David Letterman's Collateral Damage

While we wait for more facts, it is still curious how powerful men who fall from grace morph themselves into pathetic and sympathetic creatures.
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I'm usually the last person to hear about pop culture scandals and other news I can't use. When Dreamgirls star Jennifer Hudson and VH-1 reality contestant "Punk" had a baby last month, I was shocked. When I watched this year's MTV Video Music Awards, I wondered who the heck is this stringy-looking British guy hosting the show. But, there was no missing the story of today.

As soon as I opened my morning Huffington Post, the headline and video about David Letterman's admission to having sex with his staffers--and I wonder how many staffers--were billboard-sized images on my computer. As a new fan of CBS' The Good Wife, I could not help but find the rich irony of Letterman's confession. CBS now has two highly rated shows that center around sex scandals.

Apparently, Letterman chose to come clean about the affairs with multiple staffers because a producer from another CBS television show, 48 Hours, threatened to publicize his exploits if he was not paid $2 million. Somehow, this producer--who works on a show that covers stories with legal angles--didn't realize that his sleazy attempt to extort money from Letterman went way beyond employee misconduct but would be frowned upon as illegal by the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

As an employment attorney, I can tell you which department at CBS will probably be working this weekend--the legal department. I will bet that this morning the Viacom/CBS legal department is running around feverishly trying to create some semblance of damage control. Do they have a situation of quid pro quo sexual harassment on their hands where staffers felt that if they did for Mr. Letterman, Mr. Letterman would do for them? Even worse, was there a culture where any producer, executive or any person with some clout pressured staffers to feel that the only way to get ahead--or keep their jobs--was to sleep their way to the top? Or, were the affairs consensual? If CBS is smart, they will conduct a full-scale investigation where everyone will be asked about what happened. Oh, the folks at CBS have some explaining to do.

Yet, while we wait for more facts, it is still curious how powerful men who fall from grace morph themselves into pathetic and sympathetic creatures. Usually, it's a politician who says he's sorry during a televised press conference, where he is flanked by his wife and a U.S. flag. In Letterman's case, he used his television show as his platform.

During these moments of apologies and admissions, these men somehow attempt to get the public to forget the arrogance that brought them to point that they had to apologize. It is arrogant to cheat on your wife and think that you are above getting caught. It is arrogance that drives a man to flirt with and eventually have sex with his employee. And yes, it is arrogance that makes a man ignore the embarrassment that his children will endure due to his sexual indiscretions. The real victims in this sordid story are Letterman's wife, son, and maybe even the staffers. They are the collateral damage.

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