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Letterman Apologizes to Wife on "Late Show"

Hours after the attorney representing the CBS News staffer accused of trying to blackmail David Letterman tells the "Today" show the late-night comic is a master of manipulation, Letterman tapes Monday night's "Late Show" and delivers an on-camera apology to his staff and his wife.

"Did your weekend just fly by?" Letterman jokes at the top of the CBS late-night program, which is taped a few hours before it airs.

It is his first newly-taped show since last Thursday when he told his studio audience someone had allegedly demanded $2 million in exchange for a "screenplay" he'd written about Letterman's sex life with women on his staff.

The person he was talking about turned out to be a "48 Hours" producer named Robert Halderman who was arrested that same day; he has been charged with one count of attempted larceny in the first degree in the David Letterman extortion plot.

Hearing Monday's opening line, Letterman's studio audience in Manhattan's Ed Sullivan Theater erupts into wild applause.

"We love you, Dave!" some guy in the studio audience shouts.

"I'll be honest with you guys, right now I'd give anything to be hiking the Appalachian trial," Letterman tells the crowd.

The joke is a reference to the married South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who admitted in June that when his office said he'd taken a few days off to hike the Appalachian Trail, that was just another way of saying "gone to Argentina for seven days to hook up with my mistress."

It's a nicely played on Letterman's part, since a number of TV industry navel-lint pickers covering the Letterman story have been drawing close parallels between Letterman's revelation and various politicians who have been caught canoodling women outside the confines of marriage.

Which, of course, is silly, Letterman having never made a pact with the American public to uphold "Family Values." Politicians do that. Letterman's contract with the American people is to come on every weeknight and amuse them.

"I got into the car this morning and the navigation lady wasn't speaking to me," Letterman continues on Monday's show.

As on Thursday, Letterman careens wildly between self-effacing jocularity and total seriousness as he discusses the subject, leaving the audience struggling to figure out when to laugh and when not.

"I'm terribly sorry that I put the staff in that position. Inadvertently - I just wasn't thinking ahead," he says of media furor they've faced since Thursday night. Especially the chicks on the staff.

"No I am not having sex with these women -- those episodes are in the past," Letterman says, explaining that the women currently on his staff have been "browbeaten" and "humiliated" by the press since Thursday.

"The staff here has been wonderfully supportive to me, not just through this furor, but through all the years that we've been on television and especially all the years here at CBS. So, again, my thanks to the staff for, once again, putting up with something stupid I've gotten myself involved in.

"Now the other thing is my wife, Regina [Lasko]," Letterman continues.

"She has been horribly hurt by my behavior. And when something happens like that, if you hurt a person and it's your responsibility, you try to fix it. And at that point, there's only two things that can happen: either you're going to make some progress and get it fixed, or you're going to fall short and perhaps not get it fixed. So let me tell you folks, I got my work cut out for me."

The studio grows so quiet you can hear a cockroach clear its throat.The audience begins to applaud, timidly.

Letterman continues to joke about the situation throughout the program with his Monday guests Steve Martin and Martin Short.

"I had a great weekend!" Steve Martin joshes.

You know, seriously, it's not funny," he continues. "It's a little bit funny but I do think the one thing that will come out of this mess is it proves you're a human being."

Monday morning, attorney Gerald Shargel, who is representing Halderman, told "Today's" Ann Curry "The public should not simply take the word of David Letterman at face value."

"David Letterman gave what he wanted the public to know. He wanted to get out ahead of the story and that's exactly what he did," Shargel continued.

"He's a master at manipulating audiences. That's what he does for a living. So to think that David Letterman gave the entire story and that there's nothing more to be said, is simply wrong."

By Lisa de Moraes  |  October 5, 2009; 7:24 PM ET
Categories:  TV News  
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Letterman will weather this just fine. Anyone remember Bob Barker and his behind the scenes sex stories. He did just fine.
But the lazy jokes and preachy politics, that's what'll ruin him, when someone with talent and a talented writing staff is on another channel at the same time.

Posted by: kls1 | October 5, 2009 8:32 PM | Report abuse

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