:28 PM on October 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


Well, that settles it. I'm not voting for Letterman next election.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:30 PM on October 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


Another philanderer in the news today:
"...a new report [has] raised questions about Sen. John Ensign's efforts to cover up his affair with a campaign aide.

....The New York Times...said Ensign tried to get Doug Hampton, his lover's husband, a lobbying job to try to contain the damage. The Hamptons later went through Coburn to seek an $8.5 million settlement from the Nevada Republican before the affair became public, the paper said.

....The Senate Ethics Committee automatically opened a preliminary investigation into his conduct after receiving a complaint from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in June. The panel, which conducts business in strict confidentiality, can launch investigations on lawmakers on its own without receiving a complaint from an outside party.

The Times report raised questions about whether Doug Hampton lobbied Ensign and whether the senator facilitated the arrangement. Federal criminal law imposes a one-year ban on former congressional aides lobbying their ex-bosses or office colleagues.

After leaving his job working for Ensign, Hampton, in coordination with the senator and his staff, played a significant role in pushing the Washington agendas of NV Energy, the largest power company in Nevada, and Allegiant Air, a Las Vegas-based discount airline, the newspaper reported."*
posted by ericb at 1:37 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, Dave Letterman and Roman Polanski walk into a bar...
One way I like to think about questions of "How serious a crime is this?" is "How seriously would I take it if someone did this to me?" I think the answer is: pretty seriously.
I don't think that works to well for drug dealing and other vice crimes.
We married a few years ago and now have a little baby girl. You would deny us that? You're worse than the real Pope!
Hey now, let's not lose perspective. The real pope would only care if you were wearing condoms.
Let's just say if I was a coworker of your wife, and you were also my supervisor, I'd be pretty upset about it. It suggests that if I have a complaint about her work, or another problem with her, that I cannot come to you to resolve the problem. It also suggests that any "perk" she gets, from tasks to assigned offices to whatever may not be on her merits as a worker but on her merits as a sex partner, whether that's actually true or not.
That's kind of beside the point. If it were his brother, rather then his lover, your situation would be the same. The sexual harassment angle only enters in when there's an issue where other women feel pressured to have sex with the boss by the fact that the women who do have sex with him get perks. If it's not a question of "you could be treated like this too, if you sleep with me to" then it's not sexual harassment as far as I know (which isn't all that fair)

The law is not there to prevent you from being annoyed at work, it's to prevent discrimination against people on the basis of a protected class, like gender.
posted by delmoi at 1:40 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Ensign story is far creepier, IMO.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 1:42 PM on October 2, 2009


"The "foreigners" were a bunch of (presumably) non-Americans in the audience who had what seemed to him funny laughs. The bit was unfunny. But the subsequent "foreigners" references were following up on that."

Ah, gotcha.
posted by klangklangston at 1:46 PM on October 2, 2009


The same laws that would get the manager of a Taco Bell fired faster than you can say "meximelt", for doing the same thing Dave did, just don't apply.

But they wouldn't and don't necessarily. Not every company has strict rules against fraternization, and there's no strict legal requirement that they do.

Even the CEO of your hypothetical Mega-Corp in fact can legally carry on an affair with his personal assistant. It's only if his personal assistant feels pressured and decides to pursue legal action on sexual harassment grounds that legal action follows and he gets fired. Under current law, there's no assumption that sex with workplace subordinates equals sexual harassment; the particular circumstances of a case are what determine that. We know literally none of those particular circumstances in this case, and no one is even alleging harassment, so how in the hell are we in the court of public opinion in any position to conduct a fair trial?
posted by saulgoodman at 1:47 PM on October 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


There are laws about this stuff. Why? So if anyone's got a problem with it, they have recourse to do something about it. People working with and for each other have affairs all the time, and it's not necessarily driven by power dynamics.

Jeez, folks, what is your problem?
posted by snofoam at 1:48 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


If it were his brother, rather then his lover

Brothers, lovers, possibly both!
posted by maxwelton at 1:49 PM on October 2, 2009


We know literally none of those particular circumstances in this case, and no one is even alleging harassment, so how in the hell are we in the court of public opinion in any position to conduct a fair trial?

I'd already said upthread that we don't know the particulars of the relationships, and I can allow for that. It still strikes me as a gross abuse of power, but whatever. He's not the first wealthy employer to do this and won't be the last. Most of them don't get the chance to guffaw about it on national television, though, so you'll pardon me if it turns my stomach just a little bit more.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:54 PM on October 2, 2009


Publish, and be damned to you.
posted by jfwlucy at 1:57 PM on October 2, 2009


It didn't really strike me that Letterman was guffawing about the whole thing, but if that's how it came across to you, then your discomfort seems a reasonable response to me.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:59 PM on October 2, 2009


in his future now, unless you assume that he's an anti-social personality type incapable of feeling anything as the personal social consequences of his actions play out. Sure, if you do assume that and simply imagine Letterman as some glib, soulless ass who won't feel suffering in any meaningful way as the personal relationships impacted by these revelations come under increasing strain or even fall apart, you could arguably dream up a scenario in which he suffers no meaningful consequences for his actions. But the man is no island. Assuming he's a human being, he's going to feel some serious pain over this

Guh. He already said he felt guilt, It's uneccessary for us to say he should feel it in order to be a human being. "I feel bad" "WELL YOU SHOULD, YOU NAUGHTY PHILANDERER. VERY BAD INDEED." Who the fuck cares if he is or isn't a faithful husband? Everyone makes mistakes (this kind is a classic, innit) and this Greek chorus commentary we seem to love to enact so much continues to resemble puritanical overcompensation, to me. And I'm not even French.

