Letterman media storm enters first full week

Oct 06, 2009 by Ian Evans

Extortion. Sex. These are usually the ingredients for primetime drama, not late night talk shows, and David Letterman apologized Monday night to his current and former staff for having to deal with reporters looking for a story.

Monday marked the first new show taped since the media storm erupted after Letterman told audiences last Thursday that he had been the victim of a $2 million extortion attempt over the fact that he had sex in the past with women who had worked on the show.

The alleged extortionist is Robert Halderman, a CBS News producer who not only shared a network with Dave but also an ex-girlfriend, Stephanie Birkitt. Birkitt, a former assistant to Letterman, broke up with Halderman this summer and he allegedly used her diaries as the basis for his plot to get money from the late night star.

Letterman, who said he wasn’t going to talk about the situation much after Thursday, felt he had to take the matter to the police because he was the victim of an illegal shakedown. He admitted he didn’t think about the effect going public would have on his staff, but saved his biggest apology for his wife, Regina Lasko, who he married in March after a long relationship. Letterman told the audience, “If you hurt a person and it’s your responsibility, you try to fix it” and added that he had a lot of work to do to repair his marriage. The couple have a five-year-old son, Harry. A spokesperson for Letterman confirmed that the relations with other women had occurred before the marriage, but during his relation with Lasko, which started in 1986.

While some critics have commented on the double standard of Letterman making jokes about politician’s infidelities, David defused those criticisms by taking the issue head on in his monologue. He started to make jokes about familiar targets like Bill Clinton and Elliott Spitzer, and caught himself mid-sentence each time.

At one point, Letterman joked that “This is only phase one of the scandal. Phase two: Next week I go on Oprah and sob.”