October 22nd, 2009
02:22 PM ET

National Organization for Women vs. David Letterman

When something like the David Letterman story breaks, one of the interesting "meta" aspects is the range of tones people take as they react.  In revealing his affairs and the subsequent alleged extortion attempt, Letterman was typically wry and humorous, while TV talking heads, Letterman's supporters, and his opponents have ranged from sober (discussing sexual harassment in the workplace) to somewhat hysterical (Dave should be thrown off TV, castrated, etc.).

Now we have a look at an exchange that eschews the sex jokes in favor of more serious issues: a letter from Terry O'Neill, President of the National Organization for Women, to Rob Burnett, Letterman's longtime executive producer and President/CEO of his production company, Worldwide Pants, Inc. - as well as Burnett's reply to O'Neill.  First, O'Neill's letter, which also went to CBS President/CEO Les Mooves:

As President of the National Organization for Women, I am requesting a meeting with you to discuss respect for women in the workplace and your company's obligation to strive for gender parity in decision-making at all levels within your organization.

In 2009, workplaces remain plagued by men in power sexualizing women.  The behavior that David Letterman appears to have admitted publicly - engaging in a number of sexual relationships with subordinate staffers - sends a harmful message not only to his own employees but also to his millions of viewers, many of whom have seen similar antics first-hand in their own work lives.  When a powerful boss like Mr. Letterman has sex with his subordinates it infects the work culture with uncertainty, gossip, and in some cases, hostility.  The resulting toxic environment is unfair to everyone.  All employees, women and men alike, want and deserve to be judged by their skills, qualifications and professional performance alone.

Your company can act responsibly, as corporate employeers and as a force in the media and culture, to create an environment where women and men are equally respected.  But a real commitment to equality must start at the top.  I urge you to look at your boards and other decision-making structures, at every level of your organizations.  About 50% of the people with real power and authority should be women, and a high proportion should be people of color.  I am eager to discuss with you how you might make your corporate cultures more inclusive and less abusive, and respectfully request a meeting at your earliest convenience.

I appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Six days later, Burnett replied:

Thank you for your letter.

Since we started as a company in 1993, we have taken very seriously the issues you raise regarding respect for women in the workplace.  And, as an employee of David Letterman's since 1985, I have personally found the work environment on his shows to be fair, professional and entirely merit-based at all times.

For the past nine years, at the highest level of the Late Show leadership, three of our four executive producers have been women, all of whom have worked for Dave for more than 25 years (in August we promoted a man to become our fifth executive producer).  In addition, the heads of both our talent and production departments are women.  Among Late Show staff, 58% are women, and all the major divisions on the show except one are led by women supervisors, all of whom have been with the company since its inception.

I would also point out that the admissions you cite that Dave made publicly did not stem from a complaint from anyone on our staff, but rather from an alleged attempt to commit a crime, extortion, against Dave, who decided to take the matter to law enforcement.  Since that time, our human resources department has consulted every member of the Late Show staff, and not a single complaint has been raised or filed.  Moreover, over the 29 years David Letterman has been broadcasting, there has never been a sexual harassment claim made against him.

I hope this information demonstrating our record of gender equity and sensitivity is responsive to the concerns you raised in your letter.  Thank you again for writing.

Wow.  We found both letters to be impressive - what do you think?

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soundoff (95 Responses)
  1. FWT

    Keep banging them away Dave. Your a re great boss and women love you, it's evident.
    There is always an organization that needs a full time job and has too much free time, don't let this one bother you. Burnett, awsome job with the ""as a matter of fact" letter.
    I can't stand people attempting to ruin others just to have their name and the organization in the media. Get a life loosers.

    October 27, 2009 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
  2. Olga

    Women can be consensual sex partners in the workplace and have the right of choice. Often, women who are approached by the "powerful" choose consensual sex to avoid conflicts, being stuck with no option of promotion or feeling that if they said "no" that the unwritten rules by the powerful would be exercised......now or in the future. Given these "unspoken" options...women will choose.