I mean, if we're approaching this as a sexual harassment case, okay fine, but that's pretty dry quim for the quid and quips.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:00 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just hope they signed a love contract first.
posted by kiltedtaco at 2:04 PM on October 2, 2009


I suddenly have the urge to add "And I'm not even French" to my opinions.
posted by found missing at 2:05 PM on October 2, 2009


"Smedleyman: So a bit back I had a head injury and I’m in the hospital and I’m watching t.v. with a bunch of other people who were pissing by remote control.
'I am fascinated by this sentence.'"

Reminds me of the time I had short term memory loss from this head injury I got.

Yeah, rich people shouldn't have sex.
...no, seriously. We'd be better off if material wealth weren't bound up with it.
Of course, we'd be better off if we all had pancake crapping ponies too.

Although I'm not sure about the power relationship thing. I agree as a general concept, but a woman working in t.v. is in a different position than someone working at Taco Bell.

Not that my perception of the inapplicability of that metaphor to this particular situation invalidates the underlying argument. But I think the specific power relationship is important. There’s a difference between someone who has a job they absolutely cannot afford to lose and someone who has options.

So, I dunno that it was predatory. Of course, I don’t know that it wasn’t. Old head injury keeps me from thinking clearly sometimes.
And that said, there’s not a chance this would happen to me. In part because I can keep it in my pants, and in part because, I dunno, ethics? I couldn’t do that to someone. In the military I had a hard time going out with fellow females. Just felt icky. Like dating my sister. And that’s not even a subordinate. Which would be, what, my daughter? Ick.

And he said staff members plural. So multiple Ick.
But that’s me. I suspect Letterman, as a celebrity, is sort of isolated in terms of social freedom.
I do think this was a fairly smart tactic against blackmail. I do wonder if he discussed this with the staff members he slept with. Again, don’t know if he did or didn’t, but he’s got more to gain and less to lose from it. Whether their names are revealed or not.

And there’s the age thing, which I don't have a problem with except as a component of the power thing. Although I've always liked self-assured women which tends to come with age. Not always, but y'know. And the question of what she (or any of them) using him, and sex, to advance. Possible. I don’t know that’d be in any way true though.

Birkitt tho – dunno, given she has a separate contract (I’m not a biz guy, I dunno how that works) and maybe not so much ‘under’ Letterman, she apparently was a top level person so it’s not like there’s a huge power disparity (anymore than there would be between Letterman and anyone).

I’d have to agree with Marisa Stole the Precious Thing’s perspective on the CEO thing though.
With the caveat that Letterman is a celeb, and so, subject to some factors there that influence his social life that Joe CEO isn’t subject to.

But yeah, he’s balls wealthy, so I can’t think that he’s incapable of compensating for that so it's different but still the same in a lot of ways.
I don’t have all the answers, I had this head injury a while back...
posted by Smedleyman at 2:07 PM on October 2, 2009


I will never see Letterman's cameo in Chris Elliot's Cabin Boy in the same light again.

"Boy you're cute - what a sweet little outfit. Is that your little spring outfit? (laughs) you couldn't be cuter!"

Then again, I have no plans to see Cabin Boy at all.
posted by zippy at 2:14 PM on October 2, 2009


I have seen Cabin Boy seventeen times.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:15 PM on October 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


I liked Cabin Boy (and I'm not even French)
posted by found missing at 2:20 PM on October 2, 2009


I’d have to agree with Marisa Stole the Precious Thing’s perspective on the CEO thing though.

FWIW, I do, too. As an ethical matter. But the law doesn't necessarily come into it. Lots of unethical behaviors are legal.

Also, I'm not sure why you're snarking at me, Ambrosia Voyeur; I think we basically agree. My original point was just that in no practical sense is there any chance of Letterman "getting away with it" now. Even just being forced to make this public confession in the first place couldn't possibly have been as much fun as it apparently looked to some folks.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:20 PM on October 2, 2009


I was wondering if this was going to hit the blue at some point, but I hadn't until just now watched the clip from the show where David tells the story. I'm basically in agreement that Dave was basically being blackmailed for something not illegal, possibly unethical, but mostly publicly embarrassing, but he sure did handle it in style.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:27 PM on October 2, 2009


Another philanderer in the news today...The Senate Ethics Committee automatically opened a preliminary investigation into his conduct after receiving a complaint from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in June.

And, yet another in the news this afternoon:
"Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a bar complaint with the Louisiana Office of Disciplinary Counsel against Senator David Vitter (R-LA) for violating Louisiana’s rules of professional conduct for lawyers."
Video.
posted by ericb at 2:28 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


this Greek chorus commentary we seem to love to enact so much continues to resemble puritanical overcompensation, to me.

Me too.
posted by stinkycheese at 2:38 PM on October 2, 2009


Most of them don't get the chance to guffaw about it on national television...

