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October 2nd, 2009
10:24 AM ET

Commentary: Letterman admission not damaging

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Tom O'Neil says Letterman's admission would not be damaging to his audience."]

David Letterman's dramatic admission on television that he had sex with staff members started with an uncomfortable moment when he said he was the victim of an extortion plot. His audience seemed to think he was joking but the case is no laughing matter.  What does this mean for his image?

Tom O’Neil, senior editor of In Touch Weekly spoke with Christine Romans on CNN's "American Morning" Friday. Below is an edited transcript of the interview.

Christine Romans: It was nine minutes of television, there was some laughing from the audience at, what I would say would be, inappropriate parts. Maybe they didn't realize that it was a real confession happening here. What do you make of what happened there on Letterman last night?

Tom O’Neil: It was done in typical Letterman style where we were all put ill at ease while watching this. Was he joking when he talked about the terrible creepy things he did? At first it didn’t seem that way it seemed as if he was really confessing to us, then he built this like a good comic act to crescendo and then you think maybe this is not a big deal. Look, David Letterman just got married in March. For 30 years he was a single man, if this was consensual sex with his co-workers, maybe that’s not so bad. But we also have to wonder, is it that terrible that it gets into areas of sexual harassment?

Romans: He mentioned there were women on the staff who he had sex with but he doesn't give anymore details than that. What do we know about David Letterman? He’s a reclusive, yes but he's also revealed a lot of himself on the air before. There was an extortion plot involving his son, he's had a stalker. He announced some concerns about his health before on the air. He's reclusive, yes, but he does share with his audience. This takes the cake, though.

O’Neil: This does. Because first of all, let's be honest. You don't think of David Letterman as a sexual object. But on the other hand, he's a classic bohemian. So it fits that profile. He's a rascal. If this happened to Jay Leno, it might be damaging but how much damaging is it with Letterman's audience? These are largely frat boys.

Romans: He makes a living making fun of other people. He makes a living making fun of other powerful men’s dalliances, poking fun of them. Did he diffuse anybody calling him hypocrite by him going out and trying to get ahead of it?

O’Neil: I think so. He handled it brilliantly last night. The question is now what happens next. He said in this monologue of his, it's up to the women to come forward and tell their stories if they want to. Well what if they do and what if it’s really embarrassing?  The question I have is, when he told this story last night he described the scene of how it started, he got up one morning and there was a box in the backseat that he opened and the extortion begins there. And I want to know what was in that box because this was the evidence.

Filed under: Entertainment
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Kerry

    I used to be a fan of David's. But in the last couple of years his snyde attitude and negative comments about his marriage have ruined the show for me. He is a curmudgeon and I have lost total respect for him.

    November 4, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  2. Katie B.

    Boo hoo....I am tired of hearing about the poor women in this. Double standard folks! They are consenting adults. Letterman did the right thing. Just like John Travolta being blackmailed, it is sad that people think they can prey on the celebs and take something they did not even earn. Shut these criminals out and put them where they belong, Jail.

    October 5, 2009 at 10:47 am |
  3. JJ

    I meen should be cut he should be cut

    October 4, 2009 at 12:19 am |
  4. JJ

    he david leterman hould be cut

    October 4, 2009 at 12:19 am |
  5. JAI

    Shame that Letterman can get on national tv grinning about his personal escapades and making light of what he has done while showing total disrespect for his family thinking that by doing IT that way he will gain the sympathy of the viewing public. Believe me he hasn't. The intelligent people,, I believe, Have lost what little respect they may have had for him. He has always shown arrogance toward people that he didn't have respect for and since Leno left late night as competition for him and CBS rating for his program have gone up his attitude and scarcasem has gotten to a point that I, my wife and family think he should be off the program. He is continually making disrespectful comments about his wife and their marriage. This "sex' Situation just became the last straw. The program needs to be returned to it's original format of entertainment less David Letterman.

    P.S. IF I were walking down the side walk and got doused by a large water hose I would SUE Him !! as well as CBS.

    John .


    October 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  6. Nigel

    I'm a foreigner and was shocked but now more interested in the drama than shocked. Isn't that normal undercover activity these days? That said, I feel that it sets a bad precedent and he should be given a warning.

    October 3, 2009 at 1:03 pm |
  7. yipyap

    I don't think it's such a bad thing in the general sense...a "boss"....particularly in the entertainment world...who had relations with women who worked for him. He was just being a powerful guy who wanted to see what he could get based on his position alone...on his celebrity. And the women were doing the they could say they'd been with David Letterman.

    So I don't see either party as being more at fault than the other.

    However, I have this sneaking suspision that the all the women he was with were, at the time, considerably younger than he. Let's face it, that kind of a job probably attracts younger people. So in that respect, it's sorta creepy...if in fact the women were all much younger than he.

    October 3, 2009 at 10:35 am |
  8. Margaret

    First of all, attempting to extort monies from anyone for their personal and if you will, unethical indiscretions, should be deemed as criminal. However, there is a moral issue to consider. Although, Mr. Letterman stated that his sexual encounters transpired prior to his marriage of his long time partner, mother of his son and now wife. There is still an issue of his violation of his commitment to his wife. Moreover, Mr. Lettermans' confession may not hurt his employment or ratings, however,I wonder how it will affect his marriage to someone who has been committed to him, over a long period of time.

    October 3, 2009 at 9:07 am |
  9. gbenga

    who is that girl that present the going green talk today?

    October 3, 2009 at 5:06 am |
  10. Dr. Alexandra Thorley

    What is with this scramle to claim the moral high ground?? Letterman is NOT a politician. He in NOT accountable to the public. No crime was comitted. Get over it.

    October 2, 2009 at 12:03 pm |
  11. Matt

    Welcome to double standard USA! If it was a minority, his/her position would be terminated immediately. Continue to support this unfair culture Wolf Blitzer, C. Brown, A. Cooper, and CNN. That is unethical America! Don't you get it? Our culture is being eroded by Hollywood!

    October 2, 2009 at 10:46 am |