    Please note that if those who are not "sleeping" with the boss....will exercise their right to isolate themselves from those who do. This creates an unproductive and often hostile environment for the "powerful" and the consentee.

    October 26, 2009 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jean

    NOW needs to get a grip on real reality, not reality as they see it. They should spend more time gathering the real facts, not facts as they see them, before confronting anyone. "50% should be"? Really? Hmmm, and here I thought 58% was higher than 50%. Silly me.

    October 26, 2009 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Babs in L.A.

    When NOW continued to endorse Joe 'women can take a short ride across town' Lieberman over Ed Lamont I cancelled my membership.

    What they're doing now with Letterman is trying to create a victim where there was none.


    I'm going straight to Cafepress and creating a tshirt that says NOT NOW.

    October 23, 2009 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. scrunchngo

    I agree with an earlier comment. Where was NOW when President Clinton had an affair with an INTERN? Ludicrious that they insult us – to think we don't remember their absense during that time. Integrity and transparency – missing.

    October 23, 2009 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Franky, Land of Lincoln

    What a surprise...for the last 25+ years, Dave got some form of sexual harrassment suit against him, 🙂 That's funny.

    But in all seriousness, I think the person and most underrated aspect of all this is his wife, who he got married a pretty while ago. And it was unusual for him to go on T.V and just talk about it and by the way, it was humurous but ackward as well. It was kind of like a movie or a low budget to say the least. I am proud of Dave for saying it like a man but on national T.V? He ain't in Showbiz Tonight or even E for that matter.

    I think the ladies(who I'm going to call the organizartion) has a good point but is a bit too much and are trying to take advantage of the situation. I don't think is a matter whether he had consensual sex or committed adultery, but the fact how is perceive. I mean, who doesn't wanna work with Dave? 🙂 I think is a good point but I'm sure Dave and his producers and people alike are ALL well respect professionals who do their job the right way. I ain't going to judge them.

    But I will say that for the most part, women have been raising that level. 50% is a big number to showcase and represent what seems reasonable and appropriately for the workplace but in all fairness, ladies have been making strives to succeed. Whether is in entertainment, politics, music, etc, some do really work hard and the results could not have been more favorable.

    Overall, I don't think is a matter whether Dave's show or even the CEO don't understand the difference between right or wrong but the fact he(Dave), got caught. Hey, whatever happens in the show, stays in the show, right? Or is that Vegas? 🙂 I'm sure all of their producers, writers, and the like are ALL professionals and good people who do their job accordingly for their viewers. But the last thing you want is Dave talked about marriage in the past and therefore, is living reality, not fantasy.

    Dave's a good person and a funny one, I'm sure he worked it out with his wife and producers to NEVER go through this ordeal again. Just be on the same page next time.

    October 23, 2009 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bill

    If he we in a any other business he would have been fired by now. Only in the entertainment industry can low lifes and misfits (his category) get away with stuff like this. How sad for his wife and kid. He is a poor excuse for a man.

    October 23, 2009 at 7:23 am | Report abuse |
  8. Debra R

    The same people who turned a blind eye to the Horn-dog-in-chief beacuse he protected abortion rights...ironic and sad that their double standard is showing

    October 23, 2009 at 7:07 am | Report abuse |
  9. Marie

    I have always thought Letterman was disgusting, and now this news about him sleeping with his employess makes me sick. He will get away with it just like he gets away with everything eles.

    October 23, 2009 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  10. shirley

    dont drag politics into the everyday life of a man and his wife
    let them sort out the junk
    and get back to where they left off
    just simplly logicial
    men do it every day and so does women
    because what else is left
    but a man to get it on with
    i still like dave any way and i'm sure his wife does too!!!!!!!!!!

