October 7th, 2009
03:54 PM ET

Latest Letterman controversy raises workplace issues for women

Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more from Terry O'Neill on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

Terry O'Neill
President, National Organization of Women

Recent developments in the David Letterman extortion controversy have raised serious issues about the abuse of power leading to an inappropriate, if not hostile, workplace environment for women and employees.

In the case of Letterman, he is a multi-million dollar host of one of the most popular late-night shows; in that role, he wields the ultimate authority as to who gets hired, who gets fired, who gets raises, who advances, and who does entry-level tasks among the Late Show employees.

As "the boss," he is responsible for setting the tone for his entire workplace – and he did that with sex. In any work environment, this places all employees – including employees who happen to be women -in an awkward, confusing and demoralizing situation.

Most women can attest to the fact that many workplaces are plagued with inappropriate behavior by men in power. The latest Letterman controversy sheds new light on the widespread objectification of women in the workplace.

We recently received a call from a man in Rockford, Ill., who wanted to get advice from NOW about what to tell his 16 year-old daughter who was confused by reports on the latest Letterman controversy. The father raised his daughter to be a feminist. He raised her to stand up for herself. He raised her not be objectified as a sexual object.

She admits she is confused because the messages she sees on television and news reports appear to make it okay to objectify women as long as the man in power is famous. He can crack a few jokes and publicly apologize for his mistakes. It is this kind of hypocrisy that perpetuates the image of men in power preying on women, while many look the other way.

Every woman -and every man -deserves to work in a place where all employees are respected for their talents and skills. The National Organization for Women calls on CBS to recognize that Letterman's behavior creates a toxic environment and to take action immediately to rectify this situation. With just two women on CBS' Board of Directors, we're not holding our breath.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Letterman
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Bev

    I think people are making too much of an issue out of this. Seriously. This should remain an issue between he and his family, and that's it.

    October 7, 2009 at 6:31 pm |
  2. jason

    NOW is very unrealistic. Workplace romances happen all the time and not just between coworkers, they happen btw bosses too. To try and limit this is foolish and a waste of time. Also to soley blame thoes"evil men in charge" is naieve. You (NOW) constantly say how women are smart, and yet you cant seem to grasp the simple fact that women are just as guilty as men at using sex to get what they want in the workplace. there is NO evidence that letterman did anything "innappropriate" to get these women to sleep with him. and EVERYTING suggests these women were willing equal participants in the affair. So whats the problem? the problem is NOW needs to consistantly paint women as victims and men as brutish predators in order to survive and be relevant. If they told the truth about how women are just as guilty at using sex, they would be in trouble. and sorry to say in my experience the usual women who cry about this the most are A) unaatractive women who are envious that they cant do it. or B) women that use sex to get ahead then cry harrasment when they get what they want. I have a feeling that if it was Brad Pitt or george clooney here, it would be 'Charming, hot, sexy' But because it is letterman its 'inappropriate'. Sexual harrasment is only used for the ugly guy.

    October 7, 2009 at 5:40 pm |
  3. Isabel Siaba, Brazil

    Sexual harassment is a serious problem and often the injured party can not denunciate. Interesting debate!

    October 7, 2009 at 4:57 pm |
  4. Bill

    NOW takes hipocrisy to a new level when they go after Letterman but left Clinton alone when he was using a young woman on his staff for his own gratification.

    October 7, 2009 at 4:42 pm |
  5. Linda B., Ga.

    ummmm who's next to get on the "band wagon". Why is it that we haven't heard a word from any of the women involved....the primary reason WHY is because they don't seem to be too concerned and "neither" should anybody else, other then David and his family....

    Get a Life everybody and let them get on with their's....

    October 7, 2009 at 4:14 pm |