David letterman halderman

Letterman Extortion Raises Questions for CBS

If this happened to anyone else, it would just be a punch line.

David Letterman, who built his career skewering philandering politicians and show business weasels and boneheads, finds himself in the middle of his own celebrity scandal, after he admitted having multiple affairs with employees of his production company, Worldwide Pants.

For the intensely private Mr. Letterman, the revelations, which resulted from a bizarre extortion attempt, are sure to be extremely embarrassing, especially as he tries to extend his lead in the late-night contest. I have had sex with women who work for me on this show, he told his audience on Thursday night, calling himself creepy. He added that he hoped to protect my job.

More seriously, they raised questions for both his company and CBS about whether his actions constituted sexual harassment or at least abuse of a power relationship over employees.

A central figure in the case ? one of the women who did have a sexual relationship with Mr. Letterman, according to representatives of the show ? is Mr. Lettermans longtime personal assistant, Stephanie Birkitt, who also often appeared on the air. The sexual relationships had ended before Mr. Letterman was married in March, a Worldwide Pants executive said.

For CBS, the episode is doubly embarrassing. The network has been put in a precarious position of trying to steer clear of fallout from some highly questionable activities engaged in by its biggest star, who is experiencing his biggest surge in popularity (and ratings) in years.

At the same time, the man accused in the case, Robert Joel Halderman, known as Joe, who until last month shared a residence in Connecticut with Ms. Birkitt, is a longtime and well-respected producer for the CBS News program 48 Hours Mystery.

Mr. Halderman, 51, pleaded not guilty to one count of attempted larceny, after he reportedly threatened to expose Mr. Letterman. According to prosecutors, Mr. Halderman gave Mr. Letterman, 62, a one-page screenplay treatment depicting the talk-show host as a great success whose world is about to collapse around him with revelations of his trysts. Mr. Halderman also handed over photographs, correspondence and a page of the personal diary of Ms. Birkitt.

Even by the frenzied standards of todays tabloid media, the scandal has moved remarkably quickly. On Thursday, Mr. Halderman deposited Mr. Lettermans check for $2 million (so he thought ? it was a fake), then went to work at CBS News on the far West Side of Manhattan, where he sat in a story meeting before being met by arresting officers outside.

Robert Joel Halderman was arraigned in New York Supreme Court on Friday.
Robert Joel Halderman was arraigned in New York Supreme Court on Friday.Credit...Pool photo by Steve Hirsch

CBS executives, including Leslie Moonves, the chairman of CBS Corporation, knew nothing about the attempted plot and were informed of the matter only several hours before the taping of his Thursday show. Inside CBSs headquarters, where employees can usually watch the Letterman show live on closed circuit, the extortion segment was not transmitted.

In private, CBS executives have told the Worldwide Pants executives that they continue to be supportive of Mr. Letterman. But they have included a note of caution in their supportive position, saying that would change only if information of a more damning nature were to emerge.

According to one person inside the company, CBS executives did quietly seek and receive assurances that none of the women Mr. Letterman was talking about were under age and that no woman who was involved with him had felt threatened about her job.

Many who commented on the case requested anonymity either because of the continuing legal action or because of the private nature of Mr. Lettermans admissions.

Mr. Halderman and Ms. Birkitt did not respond to telephone messages left at their residences.

According to the indictment, Mr. Halderman waited outside Mr. Lettermans Manhattan home before sunrise on Sept. 9, then gave Mr. Lettermans limousine driver a one-page draft of a proposed screenplay about the talk show hosts love life.

Mr. Letterman appeared resolved from the beginning of the episode to go to the authorities. He was very worried ? frightened, scared ? and there was a resolve from the beginning to do the right thing here, said a person with knowledge of the matter.

The indictment said that after initially demanding a response from Mr. Letterman by 8 a.m. that day, Mr. Halderman met the hosts personal lawyer, Jim Jackoway, at the Jumeirah Essex House hotel on Sept. 15, where a $2 million demand was conveyed. At another meeting at the same hotel a week later, Mr. Halderman cataloged Mr. Lettermans trysts and repeated his demands ? but this time Mr. Jackoway wore a wire and recorded the conversation.