    October 22, 2009 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Shine OKC

    What a hypocrisy...NOW advocates a women's right to choose and encourages us to be equals and yet are the first to call a woman a "victim" or cry foul if her choice didn't turn out the way NOW decided it should have – based on what criterion I'm not sure.
    There are strong, independent women who are real victims through no fault of their own. I highly doubt that any one of these women who had consensual sex with Mr. Letterman would label themselves as such, however. I would even wager that they did not consider themselves “disrespected” either. There is even a chance that one or more of these women INITIATED the consensual sex. What would NOW say to that?
    Until they can figure out what side of women’s rights they’re truly on, then I wish they would keep silent. My job is to teach my daughter to respect herself and make good choices accordingly. NOW tells her to do whatever she wants without thinking of the consequences until later, if she has to. But by then she can refer to herself as a victim, if the outcome isn’t what she’d hoped for. Where is the "equality" in that?

    October 22, 2009 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dorothy

    My question would be how many of the women who are heads of departments or executives slept with Dave, and you have to wonder if it helped their positions.

    October 22, 2009 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tori

    I am a woman and I must say that the NOW letter is just embarassing. This part could literraly make me scream:

    "About 50% of the people with real power and authority should be women, and a high proportion should be people of color. "

    All of these type of demands are seemingly with the purpose of trying to creat equality and fairness. BS! I don't believe that for a minute. Instead, a 100% of people in any position should be there because they have the right qualifications, education, experience etc. THAT would be fair.

    Everybody needs to get over this, we are in 2009, in America, we have a black president. Let's realize: if you have a dream now, it won't be your ethnicity or gender that'll hold you back from achiving it. You have to work hard and drop the discrimination card.

    October 22, 2009 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tom

    I agree with the double standard between Letterman and Clinton, and I'm a liberal! NOW is still in 1974.
    As for Burnett, however, if I wrote Burnett's letter I would have specified that any woman who felt sexually harassed/taken advantage of could come forward with NO FEAR of retribution.
    If I were a woman and was treated inappropriately by someone of Letterman's stature, I'd too way too intimidated to complain, so Burnett has to vow full protection for any woman in that situation. That said, so far it doesn't sound like any of the women involved are upset by it all, save for Dave's longsuffering wife.

    October 22, 2009 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mari

    NOW needs to do this for other organizations, take in point ESPN, Jimmy kimmel, and other media organizations. To select one of many is my problem, where was now when the White House was using an intern. It makes NOW seem like a publicity hound. If you are consistently defending women than no one think twice when you are there, but out of the blue it seems with the purpose of publicity. I think NOW is out of the loop for most women, I know it does not represent this Latina woman.

    October 22, 2009 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Monica M

    You would think these NOW people have something better to do. THEY NEED TO GET A LIFE..THEY MIGHT WANT TO KEEP AN EYE ON THEIR HUSBANDS.

    October 22, 2009 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  17. EN DeGeorge

    I believe in the value of equality for all human beings, not just men and women. I do not subscribe to the notion that somehow David Letterman's action were devaluing women. Instead of David Letterman devaluing women, NOW is implying that somehow when dealing with men, we women, lose our ability to think and make decisions for ourselves. The adult women involved had "consentual realtionships" made by adult women who could think for themselves. If a 12 year old, in many states, can be designated as an "adult" in judicial cases for for their actions then women who actual are adults should be made to take responsibility for their part in the relationship with David Letterman. NOW should think before they speak. "Foot in mouth disease" is an equal opportunity affliction.

    October 22, 2009 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  18. The Truth

    From the information that has come out all his relationships were consensual. Not a single woman has come forward indicating that Letterman used his position to force any woman to enter into a relationship with him. Nor were there any indications that they received any preferential treatment from him in the work place. With that being said the only victim here is Letterman's wife, both Letterman and all the women he had relationships with are at fault.

    Who is NOW to demand any private company to have about 50% of the power holders to be women? If a company was controlled by lets say 90% women would they be pushing for more men, I don't think so. The response was excellent, I would only include a statement rejecting their hiring recommendation and state they hire the best qualified applicant regardless of sex or race.

