So, what is one to make of the latest revelation from talk show host, David Letterman, he of late night fame? Is it just another story of a flawed human being making his living in the spotlight?
David Letterman is a Hoosier. He grew up in Indianapolis and attended college at Ball State University - hardly a top tier school, best known as a teacher's college. He went on to break into the television world as a weatherman at a local station in Indianapolis. His first national exposure was as a morning talk show host. I remember that first show and it was nothing much to remember.
Once in the late night lineup, his personality began to emerge and his popularity grew. He was funny as a smart aleck type of guy, not afraid to tease the rich and powerful. Different than Johnny Carson in that Letterman enjoyed the more crass and current personalities, Carson was said to be grooming Letterman as his replacement. When that went to Jay Leno, Letterman's edge turned bitter and condescending.
Letterman left the common sense Midwestern logic he grew up with and turned into a standard celebrity liberal mouthpiece. Any conservatives or Republicans who dared to appear with him have been met with snarling contempt with a thin veneer of nasty humor as the coating. He has particularly enjoyed jokes at the expense of conservative politicians caught in compromising moral or ethical situations. Nothing wrong with that, politicians are fair game. It would just be more even-handed if he applied the same standards to the Democrats.
One unfortunate recent "joke" of Letterman's included a teenage Palin daughter and teen pregnancy. It was just mean and tacky. Unfortunately, that is what has been expected from Letterman of late. His ratings have fallen for years and only recently have seen an upturn against his newest competition, Conan O'Brien.
So, to offset the uptick in ratings, there is a sex scandal of his own to deal with before his national audience. He announced on a recent show that he was the victim of extortion from another CBS employee, a producer. His lawyer had taken care of the problem and the producer was arrested and charged. What Letterman seemed fairly casual about was the fact that this woman involved in the situation was a female staffer. She is also a former live-in girlfriend of the producer's. She has gotten some sweet assignments for the Late Show, like going over to cover the Olympics for the show and frequently featured on air in zany comic bits. Was this attention because of her relationship with Letterman or because she is talented and deserved the break?
Letterman was one who made great hay over the Clinton bimbo eruptions. He relished in making fun of politicians caught in extramartial relationships. What makes him any different? And, does he not make victims of the female staffers with whom he has had relationships, including the mother of his very young son, whom he married not long ago after the child was born? Why did he do the standard liberal riff that he is the victim? Clinton always cried victim in his messes, too.
It is said that off screen Letterman is shy and quiet, rarely seen out in public. That's all well and good, but did it make it right to only socialize (to put it politely) with his staffers? His history shows long term relationships with Merrill Markoe, a staff writer, and then Regina Lasko, his current wife whom he married well after their son was born. Was his behavior any better than the Palin daughter, who was a teenager while he is a man past the age of 60?
It will be interesting going forward to see if his ratings are affected by this admission. Maybe his audience, mostly younger people, will not care about his personal behavior. Our society has coarsened over the years. Maybe no one is bothered by the fact that Letterman had a sexual relationship with a young female intern on his staff. Maybe it doesn't matter because he long ago fell into the culture of the liberal northeast. The cool people like him.
Any word yet from the gals at NOW?