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October 8th, 2009
10:01 PM ET

Letterman – Social critic? Or dirty old man?

David Puente
AC360° Producer

For those of us in the TV news industry Howard Kurtz, The Washington Post’s media critic and host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” is the oracle of media analysis. On Wednesday, I called him at home before he made his way to CNN’s Washington bureau for a segment with Anderson. In our pre-interview I asked him about Late Night’s sex-extortion-explosion.

“How’s Letterman handling it”? I asked.

“Lots of people think he’s free and in the clear but I think the jury is still out. There’s a lot we don’t know yet and that could be a problem for Letterman,” he said. “The second this happened I said his ratings would be on fire. Everyone wants to watch the apology and does he poke fun at himself? The long-term question is the real one here. Will the audience see sleeping with a subordinate as something they can overlook?”

I reminded Kurtz that this week the National Organization for Women blasted David Letterman, accusing him of promoting an uncomfortable work environment. The organization’s statement said the scandal raises serious questions about inappropriate behavior in the workplace.

"The latest Letterman controversy sheds new light on the widespread objectification of women in the workplace,” NOW’s statement read. “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.”

Lisa Bloom, CNN’s Legal Analyst, told me that in study after study a vast majority of women today still have a sense of harassment at the workplace in one form or another…”Really?” I thought.

“Yes,” she said. “Especially in the TV world.”

As I was saying goodbye to Howard he made a great point. To what standard should Letterman be judged by? That of a Hollywood celebrity or something else?

“He’s a social and cultural critic,” said Howard. “He’s not an elected official but as a social critic he had a certain style. He was the one who could be very critical with politicians and those who were sneaky or made stupid mistakes but will the audience believe him after this? If they see him more like a dirty old man then it won’t work”.

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Filed under: David Puente • Letterman
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Bob

    It did not surprise me at all that Letterman slept with his employees. I have always known the man lacks moral values. I dont know why this would surprise anyone.

    October 9, 2009 at 1:34 am |
  2. Mary Beth Madsen

    Letterman is human. He admitted his 'mistake'. That is more than most politicians do . Cut him some slack. Ilm tired of him being held to higher standards than others.

    October 9, 2009 at 12:18 am |
  3. Jeff Dowdle

    I can't believe this question is even being debated! Dave was not married and furthermore I think it's more of a private matter between he and Regina.

    October 8, 2009 at 11:51 pm |
  4. Annie Kate

    I don't think this will have much affect on Letterman professionally in the long run. So he had a couple of affairs – that's between him, his wife, and the women he had the affairs with. I haven't worked in an environment yet where there wasn't some of this going on and I know it didn't change the way we thought of our bosses. I do want to point out that Letterman is not the only one that created that atmosphere – those women he slept with could have said No – so they bear some responsibility too.

    As far as if David will be considered a social critic or a dirty old man – I've always regarded him as both.

    October 8, 2009 at 11:39 pm |
  5. Jackson Anderson

    David Letterman is a Societal Critic and a Dirty man when you look at it. Bill Clinton very much the same Sir. Alot of people in todays society man or Woman are. But unlike Bill Clinton the man that lead our nation, David Letterman came out and told the truth. He was honest with his fans and his family. And at the end of the day honesty is what you look for in a person.

    October 8, 2009 at 11:22 pm |
  6. Sam Ausa

    I say sir to my boss sometime not because he deserves it but i need a job ...how many of the this Ladies had sex with him just because they need to keep job i would say all i mean Letterman is not goodlooking if you ask me he has power DIRTY OLD MAN!!!!

    October 8, 2009 at 10:52 pm |