By Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 2, 2009
David Letterman surprised his studio audience Thursday during the taping of his CBS show when he announced that he'd had sex with female "Late Show" staffers and that someone had tried to extort $2 million from him to keep quiet about the relationships.
CBS issued a statement late Thursday night acknowledging that the man who attempted to extort the money was an employee of the CBS newsmagazine "48 Hours" who was subsequently arrested Thursday on charges of attempted grand larceny in the first degree.
Letterman told the somewhat baffled audience at Manhattan's Ed Sullivan Theater that about three weeks ago he got into his car at 6 a.m. and discovered a package that contained a letter from a man who threatened to write a screenplay about "every terrible thing you've ever done in your life."
The person, whom Letterman did not name, had threatened to go public with the details if the late-night host did not pay the person, the entertainer said.
Instead, Letterman said that he took the matter to the Manhattan District Attorney's office and that he was told by authorities to issue the person a phony check. That ruse reportedly led to the arrest of the person Thursday. No details about the suspect were immediately available.
"This morning, I did something I've never done in my life," Letterman told audience members. "I had to go downtown and testify before a grand jury."
In his testimony, he acknowledged having sex with members of his staff. "My response to that is: Yes, I have," Letterman said on camera. "Would it be embarrassing if it were made public? Perhaps it would."
He added, however: "I feel like I need to protect these people. I need to certainly protect my family."
Letterman and longtime girlfriend Regina Lasko married in March. Their son, Harry, was born in November 2003.
Letterman has been the victim of an extortion attempt before. According to authorities, there was a plot in 2005 to kidnap Letterman's son for a $5 million ransom. House painter Kelly Frank was later charged with the crime.
A spokesman for Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants, e-mailed a news release about the latest extortion attempt and Letterman's on-air comments to the media late Thursday.