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David Letterman on extortion attempt: 'I felt menaced by this'


David Letterman found himself in an unusual role Thursday night: the one offering the television confessional, instead of hearing it. In an extraordinary 10-minute-long narrative, Letterman described for his audience a three-week-long ordeal in which a man – later identified as an employee of the CBS news program “48 Hours” – tried to extort $2 million from the comedian in exchange for not revealing sexual liaisons Letterman had with members of his staff.

Letterman said the man first left a package in the back seat of his car, threatening to go public with “terrible, terrible things” that the “Late Show” host has done. “I just want to reiterate how terrifying this moment is,” he said. “Because there’s something very insidious about, is he standing down there, is he hiding under the car? Am I going to get a tap on the shoulder? Because I’m motivated by nothing but guilt. If you know anything about me, I am just a towering mass of Lutheran Midwestern guilt.”

During a subsequent meeting with Letterman’s attorney, the man said he planned to write a screenplay about Letterman unless he coughed up $2 million. After contacting the Manhattan district attorney’s office, Letterman arranged to give the man a fake check.

“This whole thing has been quite scary,” he said. “I had to go downtown to testify before the grand jury and I had to tell them how I was disturbed by this. I was worried for myself, I was worried for my family.  I felt menaced by this. And I had to tell them all of the creepy things that I have done.”

On Thursday afternoon, the man was arrested. The Manhattan district attorney’s office is set to hold a news conference about the matter this morning.

Letterman, who married his longtime girlfriend earlier this year, told his audience what the man had threatened to reveal: “The creepy stuff was that I have had sex with women who worked for me on this show.”

“Would it be embarrassing if it were made public? Perhaps it would,” he said. “Especially for the women. But that’s a decision for them to make.… But what you don’t want is a guy saying, ‘I know you have sex with women so I would like $2 million or I’m going to make trouble for you.’”

“It’s been a very bizarre experience,” he concluded. “I feel like I need to protect these people. I need to certainly protect my family, I need to protect myself, hope to protect my job and the friends, everybody, that has been very supportive through this.”

-- Matea Gold

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This image rendered form video shows David Letterman as he tells his story during a taping of his late-night show Thursday Oct. 1, 2009 that he had sexual relationships with female employees and that someone tried to extort $2 million from him over the affairs, and CBS says an employee has been charged with attempted grand larceny in the case. (AP Photo / CBS)

Comments () | Archives (52)

When does the sexual harassment investigation by CBS begin to determine whether or not Letterman used his position of power to coerce his female staffers into having sex with him?
Where was his concern for his family when he was cheating on them?

Wow, I guess this is everyday news for all of you Hollywood types or are you just sticking up for Letterman. I guess CBS doesn't have any annual meetings about having relations with subordinates in the workplace.

You have been a bad boy, David. Also, the extortion letter could have been better written from a self proclaim author.

Extortion is ugly.

I really don't care who DL sleeps with, it's none of my business, and I'd like to keep it that way. This is something between DL, his wife, and the women involved. No one else. Enough.

“I feel like I need to protect these people."

Does he mean the coworkers he slept with?

I never liked Dave much - he always struck me as a bully with a smiling veneer, a narcissist.

Of course blackmail is illegal, and that blackmailer was an idiot - but Dave's sexual opportunism and his weird use of the show to soapbox his misdeeds and subsequent blackmailing re both just examples of a very manipulative personality, and showcases his own hubris.

Usually not a good idea to have sex with your employees. It is a far worse thing to try to extort someone for $2 million.

David Letterman is really a stupid person,not well read, actually a lot like Obama, all style no substance. Of course I want Letterman not to be harmed, but again he is not a smart person

Misogynist creep....

Right or wrong, Letterman handled the situation with honesty and class.

Wouldn't it be something if some of those wonderfully patriotic Senators of both parties who sit on the Finance Committee would show the same honesty as Dave. Think of it; they could confirm their links to the Insurance-Hospital-Pharma industries, even though it would mean returning millions in bribes, yet soothe their guilty consciences.
The upshot being, they would all unite to pass meaningful health care legislation.

Well, at least I can dream, can't I?

Awww...poor little David Letterman. Yes David, extortion is very bad; but now the world knows about your workplace hanky-panky. Tell us more & more so we can digest the lurid details and judge for ourselves if it was a hostile work environment.

We wonder if your employees slept with you, the boss, to keep their jobs during these very difficult economic times. The unemployment rate is now at a record 26 year high. Was this a "casting couch" situation? Was your sexual harrassment of your underlings just an accepted work practice for your show? What did your TV Network upper management know and what did they do about it?

Like we care about how embarrassed or threatened you feel, you ethical midget. Think how those women felt, having to put up with your creepy advances to keep their jobs.

Disgusting how Letterman's sexual involvement with his staff gets milked as the biggest desti nation viewing he's had in years. Letterman tells this like a dinner table anecdote, but the bad guy here isn't the blackmailer.

It's the POS industry bigwig breaking employment and employment laws with a grin and a laugh track. I expected an apology, not a captive audience. Letterman glides over the admission as if his private life isn't public news, and that any woman would have lost her job no matter what blackmail was going on.

Letterman won't lose his job, won't lose his staff, won't get sanctioned or sued. CBS will turn a legitimate human resources matter into a tv late night talk show joke. Smirk smirk.

Thus does Letterman avid the reveal lawsuits from these women might have used, leverage that might have gained them restitution from an industry fraught with 100 year old standards of treatment with respect to women.

I used to think Letterman was just boring. Now he is spreading an impression that a happily married man in show business can conduct affairs with members of his company and the studio (an industry rift by such lawsuits).

And people are clapping.

Why would he ever bring this up during the show?

Oh, fame and fortune. Aren't they fun?

I imagine that what happened to Michael Jackson probably seems a lot less funny now.

Letterman should have sought to "protect his family" and "protect these people" by not having illicit affairs with his employees in the first place. Give us a break, Letterman!

Sex seems to be man's eternal downfall. What's different today, in our media saturated culture, is how many of these public confessions reach our ears, whereas, years ago, this sort of thing was never mentioned in the media (think of JFK's time, for instance). I wonder what the effect will be: Will our society grow more averse to adultery and illicit sex, when we see the way it brings embarrassment upon public figures? Or will the illicit activities of famous and successful people come to feel more and more normal to us? I hope it's not the latter, but I have a feeling it is.

Wow. That's courage under fire. And honesty. Screwed up, but is dealing with his screw-up like a man. Dave is an exceptional public figure. This isn't the first time he has let us "in", and been deeply personal on the air. Few such figures have been as open and honest with the public. Go Dave.

But the question remains--are the allegations true?

Except that Letterman's a famous entertainer, this is almost
a non news item...happens all the time in the real world where someone tries to get "hinky" with the neighbors. Hope they put the extortionist in the slammer and throw away the key.

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