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In Media, Politics on October 2, 2009 at 7:36 am

David Letterman Revealing Extortion Attempt on 10/1/09 - CBS

David Letterman has balls of steel.

He disclosed an unflattering $2 million extortion attempt against him and he didn’t have to. CBS says the instigator was a 48 Hours employee and TMZ figured out the guy’s name.

Early yesterday Letterman testified before a grand jury. If you were not aware, grand jury proceedings are secret: no jurors are allowed to disclose what is said in them. Only the witness is allowed to speak about his/her testimony out of court, if they choose to. Letterman did not have to go on network television and talk all about this: the full details would not necessarily have come out, as I understand it.

Rather, Dave had the dignity to come before everyone and tell it straight. He said something that above all stood out to me and distinguished himself. “The creepy stuff was that I have had sex with women who work for me on this show,” he admitted. He didn’t avoid the bad, unbecoming part or euphemize by saying “I was intimate with women” instead. He was blunt, uneasy, and contrite.

Media personalities have constituents, trustworthiness, and favorability ratings to maintain, just like politicians. So, like your Sanfords and Spitzers this is no small thing, but Dave will weather it.

He said he was “worried” and “menaced” by this and not just for himself. Nonetheless, it feels unlikely that we’ll ever learn “the who and when” about these indiscretions, and it’s none of our business.

So we’re clear, I don’t condone his behavior, which I think if we are being fair is extramarital or virtually the same since he’s reportedly been in the same relationship since 1986. That’s longer than a lot of marriages. I am merely saying it’s commendable that he was forward and had some poise in telling us.

What a raw, peculiar TV moment as the crowd in the Ed Sullivan Theater laughed and gradually came to understand what Letterman was telling them. In light of it, is all his making fun of politicians who philander hypocritical? I suppose. Will he lay off them for a bit? It’s hard to say.

Ironically, he just overtook Conan in the ratings war. It will be interesting to see how today’s anomaly plays out. Hugh Grant’s screw-up saved Leno. Will this one harm Dave? Conventional wisdom and cynicism says it will probably help him in an age where any PR is good PR.

Added bonus: his wife didn’t have to get dragged up to stand next to him.

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