The two men returned to Jumeirah Essex House one more time, on Wednesday, ostensibly to exchange the $2 million check. Arranged with police help, the check was intended to bounce, and Mr. Halderman was arrested the next day.

A screengrab of David Letterman revealing that he had been a victim of an extortion attempt.
A screengrab of David Letterman revealing that he had been a victim of an extortion attempt. Credit...CBS

The Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, said the fake check was a tactic to strengthen the evidence that blackmail had occurred. Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Halderman posted bail of $200,000 and left without talking to reporters. Two people with knowledge of the matter said Ms. Birkitt, 34, is not under scrutiny.

While colleagues at CBS News described Mr. Halderman as hard-working and well respected, his personal life has been plagued by problems. A bitter divorce in 2004 left him with a $6,800 monthly alimony payment, according to court filings.

According to documents filed in Stamford Superior Court in 2007, he made an annual salary of $214,000, but that salary, along with assets and debts, came up in a dispute over the amount of alimony he was paying to his ex-wife, Patty Montet, who lives with their two children.

Mr. Haldermans lawyer, Gerald L. Shargel, said his client denied wrongdoing.

He pled not guilty, and he stands by that plea, Mr. Shargel said after the arraignment in a telephone interview. My position is that, even upon a superficial glance, there is another side of this story and Im working on it.

He said that the prosecutors remarks in court about Mr. Haldermans debts showed that theyre obviously searching for a motive.

He added, If that were a motive, youd have to supply new jails.

Both Mr. Letterman and CBS tried to get control of the story Friday, with representatives of Mr. Lettermans company making a point ? which they said he should have raised during his confession of the plots details on Thursdays show ? that his affairs with his employees had all taken place before he married his longtime girlfriend, Regina Lasko.

CBS executives declined to comment on the record and released an official statement that the network was cooperating with the investigation. But representatives of Worldwide Pants noted that CBS does not employ Mr. Letterman, and CBS representatives affirmed that point.

That distinction seemed to be made to underscore that Mr. Letterman was not subject to any of the CBS policies regarding harassment on the job. Worldwide Pants does have a policy. A spokesman issued a statement that read: Dave is not in violation of our policy and no one has ever raised a complaint against him. The spokesman said the policy does not prohibit relationships within the company ? only that they cannot be tied to an employees performance.

Stephanie Birkitt, center, in a frame grab of a skit that aired on "The Late Show With David Letterman" on Sept. 24, 2002.
Stephanie Birkitt, center, in a frame grab of a skit that aired on "The Late Show With David Letterman" on Sept. 24, 2002.

Mr. Letterman himself seemed to acknowledge how messy his conduct had been. On Thursdays show he told his audience that the extortion letter stated, I know that you do some terrible, terrible things.

Mr. Letterman said to laughter from the audience, Sure enough, contained in the package was stuff to prove that I do terrible things. He also said his affairs with women in the office were creepy.

Debra S. Katz, a civil rights lawyer who specializes in sexual harassment cases, said it would be reckless for CBS not to conduct an internal investigation.

CBS is definitely going to have to speak with him and find out who he had relationships with, she said. Theyre going to have to reach back and see if these women think that the relationships were welcome.

Several longtime associates of Mr. Letterman said he has a long history of pursuing relationships with employees, dating to his first days on television on NBC in the early 1980s. At that time he was known to frequently date interns and other young women connected to his show, one associate said.

His first longtime relationship was with Merrill Markoe, who was his head writer on his NBC show, Late Night With David Letterman, and before they became a couple, Mr. Letterman and Ms. Lasko worked together on his show. Some veterans of the show said it was well-known inside the production that he had also had a close relationship at one time with another previous assistant.

Beyond any potential legal trouble, there is the open question about how fans will receive Mr. Letterman, who has long used his stance as a sarcastic comic commentator to ridicule the behavior of politicians and celebrities. Today, The L.A. Times accused Arnold Schwarzenegger of groping six women, he once said in a monologue. Im telling you, this guy is presidential material.

