Apology #1 was issued after the host of the Late Show revealed that he had been having sexual relations with a female staff member and was being blackmailed.
"I'm terribly sorry that I put the staff in that position.
Inadvertently, I just wasn't thinking ahead. And, moreover, 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. 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."
On the next show he added another dimension to the apology:
"It did not occur to me last week when I was discussing having
had sex with women who worked on the show that then what would happen is
reporters and newspaper people and radio and TV would start pounding the
staff and saying, 'Well, what do you say? Are you and this and that?' It
was very, very unpleasant. And I would just like to set the record
straight: No, I'm not having sex with these women. Those episodes are in
the past. So my apologies to subjecting them to that vulnerability and
being browbeaten and humiliated. It never occurred to me...."
See how the Letterman apology was delivered in the video below.
Letterman Apology #1 Evaluation
The Letterman apology, issued through a series of on air statements at
the outset of his Late Night talk show, is generally regarded by most
observers as a very strong apology -- it was delivered not at a press
conference but on his own show and in the context of an ongoing
investigation and pending trial against someone who was trying to extort
money in return for not leaking the information about the affair.
However, the apology does lose a few marks for occasionally reverting back
to playing the role of the victim, which detracted from the point of the
"But through all of this, you have to say to yourself, 'What
really happened?' And what really happened was you can't be victimized
by criminals. So, you have to go ahead and push back if you're being
pushed by, by something illegal like this. And through all of the
heartache and the attention and the embarrassment, I still feel like I
did the right thing."
Despite his attempt to share blame for mistakes, the Letterman apology
was widely regarded as brave, open, explicit and honest.
It should also be noted that Robert "Joe" Halderman is largely responsible
for creating the circumstances that lead to the Letterman apology, as
Letterman himself admits:
"I was worried for myself. I was worried for my family. I felt
menaced by this, and I had to tell them all of the creepy things that I
had done....The creepy stuff was that I have had [relations] with women
who work for me on this show. My response to that is yes, I have. Would
it be embarrassing if it were made public? Yes, it would, especially for
the women. Its been a very bizarre experience. I felt like I needed to
protect these people. I need to protect my family. I need to protect
myself. Hope to protect my job."
In essence, this is not a case in which the mistake was openly
acknowledged followed by a proactive apology -- it emerged as a reaction to
a clear threat and as an effort to avoid further consequences, pain and
Letterman Apology #2
Reason for Apologizing:
During one of his Late Night monologues, David Letterman delivered a tasteless pregnancy joke about Sarah Palin's 14 year old daughter, Willow. It turned out he actually meant to refer to Palin's 18 year-old daughter Bristol.
His explanation and apology:
" And then I was watching the Jim Lehrer 'Newshour' this commentator, the columnist Mark Shields, was talking about how I had made this indefensible joke about the 14-year-old girl, and I thought, 'Oh, boy, now I'm beginning to understand what the problem is here. It's the perception rather than the intent.' It doesn't make any difference what my intent was, it's the perception. And, as they say about jokes, if you have to explain the joke, it's not a very good joke....Well, my responsibility - I take full blame for that. I told a bad joke. I told a joke that was beyond flawed, and my intent is completely meaningless compared to the perception. And since it was a joke I told, I feel that I need to do the right thing here and apologize for having told that joke. It's not your fault that it was misunderstood, it's my fault. That it was misunderstood."
Here's a short video of the Letterman apology in question:
Letterman Apology #2 Evaluation
This second Letterman apology tried to explain the joke, but, as the Late
Night host acknowledged, if you have to explain it...
In any case, he did appear to accept responsibility for the mistake and
offered another heartfelt apology. Sarah Palin had been the brunt of
Letterman's jokes for quite some time, so the apology must have been a
humbling experience for him.