    October 22, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  19. ML

    Where was now when all those other public figures got caught with their shorts down. Give Dave a break
    I'm glad to see from others' comments that, generally speaking, people get that David Letterman is not a beast looking to jump on the women around him for his evil sexual needs.
    That he had a relationship(s) with a staff member(s) who reported to him is no big deal. She is an adult. Maybe she is the one who used Dave to get what she wanted.
    Who cares!
    The point is no illegal actions took place, no one was hurt with the exception of Dave's wife and that was because he was forced to disclosure something he hoped would never be made public.
    Dave is a brave man. He may have had a loving relationship outside his marriage, which I agree is wrong, but it is not illegal, evil, or difficult to understand.
    Things happen and when they happen between two consenting adults other people's views simply don't matter.
    I feel for Dave's wife deeply. And I feel for Dave. A lesser man, dare I say, would have done much less.

    October 22, 2009 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Phil

    Please read more carefully.
    O'Neill didn't say that over 50% should be women, he said over 50% are women. That is actually a big difference. One is a philosophy and the other is a fact.

    Now, if you assume that gender does play no part in hiring or in promotion (that is an assumption of a fact, not a philosophy) then in probability theory will tell you that in nearly half the companies there will be more men than women, in nearly half the companies there will be more women than men, and in a slim percentage of the companies you have a tie.

    October 22, 2009 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Joe

    To equate any sex within the workplace as sexual harassment ignores one of the basic facts of life in the 21st century; people hook up at the workplace all the time. And rarely are they at the same level of authority. As professionals, we spend more and more of our time in the office and those long hours translate directly to difficulty in finding love (and to be perfectly honest, sex). The level of engagement with our work peers that is demanded by today's employers forces us to interact on levels that approach intimacy. I am certainly not suggesting that sexual harassment does not exist. But to suggest that any workplace liaison is unacceptable shows just how out of touch with the reality of life NOW is.

    October 22, 2009 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Don

    Just pathetic. NOW should really check it's target before it goes shooting off at the mouth. Terry O'Neill should be ashamed of herself for letting her baseless assumptions about the composition of Letterman's workforce color this issue. Letterman is a bad husband and at worst an unproffessional boss, but he's obviously gender-blind in his hiring practices. If fact, the raw numbers indicate he favors women! When it comes to equality, O'Neill needs to be careful what she wishes for...

    October 22, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Alex

    I wonder if NOW ever sent a letter to Bill Gates over his relationship with then-Microsoft-employee Melinda French (now Melinda Gates).

    October 22, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Female Annoyed with NOW

    I am offended and find it obscene (as a 33 year-old professional woman) that NOW is using Letterman's personal life to gain attention. Broad, misleading statements like "workplaces remain plagued by men in power sexualizing women" are not accurate and frankly, beyond unfair. NOW has perhaps seen its hayday; thank you for the work you did in years past–now you are making fools out of yourselves.

    October 22, 2009 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Louis

    Dave looks like a sleezey creep, not funny at all and should be fired.Louis

    October 22, 2009 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  26. GG

    Common sense needs to come into play here, just from an anecdotal perspective, a large proportion of adults meet their future partners in the workplace, making a large proportion of relationships a violation of either laws or work policies. Women should be able to reasonably tell the difference between sexual harrassment, a hostile work environment and a consensual relationship. If they cannot, then our HR departments are not doing the job.
    How embarassing for me as an educated female executive/attorney that NOW claims to represent me. We have plenty of laws in place to prevent harrassment. NOW overstepped by making demands that would actually be a step backwards for Letterman's organization. Bravo to Letterman for taking a publicly painful lashing for cheating on his partner (not for having sex with a consenting adult from his work) simply to stop the extortion.

