Disclosing trysts, Letterman deftly contained damage, PR pros assert

‘Late Show’ host blends candor and humor in on-air explanation to his audience. Video

‘Late Show’ host blends candor and humor in on-air explanation to his audience

David Letterman has been cracking jokes on late-night TV for more than 25 years.

He got serious on Thursday night’s telecast and divulged that he had had sexual encounters with female staffers—and that he was the target of a multimillion-dollar extortion plot.

A key question for many is whether he successfully deflected damage to his career.

“He handled it in textbook manner,” says Fraser Seitel, who “wrote the textbook.” A prominent PR author and teacher, Seitel is managing partner of Emerald Partners public relations.

“You have to get the bad news out quickly, in your own context, your own agenda, on your own terms.”

Seitel explains how Letterman, who clearly came prepared, navigated potentially devastating personal and professional straits. “It was as awkward a TV moment as there ever has been, but it was also riveting,” Seitel says. “The audience actually thought it was a joke, at first. Letterman turned it into a PR exercise.”

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.