It’s now official. The Perve Purge of 2017 is moving into high gear, as Charlie Rose and his “crusty paw,” Kevin Spacey, Pixar’s John Lasseter, Harvey Weinstein, Russel Simmons, Judge Roy Moore, George Bush, Mark Halperin, Louis CK, James Toback, Brett Ratner, John Conyers, and Al Franken are all accused of sexual misconduct in their various silos – joining the notorious card-carrying lifetime club of sexual harassers along with Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, and Bill O’Reilly. It is against this nuclear backdrop that David Letterman, notable for his own history of questionable behavior with women on his show, receives a Mark Twain Award and announces a new TV show to be shot in NYC and aired on Netflix. This smacks of arrogance, carelessness, or perhaps both.
Letterman retired from The Late Show with David Letterman back in May 2015, but his new Netflix show will entail six, hour-long episodes starring Letterman, who will interview a single guest in each episode. This format evokes the interviews of Charlie Rose or even Howard Stern; the styles of both appeal to Letterman. The show will air exclusively on Netflix, and will launch in May 2018. The new show will allow Letterman really to get to the heart of a celebrity, something he could never do on The Late Show on CBS. Not long ago, in 2009, Letterman announced on his show that he had a piece of creepy information to share with his viewers. Letterman read off the teleprompter, “The creepy stuff was that I have had sex with women who work for me on this show. Would it be embarrassing if it were made public? Yes, it would, especially for the women.”
The bemused studio audience reacts with laughs because they had just been ambushed with this shocking story and just did not know how to react appropriately. In retrospect, it is now clear that Letterman’s statement was crafted by Letterman’s Worldwide Pants Incorporated lawyers, and if the current perve landscape can be believed, there could be a great deal more to this story now, than met the eye then. Joe Halderman, a producer at CBS, was ultimately charged with the blackmail of David Letterman, which led to Letterman being forced to publicize the story of his sexual antics at work. Halderman served four months at Rikers Island. Halderman’s ex-girlfriend, Stephanie Birkitt, who commonly appeared on the show as Letterman’s assistant, has been identified as one of many sexual conquests that Letterman had at his show with his staff.
Coercion is a tactic often used by employers to intimidate, trick or force employees to have sex with them and the full story with Letterman still remains to be seen – but it does not look good for him. Stephanie Birkitt is now a lawyer in California and she has the full inside knowledge of all the shenanigans that went down at The Late Show – but she is not talking. For her to break her gag order could mean that the California Bar association could disbar her from practicing law in that state. No lawyer can ever break an NDA without severe repercussions as they are often held to a higher standard than regular people. Sadly, It is the people who don’t speak up during the perve-purge of 2017 who are the real enemy to women. Women in powerful positions who stay quiet, can be women’s worst enemy, but Birkitt is clearly somewhere between a rock and a hard place.
In the aftermath of the recent Hollywood Perve Purge, it appears that the Letterman revelation came just a little too early; otherwise his name could have easily been added to the latest list of sexual miscreants whose revelations are now coming to light. CBS did an excellent job back in 2009 of containing the brand damage with pay-offs, non-disclosure agreements, and threats of libel suits, but such legal duct-tape solutions have recently failed for the other pervs who are now being outed. Letterman’s victims may have not yet joined the #metoo campaign, but time will tell whether their stories will finally come to light. It is somewhat ironic that David Letterman, who was recently lauded with a Mark Twain Award for American Humor, had to cut the Al Franken segment out of the awards show, as his recent sexual misconduct revelations may see him ousted from the Senate. Letterman now cannot put enough distance between himself, Franken, and Charlie Rose, with whom Letterman has previously had close personal relationships.
In his 33-year tenure as a late-night host, Mr. Letterman, who is now 70 years old, pushed the talk-show format well beyond the boundaries established by his predecessors like Johnny Carson, the host of The Tonight Show for thirty years. It remains to be seen if Carson was up to the same kind of shenanigans, or if anyone affected has just left the dead host to rest in peace. There are key differences in libel law between the US and the UK. The UK standard is so high that no reporter can go to press with a story that is not completely watertight; they must wait until the evidence is so overwhelmingly strong, or until that the person is deceased, to get it out. The 2011 Jimmy Savile serial pedophile case is a good example, where hundreds of children across the UK were abused over a 25-year period by Savile, but the media was unable to report about it until the day of his death. In the US, things are quite different, and the standard of proof is significantly lower, leading to the current US President’s frequent claim that news from CNN is fake news, on stories that often lack any real material evidence and are mostly conjecture. But it is our system and it works for us.
Netflix is not talking about what controls they intend to put around Letterman and his new production to protect women.
Al Franken, NBC and SNL Face Criticism
Things at NBC and SNL are not much better. The SNL alum, Al Franken, is faring pretty poorly. The sexual harassment claims against Franken may now be coming out thick and fast, but NBC and SNL have a bigger problem, in that Franken has already admitted to his wrongdoings against women, but there may be some quick lawsuits to follow that could upset the NBC apple cart. It is unclear what NBC and SNL knew at the time when Franken was working at the show. It does not help that 25 former SNL staffers of Franken have penned a letter indicating that Franken never touched them, but the letter seems to miss the point that others may have been touched, and it does nothing more than to try silence any women from the show who have yet to speak out. On last week’s show, SNL continued its weekly attack on Republicans, last week being the embattled Judge Roy Moore’s turn, including attempts to tie Trump to Moore. What is bizarre is that it was only a few weeks ago that Trump was advocating for primary voters in Alabama to go for Luther Strange in the primary election over Moore, but the media forgot about that in the last news cycle. According to CNN, Judge Roy Moore and Trump are now the greatest of pals, which is the only way that this narrative will work. For the entire last season of SNL, the first skit has been anti-Trump, and it is anticipated to be the same for the remainder of this season, further establishing SNL as a founding partner of the Get-Trump-Media, a very awkward spot for a show that is supposed to reach out to the masses with humor, not attack-humor. Further revelations from Franken make it very difficult for Lorne Michaels to attack others on the other side of the House, while giving Franken an easy berth, with a little prod in Weekend Update, to keep Fox News happy.
The Perve Purge of 2017 is not yet over, and it remains to be seen where the axe will fall next. My, how the mighty have fallen, but it should be a better place for women on the other side. If only women in power would start supporting women who have been harassed, we could get there a great deal faster.
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