By Verne Gay Daniel Edward Rosen Newsday (MCT)
NEW YORK − The wildest soap opera on TV − that one starring David Letterman − took another dramatic turn Monday night when the embattled host apologized to his staff and wife Regina before what was almost certainly the largest audience in “Late Show” history.
“I’m terribly sorry that I put the staff in that position,” Letterman said. “Inadvertently, I just wasn’t thinking ahead.”
A short while later, he said, “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.”
Of his longtime staff – and many members have been with Letterman from his days at NBC’s “Late Night,” he
said − they’ve “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.”
Monday night wasn’t all mea culpa. As has been his wont in 30 years on the air, Letterman’s best material has frequently been Letterman, and so there were jokes, and plenty of them.
Chilly outside, he asked the studio audience? Imagine how chilly it is at home. Badum. “Did your weekend just fly by?”
“The lines that really got the laughs were when he started to talk about (Former Gov. Eliot) Spitzer, and then
stopped,” said Wisconsin native Lilly Staff, who was in the audience, and who agreed with others interviewed
after the late afternoon taping that Letterman handled it well.
Meanwhile, Gerald Shargel − defense attorney for accused extortionist Robert “Joe”Halderman, who was released Friday on bail − spoke to all three morning shows Monday, offering a preview of what Letterman might expect if the case goes to trial.
“Look at the fact that there was a $2 million check,” he told CBS’ “The Early Show.” “In the history of extortion, I don’t think there’s been a single case where the alleged extortionist took a check in payment. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
He added, “When the case is tried and after the cross-examination of David Letterman and the full story comes out, I’m confident that a jury will not find that specific criminal intent.”
One legal expert, Garden City-based defense attorney Brian Griffin, said in a phone interview Monday that “what appears to be going on is he’s giving a hint of a very specific defense which is that ‘you’re going to have a hard time proving criminal intent,’” adding that “Shargel has fired one over Letterman’s bow.”