    October 22, 2009 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  27. PeteC

    I am a mid-level manager and have executives above me that are male and female. Some of them are great others...well not so much. Funny thing is that both men and women fit both categories good and bad. To hire someone simply based upon their sex or color is ludicrus. I am a minority and I for one want to be promoted based SOLELY upon merit not becuase my parents are of a specific color. Also why is it that when this happens it is the man's fault? Surely Dave should have known better given what it meant to his wife but these women surely knew he was married and apparently didn't care what his wife thought any more than he did, so let's cut the "girl's are all sugar and spice crap." These women are just as much to blame for activities that as far as ANYONE has said hurt no one except Dave's wife. I haven't heard any MEN'S group bashing these women as "Gold-diggers' which would be an equally warrantless acusation.

    October 22, 2009 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Francis E. Haas

    I can remember NOW look the other way when President Clinton had relations with his female members of his staff. Now has no moral voice on this issue.

    October 22, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  29. jlo

    way to go NOW. taking a break from ruining healthcare reform with government funded abortion on demand – to comment on things that really matter – letterman's consentual relationships. nice.

    October 22, 2009 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  30. colleen

    The curtain's down, so take a bow and leave Dave and the CONSENTING women alone.....NOW!

    October 22, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  31. david

    NOW- understandble.... but come on..

    Burrnett- great letter. love when you can laugh at someone while making a point. ha!

    October 22, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Anonymous

    Commenters are missing the point....they are not suggesting that Dave is harrassing the subordinates with whom he slept with....they are saying that it is inappropriate in the first place to sleep with subordinates....which is pretty standard. His actions create an environment uncomfortable for ALL women in the organization (as well as men). It is his responsibilty as the higher up to keep his relationships with his employees professional...even if they are guilty of seducing him. Other women who may not want to sleep with Dave might feel at a disadvantage to those who do and in turn pressured to do so...and his male subordinates are left out of the favoritism completely. It makes sense that NOW is approaching Dave with this issue because he is highly publicized. As a public figure he has opened himself up to criticism and I'm sure he can handle it.

    October 22, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  33. J.Crobuzon

    NOW is a bunch of old ladies, and I mean that in the nicest way. They don't get it and they never will. My advice to them is 'Never get down in the mud and wrestle a pig; the pig will not only win but enjoy every minute.' Dave should never have dated around on his live-in, but that guy was a fool to try blackmailing him over it. Letterman may be a jerk in many ways, but he has testicles the size of Newark, New Jersey.

    October 22, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  34. Debbie Thompson

    Did the "other" woman ask for help from NOW or did they take it upon themselves to jump on this bandwagon? Dave cheated on his wife and got caught. Someone tried to extort money from Dave and they got caught. I just hope they all get what they deserve!

    October 22, 2009 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  35. B. Foster

    At what level in the CBS organization would Terry and NOW approve consensual sex among adults? If I were a camera person on Letterman's Show and decided to have sex with someone in a lower pay-grade, would I be awarded the O'Neill/NOW moniker of the 'inappropriate sexualizing of women'? Wait a minute, if I were at the same pay-grade, I might receive the Oneill/NOW Award for Decent and Appropriate Sexual Behaviour in the Workplace.

    October 22, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Gutman

    Why didn't NOW say the same thing about Bill Clinton? They were silent on Lewinski.

    October 22, 2009 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  37. Steven Cope

    We as a society often fall into a situation where we do not treat celebrities (actors, athletes, etc) in the same manner as a typical man/woman on the street. If we found out that a male manager in a company created an office where he took female employees for work-day sex, how would we respond? There are laws. This is blatant sexual harassment – read the definition. It does not matter if they were 'consenting'. If I found out that one of the managers at my company were having sex with multiple female/male employees I would put my company at legal risk if I did not fire him/her immediately. Why is ok for Dave?

    October 22, 2009 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  38. martha

    It is difficult to have a merit-based workplace if you have a boss having sex with the employees.