There's likely little guffawing these days at the Letterman home in New Canaan, CT.
posted by ericb at 2:39 PM on October 2, 2009


Err... that would be Westchester County, New York, since he moved there in 2001.
posted by ericb at 2:40 PM on October 2, 2009


.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:43 PM on October 2, 2009


Meh, maybe his wife doesn't care.
posted by kathrineg at 2:44 PM on October 2, 2009



I think Mr. Letterman handled the matter well. I'm not going to argue that he was perfectly ethical or well behaved in what he did, but then we're all allowed our trespasses. His victims, such as they are, are entitled to legal recourse if they feel it is necessary.

Compare and Contrast Mr. Letterman's handling of the situation to Mr. O'Reilly's - another well known entertainer and television personality.

Frankly I'm left with more respect for Mr. Letterman than I had previously. Mr. O'Reilly ? Not so much.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:52 PM on October 2, 2009


saulgoodman, you misquoted me to begin with, and asked what would "slake my thirst for justice," which was bizarre. I'm disapproving of your practice of trying to imagine how wrenchingly awful he ought to feel, if he's human at all, while averring that the matter is private. It's sensational, moralizing, and too much protest.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:57 PM on October 2, 2009


1. HE WASN'T MARRIED AT THE TIME 1
2. HE DIDN'T PRESSURE HER 2
3. GET OVER IT 3

Just to sum up for the people in this thread who just don't seem to get it.






1. According to all available sources, the affair, ahem, fling, occurred from 1999-2002, before Dave got married in 2003.
2. "Birkitt is reportedly "mortified Halderman is using her fling with Letterman to blackmail her boss." Sounds to me like something she took part in willingly from the start.
3. That's up to you, folks. I'd be defending this the same way if it was a hardcore rightwing politician. That may be amusing, but other than that, I simply don't care and I don't think others should either.

posted by grubi at 3:22 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Meh, maybe his wife doesn't care.

True. Very true. They may have (had) an "open relationship." Only the two in any couple know the agreed-upon "rules," etc.
posted by ericb at 3:48 PM on October 2, 2009


The staffers aren't going after Letterman. I'm guessing that if one of them did, they would probably get their fifteen minutes and a solid chunk of money.

I wouldn't be so sure they would prevail, I recall the Friend's writers got a lot of leeway on what constituted a hostile environment, where the workplace was a TV comedy show.
posted by nomisxid at 3:55 PM on October 2, 2009


The problem is the blackmailer asked for too much. If he had gone with, like $83 in cash, I don’t think he would have gotten caught.

I won't interrupt this thread for a pound.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:01 PM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


There's still a certain ick-factor introduced by the power imbalances inherent anytime a boss goes around shtupping his underlings (I mean, did these women implicitly feel pressured to put out at the risk of harm to their careers; or even if not, was Dave putting himself out there as some kind of sleazy sugardaddy to these women, etc., etc.).

Not that cut and dried. Your run-of-the-mill workplace/boss situation this is not. A rich, well liked celebrity, regardless of physical attractiveness, is hit on a lot, I expect, and not just brief one-time attempts but persistent, protracted efforts at seduction. It probably takes exemplary character to continue resisting each and every come one, day after day. That's a hell of a lot of temptation for a mere mortal. I tend not to get too holier-than-thou about it, because I'm not too sure how well I'd handle it myself. I agree that resisting is the right thing to do, but I know there are situations wherein it is very hard to do that right thing.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:07 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


"come one" = "come on"
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:08 PM on October 2, 2009


That's up to you, folks. I'd be defending this the same way if it was a hardcore rightwing politician.

Yes, but if that HCRWP spent his career loudly proclaiming the unworthiness of folks who did things like this, trying to take away their rights and suppress their point of view, you might use an his episode to debilitate his stance with his supporters, no?
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:11 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


There are many, many problems with the Corporate HR view of sexual harassment. This is especially the case in the USA, where labor unions are pissweak, where corporations are given absolutely rampant free rein to exploit you, where there is no social security system worth speaking of, where your ability to get treatment for any health problems literally depends on you having a job, and where in many states a person can be fired from a job for no damn reason whatsoever (and the figleaf of just not giving a reason is apparently common practice).

In context, worrying about a mutually consensual relationship merely because one party has a degree of power over the other seems absurd. As others have said, there's almost no relationship ever where there isn't power disparity, although power disparities in separate areas of life are often so intertwined as to more-or-less amount to equality, or at any rate, have the potential for both to lose so much in a confrontation that neither wants it.

The problem isn't "sexual", the problem is "harassment". There's nothing unique about sex that makes it the only way to abuse someone, or conversely, single out someone for special favor.

I don't think anyone's brought this up yet: power is sexually attractive. More so to women, more so in men. (Arguably the fact that males are sexually rewarded for pursuing power is why we form "patriarchies", although whether it's cultural or instinctual is uncertain.) One of the many wrong assumptions that Corporate HR make is treating office affairs as if initiated out of the blue by the higher-ranked party. My gut feeling is that at least half would be initiated by the lower-ranked, if not more. Then consider subconscious activity; any sexual relationship with someone you know is preceded by a whole lot of subconscious signalling back and forth.

I don't have a problem with Letterman's philandering; the women he was involved with don't seem to have a problem with it, so why should I? I have far more of a problem with the whole workplace power dynamic.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:13 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't be so sure they would prevail, I recall the Friend's writers got a lot of leeway on what constituted a hostile environment, where the workplace was a TV comedy show.

