It’s been four and a half years since David Letterman retired as host of The Late Show. He stepped out of the spotlight for a while (until 2018, that is, when he returned to interview famous people in My Next Guest Needs No Introduction), and has managed to keep a fairly low profile. But a new article is bringing Letterman back into the public eye.
First, some background. In 2009, long before the #MeToo era, former Late Night with David Letterman writer Nell Scovell wrote an article in Vanity Fair accusing her former boss of creating a hostile work environment for women. That same year, Letterman announced on his show that someone had been trying to extort money from him by threatening to tell his wife, Regina Lasko, that he had sex with several of his staffers. Not only did Letterman confirm that the accusations were true, he also issued a public, heartfelt apology to his wife and staff, saying, “I’m terribly sorry … [My wife] has been horribly hurt by my behaviour, and when something happens like that, if you hurt a person and it’s your responsibility, you try to fix it. At that point, there’s only two things that can happen: Either you’re going to make some progress and get it fixed, or you’re going to fall short and perhaps not get it fixed.” Well, it appears Dave’s a fixer.
In a new article by Scovell published by Vanity Fair this week, she reveals she met with Letterman, a decade after her initial piece was published, to discuss what she wrote. Letterman admitted that he only read it recently, but told her he found it “disturbing”; not just the accusations, the perspective that he hadn’t seen before. “I’m sorry I was that way and I was happy to have read the piece because it wasn’t angering,” Letterman told Scovell. “I felt horrible because who wants to be the guy that makes people unhappy to work where they’re working? I don’t want to be that guy. I’m not that guy now. I was that guy then.”
"Letterman and Me: The Saga Will End"
This is the remarkable true story of a rich white male celebrity who abused his power and then apologized for it.https://t.co/B4OLTkfv9o
— Nell Scovell (@NellSco) October 30, 2019
When asked by Scovell about the blackmail scandal, Leterman replied, “It’s not a happy memory, but it’s a memory that changed my life.”
“I didn’t want to lose my family and I worked and worked and worked until I learned the obvious lessons,” he said. “I mean, I shouldn’t have had to learn them because they were obvious. I knew what I was doing was not good.”
Scovell also writes about how Letterman conceded to having overlooked talented women for promotions. “It just feels horrible now to hear these stories of women who I thwarted knowingly or largely unknowingly, unwittingly. I regret it, you know?” he said.
You have to give Letterman credit for how he handled a situation that many men wouldn’t want to revisit, especially so publicly. But it should also be noted how Nell tackled the piece with class and balance. “Dave still carries around his guilt and I still carry around my anger,” she writes. “Despite this, we can have a productive and even pleasant talk.”
She added: “Dave’s willingness to speak to me on the record is part of him making amends. His acknowledgment of mistakes and regret go out to those who were wronged. They also go out to the enablers and defenders of his behavior. That’s equally important.”