    October 22, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  39. Angie

    Burnett's letter is idiotic and condescending. The issue is not just Dave and who he slept with – the issue is that when a person in power has sex with his/her subordinates – that is Sexual Harrassment, whether it was agreed by both parties or not. I'm not a fan of NOW but they are right on this issue. Dave might think it was funny (it only became not funny when he got caught), but women have been fighting too long and too hard demanding respect and equality at the workplace to have Dave now treat this issue so lightly. He has been given a free ride by the media because they like him.

    October 22, 2009 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  40. David

    I am glad to see that NOW is headed with a 100% female front office (4 of 4) but it isn't descrimination if it is against males...

    October 22, 2009 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  41. nenecats Houston

    I really like Dave. He has provided some of the funniest moments.
    He came out and admitted what happened. This should be over
    and done with. It has happened a million times over with both
    male and female. It will continue for always. Dave Letterman
    fan forever.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  42. bishop of baghdad

    Yes, NOW is way out of line. They are "now" becomming the work place police. No complaint was filed and the relationship was consenual so this was not Quid Pro Quo or harassment. Just to adults fornicating. NOW, aren't you busy enough kiliing babies and promoting your squirrly little agenda. Leave Dave and his girl friends alone.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  43. James

    Please leave Dave alone, NOW.

    He has better things to do with his time than defend himself from the idiots at NOW. Just let Dave get back to making fun of retarded nitwits like Sarah Palin & Family.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  44. jezoebel

    NOW needs to simply hang it up. They're irrelevent now and have been irrelevent for years. Dave did nothing wrong. It was two consenting adults. Maybe O'Neill is just jealous that she didn't get to sleep with Dave? If it wasn't for office-workplace relationships, most of us wouldn't be here. NOW, I'm a woman and I don't need you to stick up for me, thankyouverymuch. If I sleep with someone inthw roekplace, it's because I CHOSE TO DO SO, not because I was harassed. You want to go after someone? Go after that woman-hater Rush Limbaugh. Leave Dave alone!

    October 22, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  45. jw

    I wonder where kitty is an executive that she doesn't know that it is NOW not WOW! I agree with C Kraft we're still a very long way from equality, and women who would sleep with their boss are one of the main reasons we have such a long way to go. David Letterman has shown disrespect for women in so many ways through the years, but still (as evidenced by the posts here) so many people defend him. It's getting more and more complicated to teach kids right from wrong.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  46. BigMike

    I guees the moral of the story is you should just give into extorsion or risk having the NOW crowd demonize you for sleeping with women. None of the women that Dave slep with complained of sexual harrassment so why is anyone rushing to support their cause? Believe it or not, there are a number of women out there that are attracted to power/celebrity. Ask any professional athlete, actor, or politician. His choice really only hurt his family and only they have the right to condem.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  47. Jess

    Really?! I think some employers go WAY out of their way to address sexual harrasment. I mean, I'm personally sick of the videos and certificates that we have to get to say, "I know how to deal with sexual harrasment" COME ON! I'm totally embarrased by this letter from NOW. This doesn't represent how most women feel. Is it wrong to sleep with your boss, YES! Does that mean that 50% of high ranking employees need to be women? NO! or NOW! ha! Women who CHOOSE to remain mum on filing complaints when these days it seems that employers are constantly thowing it in our faces with videos, online quesitonairs, anonymous comment boxes, etc, if you decide to be mum, then that's your problem not your empolyers! Get a grip. I'd much rather he come out say he did something deplorable as a tv host than have our president come out and flat out deny allegations only to have it come out that he's lying. What do you want him to do? Get castrated? ha! In the words of the wise (joke) Dr. Phil, "Get Real!"

    October 22, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  48. Slugbait

    I did not find NOW's letter to be impressive at all. It looked like a carbon-copy letter that can be sent to any company that has a sexploitation issue exposed to the public.