The Friends case did not involve a boss sleeping with a subordinate and concurrently helping to advance her career by making her a regular character on the show.
posted by The World Famous at 4:22 PM on October 2, 2009


Remember the two pretty girls in cocktail dresses who came out for the Will It Float bits? One of the girls rotated frequently

The hula one?
posted by Sparx at 4:46 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised the audience didn't "pelt him with rocks and garbage".
posted by 6:1 at 4:59 PM on October 2, 2009


1. Can we stop calling it an "affair"?

2. Sexual harassment? Ish. Sleeping her way to the top? Perhaps. But, erm, is it really all that crazy that two grownups who spend a lot of time together at work might find out they like each other and eventually end up doin' it?

3. They were a cute couple!

(I do kinda wonder about Grinder Girl, though.)
posted by Sys Rq at 5:06 PM on October 2, 2009


2. Sexual harassment? Ish. Sleeping her way to the top? Perhaps. But, erm, is it really all that crazy that two grownups who spend a lot of time together at work might find out they like each other and eventually end up doin' it?

Sexual harassment is a legal term of art that encompasses situations that a layperson might not consider to be "harassing." For example, a boss favoring an employee with whom the boss is having a sexual relationship to the detriment of those employees who are not having sex with the boss. As a matter of law, the harassed party is not necessarily the person with whom the boss has sex.

It's not a question of whether or not the scenario of someone sleeping with the boss is, in your words, "crazy." The question is whether it is actionable under the law.
posted by The World Famous at 5:14 PM on October 2, 2009


An interesting bit that a friend pointed out: the New York Times put this in the Business section (instead of Arts & Entertainment), while a recent article on Christie Hefner, CEO of Playboy Enterprises, was in Fashion & Style.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:24 PM on October 2, 2009


Letterman: "Now, my response to that is, 'Yes I have'."
Audience:
What. the. fuck. audience? I mean I know it's hard to react to something like that being presented in a format where you're expected to be laughing and clapping but obviously they understood the gravity of the issue because their first response was to gasp. Is it too much to ask to keep your serious face on for two straight minutes?


Letterman's people "stack" the audience with rabid Dave fans. Tickets are free (by law), but you have to answer a special "Dave trivia" quiz in order to get tickets, to prove you're a big fan.

That's why everything Dave says (and impossibly, everything Paul says) is always met with with such uproarious laughter.

This will probably the first and only time this practice backfired on them.
posted by Zambrano at 5:52 PM on October 2, 2009


This will probably the first and only time this practice backfired on them.

"Afro-Americans"
posted by Sys Rq at 6:05 PM on October 2, 2009


“FWIW, I do, too. As an ethical matter. But the law doesn't necessarily come into it. Lots of unethical behaviors are legal.”

Sure. But it’s not just unethical, there’s the social component there which does have some systemic inequity. Some female CEO sleeping with staff, sort of a different social context. The legal thing, no. But the golden rule – those with the gold make the rules.

That said, I don’t know enough about Letterman, or this, to cut him slack or not.
Just that this is an archetypical … and tautological, sort of thing. E.g.:
“power is sexually attractive.”
Is true on the level aeschenkarnos means it. But it’s also, socially, a tautology. Power is sexually attractive because fitness can be leveraged by folks with power (which doesn’t counter his points, I’m just underlining the concept)

I mean, purely sexually, from a desirability and biological standpoint, all the inbreeding aristocrats did because their social power dynamic was bent to preserve wealth and power – those people were attractive? Some bleeder with a Hapsburg lip and a wandering eye, that dude’s a rockstar?

So it’s not Letterman specifically, it’s this sort of thing being so high profile and, I think, the attitude with which it was met.
Y’know, I’m a fairly powerful, aggressive ,caveman sort of guy, so I’m usually of on guard against myself. So I have the sort of feelers out for this. But again, being a caveman, not a good command of the concepts, but I get why folks are miffed (again, I'm no genius, saw more tangible indicators of it overseas, started waking up to more subtle stuff).

I mean, that it's an act (if it is, which it probably was) between two (or more, serially or whatever) consenting adults isn't the thing.
This kind of thing has a history and it is through law, as well as social mores (and other mechanisms) that gender disparity has been reinforced – hell, are implicit in the word ‘affair,’ he used yeah.
But more than that – just casting this in the domination/ victimization dichotomy is itself part of the problem.
Maybe Letterman is stuck in his own thing too. This just seems sort of transgressive. In the language mostly. “Had sex.” So – implicitly you’ve got a sort of fixed biological thing going on rather than, say, ‘had a relationship’ say.
…I mean, was there some question in anyone’s mind that ‘the staff’ meant ‘women’?
So there’s a sort of support of the cultural construct of women going on. I don’t mean he’s necessarily doing it consciously. Part of the problem really.
Ah, I don’t have the words and I’m probably butchering the whole idea. Letterman seems to mean well here. Just trying to illustrate the root of the “wealthy powerful male employer” feeling here.

I think aeschenkarnos is right in separating the workplace thing from the female/sex thing…
In some sense, contrasting sex and power – where socially sex is set in opposition to power, perhaps a ‘perk,’ something resisted that can be otherwise overcome by power, is part of the problem in the objectification* of women.
*I hate that word, kind of trite and hackneyed in the context of feminism, but I can’t think of a better one.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:43 PM on October 2, 2009


Having sex with someone who is below you in a power relationship- anyone you have the ability to punish- is wrong, end of story.

