This past week, in a blatant show of protecting his butt, David Letterman made a mockery of his show, his marriage, his fans, and the women with whom he works.  Letterman’s performance was pure CYA.  As he alternately apologized and joked about his now-infamous indiscretions with his subordinates on the show, his audience reacted with confusion – some laughter, some silence, but a heavy dose of “okay, you’ve apologized, so forget about it.”   Is it any wonder that sexual harassment is still rampant in this country and so hard to combat?

Letterman’s actions should be considered sexual harassment, and, instead of feigning concern for his subordinate female employees, he should have been slithering off the set for good.  He acknowledged his actions were “creepy.”  Creepy?  creepy?  The man is a cave man throwback to the days when males in superior positions rode roughshod over their female employees.  Rather than face retribution or loss of jobs, women caved in and were subjected to various means of humiliation in the workplace.

Letterman managed to turn what in many cases are illegal actions into fodder for his evening joke lines.  And, the sad thing?  CBS is cautiously standing behind him and the audiences seem ready to put it all in the past.   On-the-street interviews with average citizens found most of them with the blase attitude of “he did it, he apologized, move on.”

Although the females involved have gallantly stepped up to the plate and stated there was no sexual harassment and everything was just hunky-dory consensual, what seems to be missed in this whole, sorry episode is the concept that when a superior propositions a lower-ranking employee, there is always a measure of coercion.

The coercion may be slight, but it nevertheless exists.  After all, how do  you say no to a boss who controls your destiny without  a fear of consequences?


Sexual harassment can be one of two kinds.  The first is what is called “quid pro quo” or a “this for that” situation.  The superior says if the woman will do something for him, he will do something nice and good for the woman.  The key is that in order to establish a case, the woman must show that she was actually harmed in some way if she does say no.  If she says no but cannot show some type of negative retribution, then the legal cause disappears.  This form of sexual harassment is based on pure power – the power of the superior to coerce the underling.

The second kind of sexual harassment is called “hostile work environment.”  This situation usually occurs when women compose a very small percentage of a work force, for example, women in a typically male-dominated environment.  The male counterparts make the environment sexually uncomfortable, often with sexual innuendo, off-color jokes, nude pinups, etc.  You get the idea.

Letterman’s actions should be pursued as sexual harassment, and he should not be able to walk away from this joking all the way to the bank.  Let’s face it, wrong as the blackmailer is, Letterman would not have come forward had the plot not existed.  And, while the public outcry over politicians who carry on affairs reaches a fever pitch, Letterman’s dalliances created a surge – 22% to be exact – in his show’s ratings.

The picture below says it all.  Letterman even joked about Martin Short’s sitting on Steve Martin’s lap by stating that sitting too long could lead to a blackmail scheme.

Wow, and we wonder what has happened in this country.

David Letterman

David Letterman


About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
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  1. joethedumber says:

    Letterman is not some political figure, what the hell are you talking about “he needs to exit stageleft”? Like a politician who broke trust? You’re an idiot. Letterman owns is production company, and CBS will continue to air him based on ratings and profits. That’s it – end of story.

    If you found out the owner of your favorite resturant cheated on his wife with an employee and NO employees had complained, you’re saying the owner should be driven out of business by who? The government? You wouldn’t care except for your POLITICAL BIAS. Get with reality, republican cheerleader.

  2. Dumb Joe:

    Obviously you did not read my caption at the top of my blog or any of my other political posts. I am far from a Republican cheerleader. I consider myself a progressive liberal – try and match that with being a Republican cheerleader. In fact, there may be several who post on a regular basis who will be surprised at my position.

    You also apparently lack understanding of sexual harassment or have any empathy for those who are the victims of such behavior. In my opinion, superiors are automatically in a position of power and authority that can lead to harassment actions. Superiors have an obligation to their employees not to engage in such activity – consensual or not. As I noted, how do you say no to a superior if you are worried about your job and/or career and the retribution that may occur if you stand up and say you aren’t going to take the harassment.

    You simply prove my point. You are ignorant of the dynamics of sexual harassment, and attitudes like yours are why it still exists across the board and why many do not come forward.

