Letterman Reveals Affairs, Extortion Attempt

David Letterman was the victim of an extortion attempt and took a novel approach: going public.

Michael Schneider for Variety:

On the show, Letterman sat down behind his desk and asked his audience whether they wanted to hear a story — and the crowd enthusiastically cheered, not knowing what they were about to hear.

According to the host first received a package three weeks ago from someone who claimed to have information about alleged sexual relations he has had with female employees of the “Late Show.” “I get to looking through it and there’s a letter in the package and it says, ‘I know that you do some terrible, terrible things. And I can prove that you do these terrible things.’ Sure enough, contained in the package was stuff to prove that I do terrible things,” Letterman said on Thursday’s edition of CBS’ “Late Show.”

The host said the alleged extortion suspect claimed he planned to write both a movie screenplay and a book based on what he knew — that Letterman had engaged in sex with staffers. “He’s going to take all the terrible stuff he knows about my life — and according to this packet, there seems to be a lot of terrible stuff he knows about — and he’s going to put it into a movie unless I give him some money,” he said. “That’s a little hinky. I just want to reiterate how terrifying this moment is. Because there’s something very insidious about, is he standing down there, is he hiding under the car, am I going to get a tap on the shoulder?”

Letterman said the individual threatened to go public with the allegations unless Letterman paid the person $2 million. The host, under advisement of his attorney, met with the man on three different occasions. According to Letterman, the suspect even made it clear he knew what he was doing was illegal. Letterman told his audience that he then contacted the Manhattan District Attorney’s Special Prosecution Bureau.

They then set up a sting operation, arrested the perpetrator, and Letterman testified before a grand jury.

As part of the testimony, Letterman admitted that he had engaged in sexual relationships with staff members. “My response to that is, yes I have. Would it be embarrassing if it were made public? Perhaps it would,” Letterman said. “Especially for the women. But that’s a decision for them to make if they want to come public and talk about the relationships.

And:

This is not the first time Letterman has been the victim of an extortion attempt. Police revealed a plot in 2005 to kidnap Letterman’s baby son, Harry, for a $5 million ransom. House painter Kelly Frank was later charged with the crime. Letterman has been married to Regina Lasko, the mother of his child, since March. The two have dated since 1986.

Letterman has also been a stalking victim.  All of which, I suppose, is the bizarre price of celebrity.   And it gets more bizarre, if this Radar report is accurate.

An NYPD source has told RadarOnline.com that the suspect under arrest in the David Letterman extortion case was a producer for CBS’s 48 Hours, Robert Halderman. Halderman often went by his middle name Joe and currently has a residence in Connecticut.

[…]

RadarOnline.com has also learned that the alleged extortionist lived with one of the woman who David was involved with. The affair happened a long time ago, before his son Harry was born, and before he got married, but he was living with his wife to be at the time.

AllahPundit wonders, “Why acknowledge the extortion on the show, though? Even if the news broke in the papers, a studious silence would have led at least some people to believe that the accusations against him were bogus.” Presumably, going public gets the story behind him more quickly and garners some sympathy. Plus, he clearly doesn’t seem to be embarrassed by his own misdeeds here.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Popular Culture, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. mpw280 says:

    By going public so soon he can get the forgiveness if not the total news blackout that Hollywood will give him. He was making jokes about it on the clips I saw, not a good way to impress people with morals, but then again Hollywood figures nobody has morals anymore. I don’t figure this will cost him anything, Hollywood will give him a pass, as they want to give the rapist from France. mpw

  2. Going public discourages future blackmail attempts by establishing the response is likely to be to reveal the information himself and throw the blackmailer to the cops.

  3. Alex Knapp says:

    mpw –

    It’s not immoral to have consensual sex with somebody. Dave wasn’t married at the time. He didn’t have kids at the time. It’s not a big deal.

  4. James Joyner says:

    It’s not immoral to have consensual sex with somebody. Dave wasn’t married at the time. He didn’t have kids at the time. It’s not a big deal.

    It’s a bit complicated given that there was an employer-employee relationship, which is unequal and quite possibly leaves him open for sexual harassment charges. But, despite the “rules,” there is such a thing as genuine consent and attraction in unequal relationships.

