CBS’s late night comedy star David Letterman has continued the apologies he began last week:
Letterman is continuing to use his late night talk show as a platform to discuss how he “has his work cut out for him” in dealing with the fallout from his on-air confession that he was the alleged victim of extortion.
Joe Halderman, 51, an Emmy-award-winning producer for CBS News’ “48 Hours,” has pleaded not guilty after he was charged last week with trying to blackmail Letterman for $2 million. Halderman allegedly claimed he had evidence of the talk show host’s sexual affairs with staff members.
According to a source close to Letterman, the relationships Halderman was allegedly going to reveal occurred before Letterman’s March 2009 marriage to Regina Lasko, with whom he has a son, Harry Joseph Letterman.
During Monday’s taping of “Late Show,” Letterman, 62, apologized for the unwanted attention that has bombarded his staff.
“I’m terribly sorry that I put the staff in that position,” he said, according to a statement released by his production company, Worldwide Pants. “The staff here has been wonderfully supportive to me, not just through this furor, but through all the years that we’ve been on television and especially all the years here at CBS, so, again, my thanks to the staff for, once again, putting up with something stupid I’ve gotten myself involved in.”
And his wife? The ABC report goes on:
“She has been horribly hurt by my behavior, and when something happens like that, if you hurt a person and it’s your responsibility, you try to fix it,” he said. And at that point, there’s only two things that can happen: either you’re going to make some progress and get it fixed, or you’re going to fall short and perhaps not get it fixed.
Although it’s too early to tell how all of this will eventually play out, several things are clear:
1. The case will keep the tabloids, blogs and mainstream press busy due to useful material for months to come.
2. Letterman is kind of the long-distance runner of late night comedy. He is now at the peak of his career. Once Johnny Carson retired it was the end of an era– in more ways than one. Carson had been the undisputed King of late night TV. But late night TV then spit into Letterman and NBC’s choice to replace Carson, Jay Leno. Leno beat Letterman in the ratings but never acquired the aura of Carson since late night TV now had to compete more ferociously with cable and the Internet. Leno was the perso who beat Letterman in the ratings; not the King of late night TV. Letterman has been enmeshed in several controversies, but his ratings have gone up since Leno left the late night spot — and it’s clear the press likes him. (He is a virtual show biz hermit but reportedly what you view is what you get and audiences like him.).
Will Letterman become less likable as he talks about the issue again? Will the court case hurt Letterman once the defense lawyer presents his case? And will people tuning in who might not have before to see who this guy is who’s at the center of the news decide they want to tune in more regularly?
This could be an ongoing news — and show biz — story to watch.
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Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.