    Letterman is a public figure. While not an elected official, sexual harassment is illegal, it doesn’t matter who you are. CBS should be investigating Letterman and taking action – even if it is just to sanction him publicly.

    You have decided – conveniently, I might add – to ignore the topic of my post in your zeal to support Letterman’s actions and to call me names.

    Why don’t you use your misguided energies to learn about sexual harassment in the work place? Unless that is, you think it is acceptable.

    As to the owner of the restaurant – I stand by what I have written. Employers owe an obligation to their employees not to put them in compromising positions. The employee has a job to protect, so the lack of complaints doesn’t surprise me.

  3. Keith Cumtwa says:

    Welcome to the post-Clinton era.

    It is a sad commentary on America that Letterman was not forced to resign either to live his life in entertainment exile or be forced to work his way back up after earning the trust of the people. And there clearly is legal exposure to Dave and CBS. I don’t watch him anyway, but I guess whether he stays on is a decision for CBS and we all know money talks.

  4. Andy says:

    @Charlotee & Keith –

    I agree. I’m not walking in the man’s shoes, but I have to wonder how “sorry” Letterman is about all this.

    It bothered me his first public apology was not to the one person who mattered most – his wife. She seems to have taken a back seat to Dave’s fans, the women (plural) he has had affairs with, and his ratings.

    @Joethedumber –

    Although you may disagree with Charlotte, show a little respect. Calling people names like “idiot” only makes you look juvenile.

  5. Pete C says:

    This post does make the definition of sexual harrassment clearer. With politicians, they automatically push buttons like “power” and “public trust.” It’s easy to imagine a guy with all that “ultimate aphrodisiac” having a rough time resisting temptation, and understandably trying to spin his way out of a jam. Or, on the other hand, for his violation of trust — get the tar and feathers!

    But with this TV star, it’s much clearer that he’s the boss, and the people who work for the show are there to make a living. He could have messed around with any number of eager fans. This is beside the point, but I appreciated it when he stopped jamming himself into those lookie-here chinos.

  6. Jim Wetzel says:

    Charlotte, I agree completely. Boss-to-subordinate sex is like teacher-student sex: it is presumptively non-consensual. In a decent world, the solution would be that decent people would no longer have any interest in being “entertained” by Mr. Letterman, and the situation would resolve itself in that way. In our world … well, not so much.

  7. kent says:

    This is craziness. Why this stereotype feminist screed? Tell me exactly how this was sexual harassment? As a fellow progressive liberal why this crap? As for Jim..by what crazy logic do you make the leap from student/underage teacher sexual relations to Letterman….give me a break. Get over the stupid Palin..stupid stuff.

  8. Kent:

    Being a liberal doesn’t mean one has to put on blinders to overlook improper and possibly illegal behavior.

    My take on Mr. Letterman has nothing to do with “feminist screed.” Obviously, you have never been the victim of sexual harassment.

    And, try re-reading Jim’s comment. He never said underage students. He said teacher-student sex – not teacher-underage student. I know when I was in law school some of my professors partied with some of my classmates. This leads to a feeling that those “in good” would get better grades.

    These relationships are unacceptable – call me what you wish, but anytime you have one person (boss, teacher, etc.) with power and authority over another (employee, student, etc.), you have a situation that is based on an unequal leverage of power. This makes it – in my opinion – inherently non-consensual.

    Of course, the old saw is to say well he or she could have refused. Sure, if you want to lose a job, fail to be promoted, or get a failing grade.

    • Jim Wetzel says:

      “He never said underage students. He said teacher-student sex – not teacher-underage student. “

      Thanks for the defense, Charlotte, but I’m afraid you’re misquoting our logical friend Kent. He said:

      ” … student/underage teacher sexual relations …”

      I, too, think it’s deplorable when underage students take sexual advantage of their instructors, but … uh-oh, my head’s starting to spin. Too much logic around here.

  9. Iceironman says:

    Letterman is a scumbag, it is funny how when he joked about Arod raping Palins daughter, his audience reacted the same, laughter. I wish I could remember when we threw trash out to the street instead of holding it in high places.

  10. Jim Wetzel says:

    “As for Jim..by what crazy logic do you make the leap from student/underage teacher sexual relations to Letterman….give me a break. Get over the stupid Palin..stupid stuff.”