    The reply was impressive for one reason: NOW apparently completely failed to do any investigation whatsoever into WorldWide Pants to ascertain their employee structure and gender parity, made the false assumption that there wasn't any parity and never was any parity, and then demanding a 1-on-1 to help WorldWide Pants "fix" the company's problem.

    I do not believe that NOW wrote this letter while wearing a blindfold. I think NOW sent this letter specifically to let the world know that, indeed, their organization does still exist, and they believe they are still relevant.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  49. tabonga

    All right, David Letterman made a mistake. He admitted it. Now, it's his and his family's business. THE END. Mr. Letterman handled the situation with an amazing savoir-faire. And I didn't read anything about the "poor women" being kept at gunpoint while he was having these relationships. People at NOW should really get a life. Those are the same people who, when their President stuck a finger in everyone's face saying, "I did not have sex with that woman," didn't to diddly. And that seems a little more serious – a President who lies knowing that he's lying.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  50. Artsee

    Two things:

    One – seems that Dave's staff is overwhelmingly female and I'm wondering if that's so Dave can have a wide variety of women from whom to choose.

    Two – the reason no one may have complained in the past is because a complaint would generate a loss of job. At a former employer of mine, we all knew that the CEO was having an affair with a news producer. She got the best stories. Had we complained, the CEO would have found a way to cancel our contract asap.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  51. Dan

    Terry O'Neill's letter although polite, is very disappointing to read. People should be hired on their merits, not race or sex. Otherwise, you have sex and race descrimination . Terry appears to not have thought matters out before sending the letter and as a result reflects very unfavorably on him/her.



    October 22, 2009 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  52. Lynne

    Way to go Burnett. Why is it, his indiscretions are all his fault. It takes two to tango. David Letterman made a mistake in the fact that he cheated on his then girlfriend, but no one forced the other woman to engage in an affair with him. They were not exploited. As for Terry O'Neill, why don't you take a poll of your entire organization and see how many have at one time had an affair with a married man/woman. You'll be surprised. Now get back on your high horse and ride off into the night.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  53. eric

    I agree with NOW 8% of the Woman's Jobs in the organization should be given to Men in order to create the 50% / 50% split in M/F demographics.

    I am kidding but you should probably do your research before making demands.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  54. Ruby Bogona

    I agree that this was a bad situation for Letterman, one he could have avoided. Regardless of the harassment issue, there is definitely a problem of preferential treatment or at least the perception thereof...how many of us have been in a work situation where someone "advanced" due to sofa time w/ the boss, real or perceived?!? Check out the role of Dolly Parton in the movie "9 to 5" and the perceptions in the office about her for a related example.

    And yeah, where was the "wrath of NOW" when Clinton did the exact same thing w/ Lewinsky, especially exacerbated by the fact Clinton was in the highest position of government/public service, and hence, in effect, the same entity responsible for passing and enforcing nation-wide EO sexual harassment policies??? If it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck and looks like a duck...well, by gosh, it's a duck, regardless of who stepped on it or when!

    Oughta re-name themselves "Natl Organization of Woosels" and they can run around w/ all the other hypocritical heffalumps! Beware, be wary wary wary ware!

    October 22, 2009 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  55. Souc

    FIRST- Her letter is ridiculous, and contradicts itself. She states quite clearly that "All employees, women and men alike, want and deserve to be judged by their skills, qualifications and professional performance alone" and at the same time says that "About 50% of the people with real power and authority should be women" so first she says judge them by their merit alone, and then says their sex should be a factor in filling the position..... lady, make up your mind.

    SECOND – I'm a woman, an adult and I have a brain, so if I don't want to sleep with my old wrinkly boss, I won't. This wasn't a case of sexual harrassment. They are adults and they both consented to the act. End of story. This is not a "workplace" issue. What employees do on their own time is their own business.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  56. Phil from Seattle

    I don't get the "50% of the workplace ... decision makers....should be women" part, people need to hired based on merit and not sex or minority status. Doing otherwise lowers the bar on excellence and makes this country like Europe.