You'll never get that story published if that's how it ends.

What if she was his domme?

posted by fourcheesemac at 6:58 PM on October 2, 2009


all i want to know is if he ever smirks like that in bed and what kind of excuses he has for it
posted by pyramid termite at 8:49 PM on October 2, 2009


Sexual harassment is a legal term of art that encompasses situations that a layperson might not consider to be "harassing." For example, a boss favoring an employee with whom the boss is having a sexual relationship to the detriment of those employees who are not having sex with the boss. As a matter of law, the harassed party is not necessarily the person with whom the boss has sex.

I think it's pretty obvious that you're way over interpreting the law here.
posted by delmoi at 9:00 PM on October 2, 2009


I think it's pretty obvious that you're way over interpreting the law here.

Perhaps you can point out why you think that's obvious, and correct my statement. Why do you believe that my statement is in interpretation of law, and what leads you to believe that it is in any way inaccurate?
posted by The World Famous at 9:24 PM on October 2, 2009


So much gray area talk about subordinatehumping (as the Germans call it), but my real concern is why is blackmail a crime?

I can tell the world you're fucking the babysitter legally, so why in the world shouldn't I be able to charge you for keeping my mouth shut??

It seems rather straightforward to me that the market legitimately decides how important my discretion is to you. If you don't want to or can't pay me 95% of your income, then we're right back to where we were when I was going to tell the world anyway with full impunity.

Sure it must suck to have to pay a guy to keep your reputation, but it also must suck when a much higher status man sleeps with your girlfriend... not to mention when you see your boss differentially rewarding those who sleep with him. Say by including them in an inordinate amount of televised sketches.
posted by dgaicun at 9:36 PM on October 2, 2009


Dave does get away with it, in the big picture. He dies rich, he continues to lawyer his way out of trouble and pleasure himself back into it. What could be the greater privilege? Maybe his wife leaves him and he's sad. That happens to most people anyway. He's still a big winner, by all objective measurements.

Gets away with what? He had some office romances. About which none of the women involved have complained even anonymously. He isn't Polanski; no thirteen year old girls were drugged and anally raped here.

I consciously decided that I'd not comment in the Robert McNamara obit thread. Because I knew anything I wrote would be incoherent with anger. McNamara died wealthy and comfortable in bed, and was eulogized as a great man, even lauded for "coming to terms with" his crimes.

Call me back when David Letterman has divided three countries, leaving a legacy of napalm scars, a half million birth defects and a landscape denuded by Agent Orange, the Khmer Rouge, and a shiny black Wall inscribed with the names of 58,000 too young men and women.
posted by orthogonality at 9:37 PM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Why do you believe that my statement is in interpretation of law, and what leads you to believe that it is in any way inaccurate?

Because it's ridiculous. If you think it's true, why don't you make an effort to prove it? It's an extreme logical stretch to assume that having a consensual affair in an office setting implies that everyone not involved in the affair is being harassed. It's just nonsensical. The fact that two people are fucking doesn't mean that anyone else would feel pressured to join in. In the case where it was ruled that office dalliances counted as sexual harassment, there was "understood" that sleeping with the boss was a way to get ahead.

In other words, simply having a sexual relationship between one boss and one subordinate is not a sufficient condition for sexual harrasment.

If you think that's wrong, then why don't you go find the case law that proves it, rather then simply making the assertion.
posted by delmoi at 10:11 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


In other words, simply having a sexual relationship between one boss and one subordinate is not a sufficient condition for sexual harrasment.

If you think that's wrong, then why don't you go find the case law that proves it, rather then simply making the assertion.


Please read my post again. Then please contrast it with your mischaracterization of what I stated.

Here's the part of my post that you quoted: "Sexual harassment is a legal term of art that encompasses situations that a layperson might not consider to be "harassing." For example, a boss favoring an employee with whom the boss is having a sexual relationship to the detriment of those employees who are not having sex with the boss. As a matter of law, the harassed party is not necessarily the person with whom the boss has sex."

Here's what you are apparently arguing against (your words): "It's an extreme logical stretch to assume that having a consensual affair in an office setting implies that everyone not involved in the affair is being harassed."

Do you see the difference now between what I said and what you're arguing against? Do you see the part of my post that you quoted about "a boss favoring an employee with whom the boss is having a sexual relationship to the detriment of those employees who are not having sex with the boss?"

I did not say that "simply having a sexual relationship between one boss and one subordinate is [] a sufficient condition for [liability for] sexual harassment [under Title VII]."

I don't think you actually disagree with what I wrote, frankly.

If you think that's wrong, then why don't you go find the case law that proves it, rather then simply making the assertion.

Given that my assertion was the same as your retort, I'm not sure citation of case law is necessary. Are you really proposing that we exchange legal briefs on the matter? Because again, I don't think we disagree.
posted by The World Famous at 10:23 PM on October 2, 2009


Call me back when David Letterman has divided three countries, leaving a legacy of napalm scars, a half million birth defects and a landscape denuded by Agent Orange, the Khmer Rouge, and a shiny black Wall inscribed with the names of 58,000 too young men and women.