The audience seemed to respond Thursday night: The Late Show ratings increased about 20 percent over his average. Mr. Lettermans rivals began responding with jokes on Friday night, including references to his famous Top 10 lists. Jay Leno told his audience, This guy who was trying to blackmail Letterman was a producer from the show 48 Hours. It couldve been worse, at least it wasnt a producer from To Catch a Predator.

Robert Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, said that barring any sexual harassment complaints from Mr. Lettermans unknown number of former sexual partners, The Late Show could skate by.

His core viewers are not the kind that are going to say, He did what? Im never going to watch again. He was not the host of a Disney Channel talk show, he said.

david letterman halderman
Joe Halderman, Foiled Blackmailer Of David Letterman, Is On The Case With Paula Zahn - IMDb
The former CBS News producer who tried to blackmail David Letterman for $2 million has joined the staff of Investigation Discoverys On the Case with Paula Zahn, TVNewser reported today. Joe Halderman, who was a producer for 48 Hours Mystery, joined the crime documentary show On the Case as a producer a few weeks ago. Exec producer Scott Weinberger cited Haldermans professional accomplishments as an Emmy award-winning producer for 48 Hours and CBS News in a statement, adding that we are confident that Halderman will make significant contributions to the success of our award-winning investigative newsmagazine. Halderman is not expected to work in the field. Halderman pleaded guilty in 2010 to the attempted extortion which backfired with Letterman himself revealed the embarrassing details about his personal life on his CBS Late Show. Letterman admitted to sleeping with members of his staff including a woman Halderman had been dating. Halderman was released from

David Letterman

Comedian David Letterman is known for his his irreverent sense of humor and groundbreaking shows 'Late Night with David Letterman' and 'Late Show.'

Who Is David Letterman?

Born on April 12, 1947, in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Letterman's big break came when he began appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He was eventually offered his own program, Late Night with David Letterman, on which he featured such popular segments as Stupid Pet Tricks.When NBC gave Carson's spot to Jay Lenoin 1992, Letterman moved to CBS to host Late Showfor the next two-plus decades. Following a hiatus, the funnyman returned to hosting with My Next Guest Needs No Introduction in early 2018.

Early Life and Career

Television personality and talk show host David Letterman was born on April 12, 1947, in Indianapolis, Indiana, to Harry Joseph Letterman, a florist, and Dorothy, a church secretary who appeared regularly as a correspondent on his late-night talk show. He has two sisters, Janice and Gretchen.

Letterman is best known for his gap-toothed self-mockery, and his brash, wry, somewhat cynical sense of humor. His unconventional demeanor and sense of humor attracted a cult following, which has gone on to inspire countless comedians and talk show hosts who have followed him.

Letterman studied radio and television at Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana (B.A.,1969). He worked in Indianapolis as a radio talk-show host, the host of a children's program and a late-night movie show, a news anchor and as a television weatherman, where his brand of humor was already evident, if not necessarily appreciated. One night he reportedly upset his bosses when he congratulated a tropical storm on being upgraded to a hurricane.

TV Writer and 'Tonight Show' Guest Host

In 1975, Letterman moved to Los Angeles and wrote material for popular sitcoms, including Good Times. His big break came when he began appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, whom he has since referred to as his mentor. In 1978, he became Carson's regular guest host, and in 1980, he was offered his own daytimeshow, theDavid Letterman Show. The show only lasted for three months, but was a critical success, and convinced NBC-TV to give the young comedian a late-night show following Carson's The Tonight Show.

'Late Night with David Letterman'

The late-late show hour was well-suited to Letterman's brash and quirky humor. Late Night with David Letterman soon became popular with a young audience by mixing the usual talk-show ingredients of celebrity guests and music with his irreverent manner and zany comic stunts.

Letterman's signature features included The Top Ten List, Stupid Pet Tricks (along with its companion, Stupid Human Tricks), Viewer Mail and pencils tossed at the camera and at the set behind him, "breaking" the non-existent glass with a cued crash sound. He also became known for his parody sketches that targeted the obviously weak acting abilities of his bandleader, Paul Shaffer (and other members of The World's Most Dangerous Band), stagehand Biff Henderson and general oddball Larry "Bud" Melman.

