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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)

I'm going to assume producer Halderman was addicted to either drugs, alcohol, or gambling.

Unless he needed money, and lots of money, to support a habit, I can't understand why a 20-year network producer with a good job, two kids and a good salary would go ahead and destroy his career by trying to blackmail a major celebrity in broad daylight. He had to have been desperate and in some alcoholic mist or drug-addled haze or debt-ridden gambling problem. Now he's arrested and has nothing. And I'm sure his two kids are really proud of their dad in jail.

I just don't get why anyone would resort to an inept extortion plot when they could just go ahead and write and sell the book or screenplay for a large chunk of money without the whole extortion part.

Wow, must be some real dogs on the staff.

Bombshell? give me a break. who cares?

@ Paul Howard: It's ironic how unintelligent people like Letterman and Obama are more successful than you ever will be. If everyone only had half the intelligence that you and people like Sarah Palin clearly possess, we'd all be better off.

(p.s. That was snark in case you didn't get it.)

Dave is a self-admitted anti-social person who doesn't get out much. His wife worked for him. His prior gf also worked there. Maybe this is the only way he could meet women. There's no proof that he did anything wrong. And I sincerely hope that his "dating" stopped when he married.

For a guy who likes to pass judgement on others---and call it entertainment---Letterman has really made himself look like a loser now.

I am dumbfounded by the comments of those who, without knowing anything concerning the underlying facts, have decided that the women were "victims" of Letterman. Some women, and this is a well-known truth, are attracted to men in positions of power, which would certainly include Letterman. None of these women have, to my knowledge, stepped forward to complain about Letterman's conduct. Despite that fact, some of the morons who have written comments on this article have condemned Letterman for doing something they know nothing about at all.

Those people need to grow up and get a fast perspective on reality or ... stay silent. What drivel.

Hey-lighten up everyone. It's just sex and some ink and paper. RELAX.

If the spin doctors get this right, Dave may become the victim here. To have to go through the "Terrifying" ordeal he did, should get him sainthood with the Hollywood crowd. Wonder how may staffers can now breath easier now, knowing they may keep their jobs without having to perform for Dave.

I'm sooo curious about what these chicks looked like! haha
The black mailer is an idiot! 2 million is way too much to ask for. He should have asked for a reasonable amount. Maybe 150K and been done with it.

What an @hole. This is the idiot who mocked a 14 year old and 18 year old daughter of a governor,and the governor, making sexual immuendos.

Dave ought to Thanking his writers for a funny delivery of a dubious situation.

Why does the media say they are "shocked" by this? Letterman has a lot of power and control of his "Late Show" program. He's one of those narcisstic bully bosses that want what he needs. Some of those females staffers were probably in fear of losing their coveted jobs, so they had to give in to his sexual desires and vomited afterwards. David acted "stupidly" to even have his staffers involved. He could have anyone he wants outside of his work. He's a bona-fide jerk.

He made this thing into a joke and spinned it like we should feel sorry for him. What a disgusting old man. I can only imagine to be in his son's place when he grows up and finds out his father had sex with all these women while married to his mother. I have no respect for this "male". He's no man.

Will Gloria Allred touch this one?

I think not.

I like David Letterman. However, this is a defining moment. What makes him think that it is OK to have sex with co-workers? Does he have a habit of making sex a common occurrence in his workplace? Have women been intimidated into silence? Does everyone work in fear of the "old man" making an unwanted advance? Employment laws have changed the workplace to make it better and safer for woman from this type of completely inappropriate behavior.

So, while the blackmail aspect of this issue is being handled appropriately, why is CBS not putting him on administrative leave to investigate the extent to which he may have created a hostile work environment.

As much as a like Letterman's sense of humor and his work as an entertainer, I cannot condone an employer like CBS not immediately stepping in to correct was is now a very public example of a potential hostile work environment.

Workplace liasons are everywhere, and what consenting adults do in private is none of anyone's business. Go Letterman !!

We don't know that he coerced women into having sex with him to save their jobs. Maybe it was consensual? We also do not know when these acts took place, and if his wife knew about them. We most certainly do not know any thing about his relationship with his wife, other than they have been together for years but only recently married. To suppose anything else is ridiculous. No one should care what this man does in his private life. If he has committed any crimes, let justice prevail. Maybe now Dave won't be so judgmental towards other public figures who have traveled down this same road.

To the right-winger/pro-Palin crowd trying to make more of Dave's sexual exploits than EXTORTION are seriously guilty of not having self-reflection and mindless drivel.

Newt Gingrich? John Ensign? David Vitter? HELLO???

Speaking of Ensign: Nice bribery scandal trying to get a sweet job for the husband of the woman he was boinking!!

wow Mr, Letterman I dident know u had it in you lol sleeping with your co workers has someone been bad lol your married and have a son keep it in your pance buddy lol.

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