Ok, admittedly I haven't watched the show in awhile, but...
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:34 PM on October 2, 2009 [9 favorites]


Well, beyond "favors" I think there additionally has to be an implicit signal that other women could also get ahead by sleeping with the boss. It's not all that clear that that happened here.
posted by delmoi at 11:06 PM on October 2, 2009


I agree, delmoi. I have no idea whether this is a situation that would fit the bill in terms of liability. And summary judgment in favor of the employer in Title VII sexual harassment cases is not at all uncommon.
posted by The World Famous at 11:11 PM on October 2, 2009


Sooooooo... does this mean that ten years after his demise, Dave won't get a postage stamp in his honor?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:42 PM on October 2, 2009


Delmoi, you just affirmed what The World Famous was saying in your purported explanation of why it was "ridiculous" and "nonsensical" and "obvious"ly not true. The World Famous said the harassed party isn't necessarily the one who the boss is sleeping with, and you said that might be the case but there'd need to be certain kinds of evidence.

You're both saying the same thing; the only difference is that The World Famous correctly pointed out that you're both saying the same thing, whereas you're ridiculing his views at the same time that you implicitly concede they're correct.
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:40 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have no idea whether this is a situation that would fit the bill in terms of liability. And summary judgment in favor of the employer in Title VII sexual harassment cases is not at all uncommon.

Key phrase here is "I have no idea."

The fact that "summary judgment" in favor of a defendent "is not at all uncommon" doesn't say anything about the merits of a particular claim (or potential claim).
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:42 AM on October 3, 2009


You're right, it's totally cool to be engaging in sexual activity with someone you can fire or punish.

I guess Barak and Queen Elizabeth better get a divorce.

Replace "David Letterman" with, say, any other CEO in the universe, take Dave's cute little jokes made on his television show, and have the CEO say them on the front steps of his office headquarters, and it might add some perspective.

Oh, you've met Larry, then?
posted by rodgerd at 2:48 AM on October 3, 2009


why do people still use the moniker national in front of TV when talking about the networks? this isn't the time of rotary phones, where all other channels would be limited to certain markets. what is the difference to just TV? if there is a point you with to make about him saying this on CBS, then say it outright.

What kind of nut takes a cheque as blackmail payment?
the NYT article makes him sound desperate.

If David Letterman goes to Hell when he dies
you're taking that book too literally. it is fiction.
posted by krautland at 4:21 AM on October 3, 2009


why do people still use the moniker national in front of TV when talking about the networks?

I think because there are still people who don't have cable. Hard to believe, I know, but the networks are still the only channels that everyone gets.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:16 AM on October 3, 2009


238 comments and no one else finds "blackmail" the most outrageous part of this? What a truly fucked up law. Extortion is when you demand money from someone so you don't do something illegal to them. "Blackmail" is when you demand money from someone so you don't do something that's perfectly legal to them. It's perfectly legal for me to tell others about your sex life.

This is a law practically designed to shield powerful people from unwanted losses of reputation, much as Jerry Falwell and other powerful people have tried to use libel laws to prevent unwanted criticism.

Also, Michael Jackson had a 22 million dollar "out of court settlement" with one of his alleged molestees, which prohibits him from speaking about his alleged molestation. How the fuck isn't an "out of court settlement" blackmail? Oh, right, because this way lawyers get paid. (In fact, it is a seeming perversion of justice to let rich people pay their way out of their crimes. If anything blackmail should be legal and "out of court settlements" should be a crime.)

Defamation laws are already designed to protect people from false, malicious characterizations. And these laws already need to be applied sparingly and intelligently (esp. when applied to powerful people).

Blackmail laws incentivise powerful people to act in illicit ways. I see no reason they should be shielded in this manner. Indeed, a harsh spotlight incentivises better behaved individuals to seek fame (as well as masochistic exhibitionists, like Andy Dick. But they are immediately identifiable as shameless twats).
posted by dgaicun at 7:23 AM on October 3, 2009


What made it confessional was owning up to doing "creepy things".
posted by hawthorne at 7:33 AM on October 3, 2009


MetaFilter: eating a sandwich in Matt's office
posted by bwg at 8:15 AM on October 3, 2009


Remember the two pretty girls in cocktail dresses who came out for the Will It Float bits? One of the girls rotated frequently

The hula one?


No the two girls who would bring out the object to be "floated"

big hair. dark tan. phony looking lips. She usually stood on the left. (our left, her right)

She was usually the same girl who brought a deli platter to the random contestant who played one of Rupert's games.
posted by Bonzai at 9:03 AM on October 3, 2009


"why do people still use the moniker national in front of TV when talking about the networks? this isn't the time of rotary phones, where all other channels would be limited to certain markets. what is the difference to just TV? if there is a point you with to make about him saying this on CBS, then say it outright."

Because not everything on CBS is national television. Local news, for example. And not everyone gets WGN or TBS, both of which are mini-networks; Fox used to be the same way.
posted by klangklangston at 9:17 AM on October 3, 2009


why do people still use the moniker national in front of TV when talking about the networks? this isn't the time of rotary phones, where all other channels would be limited to certain markets.