    Well, Kent, I thought I made my crazy logic clear. But since I didn’t: Boss-to-subordinate sex is like teacher-student sex, in that it is presumptively non-consensual. If you need help with the words, let me know which ones and maybe I can help.

    Since I didn’t mention anyone named “Palin,” your closing instruction leaves me mystified. I guess you’re just way too logical for the likes of me.

  11. John Glasper says:

    Letterman’s wife was his employee. Does that make her his presumptively non-consensual wife?

    • Jim Wetzel says:

      Does “was” = “is?” Presumptively, that is?

      • John Glasper says:

        She “was” an employee at the time the relationship began. Since money isn’t a consideration in their household she no longer “is” an employee.

        The point being that some folks find the love of their life at the workplace and some of those people have/had an employer/employee or supervisor/employee relationship.

        I don’t agree with what Letterman did as far as, apparently, repeatedly having affairs with women when he was in a committed relationship. But I’m not ready to make the leap that all employer/employee or supervisor/employee romantic relationships are inherently bad.

      • Jim Wetzel says:

        Don’t recall ever having such a hard time using the language. Presumptive (the second definition is the relevant one here)doesn’t mean there’s ironclad proof that things are rotten; it just means that, to a reasonable person, things smell rancid.

        General rule of thumb: you can either boink someone, or you can responsibly exercise supervisory authority over their work activities.

        Yes, I’m sure there have been exceptions … just as I’m sure that, somewhere and at some time, a corporate purchasing agent’s decision to award that subcontract to his brother-in-law really was on the up-and-up. Just not usually, that’s all. Is the idea of a conflict of interest really all that hard to understand?

      • John Glasper says:


        I understand what the word means. My comment is sarcastically asking whether or not Letterman’s wife married him against her will. If you can’t see the sarcasm I don’t know what to tell you but I’m sure you’ll find a way to try to tear down what I said in a feeble attempt to boost your artificially inflated ego.

  12. The comment section of this blog illuminates the different degrees of understanding about the affects of sexual harassment. Or on any modern point debated. If you ever taught school, you learned how much kids hated to look up words in the dictionary. That dislike carries over to discussion of the health care, taxation, abortion, politics, religion, as to how informed that student is. What is missing in many of the comments, people worried about who is liberal or conservative, is an understanding of the affect of sexual harassment on the rest of the company…..the employees who did not get the promotion. The comic who did not get sent overseas to cover the Olympics, or the exposure on television to further a career. According to media report, one employee had her tuition for law school paid for, which was a reward of some kind. The creepy things was the lack of a real relationship, pursuing recreational sex, exploiting fame….perhaps doing a lot of things like a lot of guys. A toxic environment was created for the employees at The Late Show. Would CBS look the other way, strictly for ratings? Could stars do what the accounting department manage could not? Letterman always had gotten his way in his life. He owned Worldwide Pants. He could do anything. Even pay ution.
    He was great. A lot of guys thought he was above the law. Because no one complained. Sexual harassment has nothing to do with filed complaints. The Latin term is RES IPSA LOCQUITER. Liability has been admitted. There is one lawyer who passed the bar in New Hampshire who should have made that discovery. In life, in the words of an old Cat Stevens song, it is kind of hard to get by with just a smile.

  13. For younger people trying to grasp the concept of “quid pro quo” in the sexual harassment discussion, I like the English interpretation “tit for tat.” It seems easier to remember.

  14. Mattie:

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I agree, not too many people actually want to take the time to look up definitions anymore. That is truly a sad sign of our times. However, I used “quid pro quo”, and while I agree that the younger set will understand the “tit for tat” phrase more easily, why not make them look up my phrase? 🙂

    I notice you also used a phrase that the younger generation will probably not understand – “Res Ipsa Loquitur” – meaning “the thing speaks for itself.” However it is a doctrine used in the area of negligence, and I think Letterman’s actions were intentional not careless.

    I really hate to gear what I write – whether I am teaching my legal students or writing on my blog – to someone else’s inability to use his or her mind.

    You also make a good point about how sexual harassment affects the other employees. The conflict – to me, at least – that becomes apparent is that a promotion or a salary increase or other dispensation of a benefit was really not earned as it should have been earned. This leads to decreased morale among the other employees which ultimately leads to a toxic work environment.