Hosting Controversy and 'Late Show' on CBS

After NBC chose Jay Leno as the replacement for the retiring Johnny Carson in 1992 a position Letterman had publicly desired Letterman moved to CBS. He signed a lucrative deal to host Late Show with David Letterman, which aired opposite The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He also founded his own production company, Worldwide Pants, that same year, which bought a stake in his new show.

His displeasure with NBC executives was fodder for his monologues, and when they blocked him from transferring regular features of his show to CBS (claiming it was NBC's "intellectual property") that, too, was mocked on air. The years that followed this head-to-head competition spawned a book and cable movie documenting the late-night talk show "wars."

Emergency Heart Surgery

On January 14, 2000, Letterman had underwent emergency quintuple heart bypass surgery. In typical Letterman fashion, the recovering patient joked that "in addition to rerouting the arteries, they also installed an E-Z pass." Letterman's first post-op show aired on February 21, 2000, featuring Regis Philbin, Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams (wearing medical scrubs) and eight members of the team who took care of Letterman during his stay in the hospital.

Successes and End of 'Late Show'

In December 2006, Letterman renewed his contract with CBS, agreeing to host Late Show with David Letterman through the fall of 2010. In 2007, he was ranked as No. 17 on the Forbes list of richest men in the entertainment industry, making an estimated $40 million that year. In 2009, Forbes also listed Letterman as No. 14 on its list of most powerful personalities in entertainment.

The magazine cited Letterman's Peabody Award-winning company, Worldwide Pants, as one of the secrets behind his wealth and power; in addition to Letterman's show, the company produced successful comedies such as Everybody Loves Raymond and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

In April 2014, David Letterman announced his plans to retire in 2015, and Stephen Colbert was named as his replacement.I just want to reiterate my thanks for the support from the network, all of the people who have worked here, all of the people in the theater, all of the people on the staff, everybody at home, thank you very much, Letterman announced on-air to his studio audience.

In October 2017, Letterman was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor which "recognizes people who have had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th century novelist and essayist best known as Mark Twain."

Netflix Show: 'My Next Guest Needs No Introduction'

Two years after his retirement, the longtime host announced his return to television in a new talk show series on Netflix, titled My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman. "I feel excited and lucky to be working on this project for Netflix," he said in a statement. "Here's what I have learned, if you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first. Thanks for watching, drive safely."

With musical contributions from his old bandleader, Shaffer, and sporting a massive gray beard, Letterman debuted My Next Guest Needs No Introduction on January 12, 2018, with former President Barack Obama as his first guest. Following its six-episode first season, season 2 arrived in May 2019.

Wife and Son

Letterman is known for successfully keeping his romantic and private life under tight wraps from the media. He was married to Michele Cook from 1969-'77, after which he was romantically linked to comedienne/writer Merrill Markoe. He then began a relationship with production manager Regina Lasko in the mid '80s.

Letterman and Lasko celebrated the birth of their son in 2003, and named him after the TV host's father, Harry Joseph Letterman. On March 19, 2009, the couplewed in a private courthouse ceremony in Choteau, Montana, and Letterman announced his nuptials during the taping of his March 23rd show.

Cheating Scandal and Extortion Attempt

Only months later, their relationship was rocked by a cheating scandal. On October 1, 2009, Letterman announced on his show that he was the victim of an extortion attempt related to his infidelity. That day, Robert "Joe" Halderman, a CBS News producer and boyfriend of Letterman's longtime assistant Stephanie Birkitt, was arrested for allegedly trying to extort $2 million from Letterman by threatening to expose his affair with Birkitt. In 2010, Halderman pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny and was sentenced to six months in jail, but was released after four months.

After news of the scandal broke, Letterman also apologized to his wife on-air: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."

The couple reconciled and now resides with their son on a 108-acre estatein North Salem, New York.

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