So which do you think is funnier, the Airport Plaza Jeweler ad with the girl in the chicken suit or the Mighty Taco ad that sort of riffs on the Airport Plaza Jeweler ads?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:49 AM on October 3, 2009


I think because there are still people who don't have cable. Hard to believe, I know, but the networks are still the only channels that everyone gets.

Since the switch to digital, some of us don't get those, either.
posted by dilettante at 9:51 AM on October 3, 2009


238 comments and no one else finds "blackmail" the most outrageous part of this?
blackmail is the obvious outrageous part and the one that is not even worth mentioning. of course it's bad, just like of course your beverage might be hot and burn you.
posted by krautland at 10:09 AM on October 3, 2009


Because not everything on CBS is national television.

What difference does that make? CBS is still a nation wide network that provides content to its affiliates in the network. It doesn't matter that the affiliates also show local news; the network provides content across the US, thus national. TBS is a cable television company; WGN has a national feed but does not provide networked content.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:31 AM on October 3, 2009




dgaicun: 238 comments and no one else finds "blackmail" the most outrageous part of this? What a truly fucked up law. Extortion is when you demand money from someone so you don't do something illegal to them. "Blackmail" is when you demand money from someone so you don't do something that's perfectly legal to them. It's perfectly legal for me to tell others about your sex life.

Yes, that shows that extortion and blackmail are different, but it's not itself an argument against blackmail. Involving money in an otherwise-legal action can make it illegal, unless you also disagree with laws against bribery and prostitution.

This is a law practically designed to shield powerful people from unwanted losses of reputation, much as Jerry Falwell and other powerful people have tried to use libel laws to prevent unwanted criticism.

It does no such thing. It shields powerful people from having their fame leveraged against them by people motivated by nothing but profit, which I am 100% okay with. I don't know how you can claim it shields them from "unwanted losses of reputation" in the same comment that you acknowledged the legality of spreading that information without the blackmail angle.

Also, Michael Jackson had a 22 million dollar "out of court settlement" with one of his alleged molestees, which prohibits him from speaking about his alleged molestation. How the fuck isn't an "out of court settlement" blackmail? Oh, right, because this way lawyers get paid. (In fact, it is a seeming perversion of justice to let rich people pay their way out of their crimes. If anything blackmail should be legal and "out of court settlements" should be a crime.)

When you pay a blackmailer, nothing stops them from just taking the money and continuing to blackmail you. Same with extortionists. Same with that old Bush administration cliche, "negotiating with terrorists". By acquiescing to the illegal behavior you are just further enabling it.

I can see why you think out-of-court settlements are similar, but there's a game-changing difference: by putting it within a legal framework you prevent that kind of abuse; the parties are bound by the terms of the settlement. Furthermore, IANAL, but I'd assume there are legal guidelines for what can and cannot be part of the negotiation of an out-of-court settlement, to prevent exploitation to some extent. Maybe one of the lawyer-types around here can weigh in?
posted by Riki tiki at 11:55 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Putting aside the ethics of sleeping with coworkers; and duly praising Letterman for stopping blackmail where it lives, did he consider that the women with whom she slept may not have wanted to be outed?

So it's okay for him to reveal the affairs because it saves him $2M, but it would not be okay for the women to reveal it to make $2M?

The problem isn't that he revealed it; it's the self-serving, narcissistic manner in which he did it. "Here's what I need, now."
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 12:24 PM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


--- sorry, that should read "the women with whom HE slept"-- preempting some jokes... though in reading that again, maybe it was a Freudian slip.
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 12:29 PM on October 3, 2009


"A former "Late Show" intern came forward Saturday to say she is one of David Letterman's former flings.

"I was madly in love with him at the time," Holly Hester told TMZ.com. "I would have married him. He was hilarious."

The NYU alum said the relationship started when Letterman asked her on a date to the movies.

A year-long, secret romance ensued, she said, until the funnyman called it off.

Letterman, 62, admitted on air Thursday night that he had affairs with female staffers, but did not name them.*
posted by ericb at 1:13 PM on October 3, 2009


So it's okay for him to reveal the affairs ...

Letterman didn't name names. I wonder if he contacted his former lovers to tell them about his current situation.
posted by ericb at 1:14 PM on October 3, 2009


preempting some jokes

DAMN YOU!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 1:15 PM on October 3, 2009


Having sex with subordinates is wrong.
vs
Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

I have less respect for him, given that he seemed to have been in a committed relationship, as well. But he's a latenight entertainer, which is not a group I look to for role models. Nor has he ever been particularly holier than thou, although he gave Bill Clinton hell in the Lewinsky mess. I'd love to see Bill Clinton on Latenight now.
posted by theora55 at 5:29 PM on October 3, 2009


Involving money in an otherwise-legal action can make it illegal, unless you also disagree with laws against bribery and prostitution

I do disagree with laws against prostitution. I disagree that bribery is "otherwise-legal," but even granting this characterization, the social harmfulness of bribery is readily articulated, while the social harmfulness of blackmail is more doubtful. The former incentivises deception, the latter incentivises openness.

It does no such thing. It shields powerful people from having their fame leveraged against them by people motivated by nothing but profit, which I am 100% okay with.

You're misrepresenting my comment which was clearly pro-defamation laws. I said powerful people have tried to use defamation laws to squelch free speech. And, no doubt, they often do that, but the laws are plausibly beneficial more often than not. It's not obvious that the same is true for blackmail.

