David Letterman dropped a bombshell on his audience last night by explaining that he has been the victim of an extortion plot and that he has been having affairs with staffers on his show.
The talk show host said he had been approached by a person who was going to write a screenplay which would reveal Letterman’s sexual affairs.
He went to the Manhattan district attorney’s office and in the course of the investigation, presumably a sting operation, was asked to write what he called a fake check for $2 million and a suspect was arrested on Thursday.
Letterman said that he had testified before a grand jury and had admitted to the relationships:
“My response to that is, yes I have. Would it be embarrassing if it were made public? Perhaps it would. I feel like I need to protect these people. I need to certainly protect my family.”
The name of the suspected extortionist has not yet been revealed but CBS have said the suspect was an employee of the CBS news program “48 Hours” and was arrested on charges of attempted grand larceny. He has since been suspended.
What’s interesting is how Letterman broke the news. By coming clean on his own show, rather than having the New York Post or National Enquirer break the story, he gets to essentially control the media message in a self-deprecating way.
As the victim of an alleged blackmail plot, commentators will possibly be less critical of him but it will be interesting to see how the story develops.
Aside from the fact that CBS could now stand for ‘Crime, Blackmail and Sex’, I’m sure Letterman is bracing himself for the inevitable kiss-and-tell stories that tabloid outlets will be busily preparing as we speak.
UPDATE 02/10/2009 1641 GMT: The New York Post is reporting that CBS producer Joe Halderman allegedly tried to extort the $2 million from Letterman. They also say that Halderman recently broke up with “Late Night” staffer Stephanie Birkett who admitted to him that she had previously had a fling with Letterman. Got that? Crikey.