  5. Furhead says:

    Alex-

    I agree with JJ’s response. In addition, I wish to reconsider your equivalence of ‘marriage’ with ‘monogamous’. Many people have relationships that they consider to be monogamous well before engagement or marriage. And, on the other hand, there are some who have specifically agreed to a non-monogamous marriage.

    What I’m getting at here is that Dave could be considered immoral *if* he had implied to his wife-to-be that their relationship was exclusive.

  6. DavidL says:

    What the current price of blackmail? Two million dollars for consentual and non-adultorous sex seems like a rather high asking price. It is pretty well established that Letterman is a creep and was not exactly a Puritan when came to sex.

  7. Triumph says:

    It’s too bad that Letterman isn’t a senator from Nevada, then he could have set up the extortionist as a lobbyist illegally, arrange for him to have clients, then peddle his influence for the extortionist’s new lobbying firm.

    He could also have tried to placate the extortionist by borrowing money from his dad to pay the guy off.

  8. floyd says:

    Alex;
    Your judgment on morality is purely subjective and contrary to thousands of years of western traditional morality,as well as contrary to nearly all religious tradition.
    Perhaps you could have been more accurate to say that it is not illegal.
    Since he was screwing employees, even that is yet to be seen.
    Still, I’m sure there would be “virtually” no television,movies, or live entertainment if moral standards were lifted out of the gutter, even if only to “curb” height.
    Heck, traditional values are routinely scoffed at in the content of TV & movies themselves, let alone the lurid private lives of the clowns we hire to entertain us.

  9. mpw280 says:

    Alex, he was nailing his staff, not exactly the same as consensual sex, its sex with a implied price tag for refusal. Hence all those silly little laws about sexual harassment. If he was just out nailing somebody off the street, fine, except maybe for that long time girlfriend thing which resulted in a child (which may or may not have been born by the time all this was going on). mpw

  10. Mithras says:

    “Why acknowledge the extortion on the show, though? Even if the news broke in the papers, a studious silence would have led at least some people to believe that the accusations against him were bogus.”

    It would all come out in the criminal proceeding anyway. Better this than having tabloids and such dribbling it out there for weeks and weeks.

    As for the morality of having affairs when you’re in a supposedly monogamous relationship, it’s wrong. But it’s hardly confined to Hollywood (if Letterman counts as Hollywood). The “traditional values” crowd honors those values as frequently in the breach as in the observance, just like everyone else.

  11. Matt says:

    @mpw280 You weren’t there and as such you’re assuming there was a price tag attached when just as likely there wasn’t. If anything the fact that these women haven’t came forward already is a pretty clear indicator that the sex was completely consensual with no “price tag” attached.

  12. Alex Knapp says:

    mpw, JJ, Furhead,

    At the present time, there doesn’t appear to be any evidence of malfeasance. A relationship between a boss and employee is not necessarily sexual harassment, either in ethics or under the law.

    If he was in a monogamous relationship and cheated, then yes, that’s wrong. But while he was in a long-term relationship at the time, I do not know if he and his girlfriend (now wife) understood the relationship to be exclusive. Absent any evidence to that effect, there’s no moral issue here.

    floyd,

    Your judgment on morality is purely subjective and contrary to thousands of years of western traditional morality,as well as contrary to nearly all religious tradition.

    Thousands of years of western traditional morality and religious tradition also held that slavery is okay, women are the chattel of men, genocide is an acceptable tactic of war, rulers should be obeyed without question, and homosexuals should be stoned to death. So forgive me if I don’t really care very much about “tradition” as an arbiter of morality. Morality should be derived through reason, not the scribblings of people who died thousands of years ago.

  13. Furhead says:

    Alex- I agree with everything you say in the latter post.

  14. mpw280 says:

    Alex and Matt, take the view that it is ok to your HR dept and see how long you last. Guessing you are gonna get reamed in the least and terminated is highly likely. If it is so good, then why are there an absolute shitload of HR class hours devoted to what is permissible when it comes down to this? Hey fine the old guy nailed some young girl and it helped advance her career, just the view you want in this day and age, just what womens libbers would usually hang you out to dry for, doubt you hear a word about it from them, same for the french rapist, look the other way nothing to see here. It is the morals and ethics of tinsel town that make it ok, I will admit to that, but then they are a world to themselves. I guess you would have to ask yourself how you would feel if it was your girlfriend or daughter that he nailed. mpw

  15. Alex Knapp says:

    mpw,

    In most places that I’ve worked, a relationship between a supervisor and a subordinate requires some HR disclosure paperwork but isn’t forbidden.