When you pay a blackmailer, nothing stops them from just taking the money and continuing to blackmail you.

Um, yeah, a blackmail deal doesn't have legal reinforcements because it's illegal! Just like prostitution or drug dealing, which also don't afford protection if someone doesn't pay you for sex or steals your drugs.

I can see why you think out-of-court settlements are similar, but there's a game-changing difference: by putting it within a legal framework you prevent that kind of abuse; the parties are bound by the terms of the settlement

And this is entirely because one is legal and one is illegal. It's tautologically true that blackmail is wrong because it's against the law, but that doesn't mean it should be against the law, which is what is at issue.

The difference seems to be that OoCS involves a crime and the victim, i.e. that it's morally OK for an alleged victim to use this as a pretense for blackmail. In my mind, this is more similar to extortion than blackmail, since criminal justice is violence by proxy. Punitive damages should be decided by a court of law or not at all. Something like rape shouldn't have a price tag; it is a crime against both the victim and society. Blackmailing your victimizer is like vigilantism.

(And for the record, the legal formality of out of court settlements barely has any teeth).
posted by dgaicun at 6:41 PM on October 3, 2009


So it's okay for him to reveal the affairs because it saves him $2M, but it would not be okay for the women to reveal it to make $2M?

The problem isn't that he revealed it; it's the self-serving, narcissistic manner in which he did it. "Here's what I need, now."
I don't know how you imagine people hooking up, but I imagine that Letterman did not expect it to cost him a fortune, and the women did not expect to make one. If you agree with me, then revealing the affairs was not "self-serving" and "narcissistic", but quite reasonable, unlike the hypothetical situation of the women revealing the affairs to make a fortune.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:34 AM on October 4, 2009


I'd be pretty uncomfortable all of a sudden if I was a woman working for The Late Show.

I'd be pretty uncomfortable all of a sudden too, because I'd be fighting the urge to rub one out every time I saw him.

Seriously, Dave and Monty going at it is hot stuff. Live free or die, haters.
posted by tits mcgee at 12:13 PM on October 4, 2009


Stay classy.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:21 PM on October 4, 2009


Here's the thing (she says as the thread dies):

When I was smaller -- like 35+ years ago, I was puzzled. The unforgivable sin in the Bible wasn't "Thou shall not sex someone you are not married to" or "Thou shall not sex someone of the same sex" or (surprisingly) "Thou shall not kill" or "Thou shall not kill millions of people."

The unforgivable sin was "Thou shall not have false gods before me."

And I thought -- well, that's seems weird and sorta egotistical.

But as I grew older, I saw were it made sense -- human sense -- not deity sense. It's about betrayal.

Once you betray someone, your relationship is forever changed. There will always the doubt lurking in the shadows. A poison.

Again, I don't see why genocide, murder and other crimes aren't "unforgivable" in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

But in terms of human relationships -- I can see why betrayal is so toxic. It's why it's a capital crime in the U.S. (treason).
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:43 PM on October 4, 2009


The unforgivable sin in the Bible
that bible?
posted by krautland at 2:17 AM on October 5, 2009


The unforgivable sin was "Thou shall not have false gods before me."

Uh, no.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:38 AM on October 5, 2009


When the story broke I thought they said this Birkett

Now that would be a scandal!
posted by stormpooper at 8:24 AM on October 5, 2009


the first commandment really isn't much different than blasphemy...

I like the new-agers who re-interpret "original sin" as "ego worship." That makes much more sense to me (albeit completely unrelatedly).
posted by mrgrimm at 10:51 AM on October 5, 2009


This is a law practically designed to shield powerful people from unwanted losses of reputation, much as Jerry Falwell and other powerful people have tried to use libel laws to prevent unwanted criticism.

Um, the blackmail laws don't shield the powerful. Halderman was perfectly free to expose Letterman's evil doings. He just can't attempt to profit off of keeping them secret, no?
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:21 PM on October 5, 2009




I'm no Letterman fan, or, haven't been one. But jeepers, sticking it to a blackmailer is a mighty fine move. As for the rest, I'm not one to judge folks based on their sexual activities that happen without involving me, except in cases where I am feeling left out.
posted by Goofyy at 9:20 AM on October 6, 2009


This is a law practically designed to shield powerful people from unwanted losses of reputation, much as Jerry Falwell and other powerful people have tried to use libel laws to prevent unwanted criticism.

But the rich and powerful aren't the only ones who have potentially-dangerous secrets. Just about everyone has some sort of secret that they would like someone not to know. You might not be able to get $2mil out of the waitress who cheated on her husband, say, or the health inspector who once accepted a bribe or something, but you can get some amount of money--as much as they have. And you can make their lives a living hell by demanding that money from them.

The sin of blackmail isn't that the blackmailer might reveal someone's horrible secret--anyone who knows a horrible secret has the legal ability to reveal it, yeah. The sin of blackmail is, instead, using that ability to gain unlimited power over another. We're just better off as a society if we accept that maybe others will tell our secrets or not, but at least they can't use those secrets to threaten and coerce us.
posted by Ms. Saint at 10:52 AM on October 6, 2009


In addition to the personal money aspect think about the corruption of the system that legalized black mail would enable. If you could control even 10% of the people on this list with legal blackmail things would be bad.
posted by Mitheral at 1:22 PM on October 6, 2009


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