America's most famous chat show host David Letterman has admitted on air to a string of affairs with his staff after a blackmail plot by a television producer Robert Halderman, who has been arrested by police.
CBS talk show host David Letterman told millions of viewers that he had been the target of a $ 2 million extortion bid over his affairs with workers on the CBS show he ws running since 1993.
Shortly after his candid confession, one of CBS's own producers Robert Halderman was arrested on suspicion of masterminding the scam. Halderman had been nominated for Emmy awards and he worked for real life crime documentary series 48 Hours. Halderman had a live-in relationship with one of Letterman's lovers, Stephanie Birkitt, 34, who worked on Late Show With David Letterman.
Stephanie was mortified' that Halderman has used her fling with Letterman to blackmail her boss.
Birkitt, who started as an intern in the show in 1996, is well-known to show regulars. She has made onscreen appearances during skits and audience Q&As alongside Letterman, and still works on the show.
Halderman, who often went by his middle name Joe, is said to be in need of money and decided to target Letterman, The Mail, London reported.
But Letterman went to the police, and in a sting operation he handed over a fake $2million cheque to Halderman.
Halderman, who has a home in Connecticut, was subsequently arrested and Letterman went before a court Thursday morning to testify.
The scandal become public lThursday night when Letterman told his audience that he had had a string of affairs with his staff.
Letterman is one of American television's highest-paid performers with an annual salary of more than $31million. He explained he had found a package in his car three weeks ago from a person claiming to have information about his sexual affairs.
'This morning, I did something I've never done in my life,' Letterman told viewers. 'I had to go downtown and testify before a grand jury. This whole thing has been quite scary. I had to tell them how I was disturbed by this. I was scared for my family. I felt menaced by this man', Letterman told his audience.
Three weeks ago, Letterman said he got in his car early in the morning and found a package with a letter saying 'I know that you do some terrible, terrible things and that I can prove you do some terrible things.' Letterman added: “Sure enough, contained in the package was stuff to prove that I do terrible things.”
Amid laughter, applause and exclamations from an increasingly stunned audience, Letterman continued: 'The creepy stuff was that I have had sex with women who work for me on this show. My response to that is, yes I have', Letterman said.
Unable to resist a joke, he said: 'I know what you're saying... I'll be darned, Dave had sex! Would it be embarrassing if it were made public' Perhaps it would, perhaps it would, and especially for the women. I was worried for myself, I was worried for my family, ' he said.
'I felt menaced by this, and I had to tell them all of the creepy things that I had done. What you don't want is a guy saying "I know you had sex with women I would like two million dollars or I'm going to make trouble for you,'" so that is where we stand right now.'
Letterman said he called his lawyer to set up a meeting with the man, who threatened to write a screenplay and a book about Letterman unless he was given money. He then went to the Manhattan District Attorney's office.
'They said, 'Whoa, hello, this is blackmail,' Letterman said.
There were two subsequent meetings with the man, the last one Letterman handed over a 'phoney cheque for $2 million.
Neither the extortion attempt, nor the fact that Letterman slept with women on his show, were news to Letterman's wife of seven months.
Regina Lasko, a former television production manager, had the job of telling Letterman's mother Dorothy Mengering about the embarrassing blackmail plot attempt.
'I'm looking forward to seeing the show to see what he has to say...I really just found out today,' Mengering told the New York Daily News. 'It's been a very bizarre experience. I feel like I need to protect these people. I need to certainly protect my family. I need to protect myself. I hope to protect my job,' he said.
Letterman's production company said that during his testimony to the grand jury he had admitted affairs with his staff. There was no indication when the affairs took place.
CBS confirmed in a statement that it was aware of an ongoing police investigation involving David Letterman and an employee at '48 Hours' one of the network's news magazine shows.
Producer Halderman, who was being held on suspicion of attempted blackmail, has directed dozens of '48 Hours' documentaries, on subjects such as the Winter Olympics to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11th.
The spokesman added that 'Letterman's comments on the broadcast [tonight] speak for themselves.'
It is the second time that Letterman has been the target of an extortion plot.
In 2005, Kelly Frank, a former painter on his Montana ranch planned to kidnap Letterman's nanny and son for a $5 million ransom. The star has also had to contend with a number of stalkers during his career.
In 1998, Margaret Ray, who has schizophrenia, spent two years in prison and a mental institution for breaking into his home and driving his Porsche. She then killed herself by kneeling in front of a train.