But it remains to be seen whether the CBS comic's admission Thursday that he had sexual liaisons with female employees while he was involved with his now-wife, the mother of his 5-year-old son, will fade away with a few late-night punch lines. After years of mocking other public figures for their sexual indiscretions, Letterman, 62, is facing scrutiny for behavior that is verboten in many workplaces. Conservative critics, in particular, expressed disgust with the comedian, whose frequent potshots at former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin -- including a crude joke he made in June about her daughter -- have infuriated many on the right.
Analysts said they didn't expect the revelations about Letterman's personal behavior to prompt many viewers to abandon him. But they'll still watch. He pleaded not guilty Friday to one count of attempted grand larceny in the first degree, a crime punishable by as much as 15 years in prison.
He has been suspended from CBS. Many observers were taken aback by the casual tone Letterman used to describe his sexual relationships with female employees. While saying that he felt "menaced" by Halderman during an extraordinary minute-long segment on Thursday's show, the comic did not express any contrition for cheating on his wife, Regina Lasko, whom he dated for 23 years before their marriage in March.
Especially for the women. John Ensign of Nevada and former presidential candidate John Edwards, Letterman's decision not to offer a mea culpa was striking, said Elayne Rapping, a professor of American studies at the University at Buffalo who specializes in media and popular culture. I would hope that he would be in some way brought to his senses. He seemed ignorant of the issue of sexual harassment. These women worked for him.
Dave is not in violation of our policy and no one has ever raised a complaint against him. The allegation that Halderman was behind the extortion attempt was the talk Friday of the shocked CBS newsroom, where employees puzzled over the news.
The longtime producer, who worked for the news division for more than 20 years and went by Joe, was known as a brash but competent newsman who had covered foreign stories out of the Moscow and London bureaus. He was part of an Emmy-award winning team that covered the Sept. Letterman's indiscretions appear to have come to Halderman's attention through his relationship with a former assistant to the comic, year-old Stephanie Birkitt, who also worked as an associate producer at "48 Hours.
TMZ reported that Halderman was in possession of diaries and correspondence belonging to Birkitt detailing a relationship she had with Letterman. In the letter left in Letterman's car, Halderman said he needed to "make a large chunk of money" and included a one-page screenplay treatment describing how the "Late Show" host would have a "ruined reputation" after he exposed details of the comic's private life, prosecutors said.
He allegedly demanded that Letterman call him by 8 a. Instead, the comic called his attorney, who met with Halderman on Sept.
In coordination with the Manhattan district attorney's office, the attorney held two more meetings with Halderman at the Jumeirah Essex House, a posh New York hotel, and secretly taped his demands, authorities said. After testifying before the grand jury Thursday, Letterman described the experience for his audience. I felt menaced by this. Unruh Institute of Politics and a veteran political strategist.