    A point I did not mention is that, while we generally think of sexual harassment as a male taking advantage of a female, harassment can be female over male, male over male, and female over female. It is the power and/or authority that provides the unequal relationship.

    Letterman used his position to control women on his set. Like it or not, no matter who he is, he should have to answer for his actions. And, he should have to answer in more than one-liners and stand-up comedy routines making a joke of the seriousness of sexual harassment.

    • John Glasper says:

      I agree with you Charlotte. Letterman acted horribly. But what are you looking for here? A law that would prohibit the possibility of a supervisor/boss from dating anyone he/she oversees?

  15. John:

    What I am looking for is probably too idealistic. There are laws that make what Letterman did unacceptable; however, the employee must file a complaint. That probably isn’t going to happen.

    However, almost all major corporations or companies have non-fraternization policies which forbid a supervisor from becoming involved with an employee. My company has such a policy. I cannot imagine violating the policy.

    CBS needs to get some guts and at least reprimand him or sanction him. I would almost bet that CBS has a policy against bosses becoming involved with employees – a non-fraternization policy.

  16. Norma says:

    The laws don’t make it “unacceptable,” it is illegal to do what he did, and CBS is leaving itself open to huge lawsuits the minute one of these ladies decides there’s a pot of gold in her tryst with the boss. ‘Taint fair–they were consenting adults, but that’s the law, and it says it creates a hostile environment for all the lads and lassies who wanted special favors from the boss.

    I’m baffled by your reader who thinks this only applies to politicians.

  17. Norma:

    I still maintain that when a boss propositions an employee, it is not truly consensual. Obviously, some of my commentators have never experienced sexual harassment.

    Employers owe a duty to their employees to treat them with respect and to not enter into affairs. If an employer finds himself or herself on the verge of involvement, then one or the other should quit the job so there is no issue of consent or sexual harassment.

  18. Rory says:


    Hopefully, you’ve had some time to ascertain exactly what occurred here. Had you taken some small amount of time (and I do mean small…possibly under 4.5 seconds)to review any other blog title, you’d have discovered the world through the blogger’s eye.

    The list will is longer, but there is a definite, ordered bias:

    1) Advancement of women.
    2) Advancement of liberal causes.
    2b)Advancement of liberal women causes.

    What you witnessed and chose to respond to was the head-on collision of items 1 and 2. This is a very rare opportunity to publicly view the core belief structure of one special interest blog. In geologic terms, it’s a fault line. How appropriate!

  19. kent says:

    You need some perspective. Sorry you felt you were sexually harassed. I am not sure why one incident becomes such a focal point. You have spent a lot of time on this “problem” that means nutin or has no practical import. Maybe I missed it but what about the woman in the Allen County Jail who died…or the number of people have been completely screwed by the medicaid, food stamp, and aid to children thanks to David Long and Daniels.

    You have held onto this “issue” that only makes you sound like a good white upper middle class liberal. It isn’t like you could turn your attention to local problems and the people involved…hummm

  20. Kent:

    Holy cow! Is your perspective that of a male who has not been harassed? I didn’t just “feel” I was sexually harassed – I was sexually harassed as were some of the other women with whom I worked.

    Sorry you cannot seem to fathom the problem. I find it appalling that Letterman has been allowed to laugh his way through and out of a serious situation. I haven’t spent a lot of time on this problem – the post was written on October 6th which was over two weeks ago. It seems to me that those who respond also keep the topic going.

    As to the woman in the Allen County jail and the other topics you mention, I am allowed to write about what I choose. I happen to think that sexual harassment is a serious topic – whether it is committed by a politician or a talk-show host.

    How is it you think sexual harassment is a “white, upper middle class liberal” issue? That statement makes no sense at all.

    If you think local problems are issues that need discussed, I suggest you start a blog and discuss them.

  21. JoeTheDumber says:

    Checking the score, 1 month later.

    I was correct, you were wrong.

    Just because I was rude, doesn’t mean I wasn’t right.

    Now we’ll see you YOU can be mature and accept it or be immature and stubbornly hold your erroneous position.

Comments are closed.