David Letterman's Indefensible Conduct

Saturday, October 10, 2009

In his Oct. 6 On TV column, Tom Shales put forward a kind of defense of David Letterman's sexual escapades with female staffers. Mr. Shales said that it's not as if Mr. Letterman is a politician or a religious leader and, since the sex was assumed to be consensual, it is "hardly some sort of threat to the public welfare." The implication seemed to be that we should let Mr. Letterman off the hook.

But should we? Does it matter that Mr. Letterman betrayed his wife's trust? Does it matter that a boss-employee relationship is always something a little more than "consenting adults" because of the power dynamic? Does it matter that Mr. Letterman is quite eager to ridicule others who are on the hook for warm-blooded indiscretions? Does it matter that Mr. Letterman has always been, in Mr. Shales's words, an "overgrown adolescent," occasionally leering at his female guests in ways that made me squirm a little?

I didn't think Rush Limbaugh deserved a pass on his hypocrisy when we learned that he was abusing drugs at the same time he was ranting about addicts and moral decay, and I don't think we should give Mr. Letterman a pass now. In both cases, we should at least show enough respect and compassion to say, "Get some help. Do it privately, do it seriously and do it now."


Knoxville, Tenn.

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