    Unless you have some evidence that Letterman was actively engaging in some quid pro quo stuff, you don’t have a basis to make a judgement. If Letterman was saying or implying, “sleep with me or you’re fired”, then that would be both legally and morally wrong. Thus far, there is no indication of this.

  16. Alex Knapp says:

    mpw,

    I might add, your comparing Letterman to child rapist Polanski is more than a little beyond the pale given that you have zero evidence of coercion on Letterman’s part.

  17. Furhead says:

    That’s precisely one of the points that I’m agreeing with. Currently there is no evidence of malfeasance. But then again, we know almost nothing as this just came to light.

  18. Matt says:

    Once again you’re making giant assumptions there mpw280. There’s no evidence yet of anyones career being helped or hurt so I refuse to jump to conclusions. As for your question I would kick my girlfriend out as I do not tolerate cheating. Naturally if it was a quid quo pro thing I would take it to the media and the higher ups in NBC too. The rest of your post is just too rediculous to respond to..

  19. Matt says:

    Oh and the local DA too since it would be illegal..

  20. floyd says:

    Alex;
    Your statement assumes that rationalized behavior is the equivalent of morality… No so.
    You also confuse reason with rationalization.
    Having had the same sources available, and for considerably more time, I reject your view and opinions of the history of western civilization out of hand.
    With no objective standards, Your judgment on morality is still purely subjective, and on that basis alone, my view is at least as valid as yours.

    Therefore, I declare as fact that consensual sex outside of Marriage is immoral. You have no objective basis to “reason” otherwise, having rejected the fact that there truly is an author of morality.
    We have shared this old argument before, and you remain consistent in your embrace of “Heretical Ideas”,apparently with Adam’s original motivation.[lol]

  21. Alex Knapp says:

    Floyd,

    Your statement assumes that rationalized behavior is the equivalent of morality… No so.
    You also confuse reason with rationalization.

    Not quite–it’s more that you’re confusing “objective” with “a bunch of nomads said so 5,000 years ago.

    Having had the same sources available, and for considerably more time, I reject your view and opinions of the history of western civilization out of hand.

    So you’re saying that throughout the history of western civilization, religous leaders always believed that slavery, genocide, oppression of women and murder of homosexuals was wrong? If so, perhaps I need new history books. And new copies of the Old Testament.

    With no objective standards, Your judgment on morality is still purely subjective, and on that basis alone, my view is at least as valid as yours.

    That doesn’t make any sense. I do believe that morality is objective, and that what is moral is ascertained through the use of reason, not reliance on an unsubstanitated revelation. That is not the same thing as relativism.

    You have no objective basis to “reason” otherwise, having rejected the fact that there truly is an author of morality.

    If morality is “authored” than it is, by definition, arbitary and non-objective.

  22. floyd says:

    “”So you’re saying that throughout the history of western civilization, religous leaders always believed that slavery, genocide, oppression of women and murder of homosexuals was wrong? If so, perhaps I need new history books. And new copies of the Old Testament.””
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    No, I’m not, and no you do not, what you do need, however, is a grasp of the subject at hand and the nature of it’s origins.
    ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    ,
    ,
    ,
    ,
    ,

    That is not the same thing as relativism.””
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

    It is, however, the same as rationalization.
    ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    ,
    ,
    ,
    ,
    ,

    “”If morality is “authored” than it is, by definition, arbitary and non-objective””
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

    This regrettably shows a total lack of understanding of my last sentence.

    BTW; I always find it a pleasure to read what you write on subjects on which you have some understanding.Even though your reasoning doesn’t always lead to the same “objective” conclusions as the “reasoning” of other writers on the same subject.[lol]

  23. sam says:

    Let him who has never had a chubby in the workplace cast the first stone.

  24. sam says:

    Oh, and the source for that last is:

    Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery;’ but I tell you that everyone who gazes at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.