The media is quick to forget scandals about their favorites. They ignored Harvey Weinstein for decades, even after his accusers went to the police. And now they are downplaying former talk show host David Letterman’s sex scandal as he’s up for a big award.
The Washington Post and “America’s conscience,” late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, while lauding David Letterman as the 20th recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, have whitewashed Letterman’s past sex scandal. Back in 2009, Letterman admitted to having affairs with members of his staff. Both the New York Times and Vanity Fair reported in the same year that allegations of sexual harassment were also a part of the story.
It seems the Post has forgotten most of that, despite the sudden attention media are paying to sexual harassment. In a story that spent 2,700 words praising Letterman, Washington Post for the most part ignored the scandal, using only 25 words to address it. The context given? It wasn’t one of Letterman’s biggest regrets.
“It wasn’t the embarrassing affair with a staffer he revealed on the show in 2009 after a former CBS news producer threatened to blackmail him,” writes Geoff Edgers.
The Post wasn’t alone downplaying Letterman’s sex scandal and harassment allegations. Jimmy Kimmel talked with David Letterman about many things in a 17-minute interview October 17, including the horse Letterman gave Conan O’Brien and his proposed show that will be on Netflix. The scandal was not mentioned at all.
The Letterman scandal went public in 2009. A producer for CBS's 48 Hours reportedly blackmailed Letterman for $2 million, threatening to reveal the comedian’s affair with his personal assistant, Stephanie Birkitt. On the air, Letterman admitted to having multiple affairs with several of his staffers over the course of two decades.
Vanity Fair published an essay by Nell Scovell, who used to write for Letterman. She described the atmosphere at the studio as one influenced by Letterman’s “sexual favoritism.” This atmosphere, allegedly, forced her to quit the show.
The New York Times also reported that the producer threatening blackmail also “asserted that he would put forward evidence that Mr. Letterman had engaged in sexual harassment of his staff members.”
In 2015, Letterman admitted before his retirement that he was surprised CBS didn’t fire him. “
I think they would have had good reason to fire me,” he told the Times.