    However I DO agree that sleeping with employees is workplace harrasment directed even toward those that the boss doesn't sleep with. Say (just for arguments sake) a not so attractive woman, or a male, both with exceptional talent were to share the office as the other woman who got to sleep with Dave, it would be extremely demotivating, demoralising and at times stressful to know what you are up against. That is work place harrasment in my book – people go to work to contribute with their talents, not with their sex.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  57. Bob Johnson

    I wonder if Terry O'Neill believes that about 50% of the prison population should be female? Shouldn't we have gender-equity everywhere?

    October 22, 2009 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  58. Peg Robson

    This is really crazy, way too much time spent on who Dave Letterman slept with, get a life. We have so many problems with life today that are actually serious who are these people who can't get their noses out of personal business, Letterman's personal business. Now all of a sudden it is about inequality towards women. Guess I am confused as to why NOW is on the bandwagon. We don't even have the whole story...but the parade marches on. Pitiful

    October 22, 2009 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  59. Mark

    Why don't we leave Dave alone so that he can continue to be the arrogant, unfunny person that he is and will always be.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  60. Bob Owens

    I sincerely hope that NOW takes this same approach to Washington D.C. and attacks Barney Frank, Bill Clinton and their associates with the same fevor. Somehow, I doubt that it will happen.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  61. Jeff

    I think groups like NOW do some good, but actions like this subtract from their credibility, and obviously turn public sentiment against them. They seem to have noble goals, but the means they utilize to try to reach those goals seem flawed to me.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  62. Lisa

    NOW's letter is completely and totally unwarranted - for one, was this not a consenual act between two mature adults? and like Kitty said – you do NOT speak for me - WHY should 50% of power positions be either female, people of color or both? is that not discrimination? if the applicant is qualified it should not matter what their sex or skin color and should not be a factor at all

    Personally, I think all of us who have responded to Ms. O'Neill's diatribe, and anyone else you can get, should send emails to her directly telling her exactly how we feel.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  63. ChrisNYC

    I wonder if NOW is writing similar letters to school boards and school districts where female teachers are taking advantage of teenage boys...

    October 22, 2009 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  64. Sceptical

    Some of what O'Neill says make sense, in that corporate employers and the media can help to create an environment where women and men are equally respected. Agreed.

    But if 50% of people with real power and authority should be women, what does that say about NOW's own leadership?

    See: now.org/officers

    October 22, 2009 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  65. Kate Holden

    If my male or female boss had had multiple affairs with my colleagues, would that be tolerated, even if no one complained? Of course it wouldn't, and it would engender gossip and a sexualization of employees in a locale where such sexualization has no place. This affects men, too, remember–what about the male subordinates who saw their peers sleeping with David Letterman?

    It seems that the reactions stated so far are viscerally anti-NOW, no matter what its position.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  66. debbie

    I love David Letterman, but I understand the reason that you aren't supposed to sleep with the boss, consensual or not - the person might receive a promotion or special benefits and it degrades the morale of the department/business. If I slept with my boss, I'm sure my male co-worker would cry foul.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  67. Mike

    I was not very familiar with NOW until recently, and they seem to fall into the same problem as other advocate groups. They are pushing for equality by asking CEO's, authorities, groups, etc. to give them preferential treatment. Women are not fragile dolls that society needs to protect, they are quite capable of doing that themselves.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  68. PaulE in Louisville

    Sorry, C Kraft, but you are also making assumptions. You seem to almost want to believe harrassment occurred. While I agree you can't always take things at face value, it's just as possible that no harrassment occurred. I tend to believe that, if this went on for years, somebody somewhere would have said something. Why is your default thinking that something untoward happened? I doubt we'll ever know the truth, but for now I consider Letterman the victim here until I see evidence otherwise. Right now, it's all just speculation.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  69. Shirley

    I cannot believe how NOW tries to jump on the media bandwagon.
    NOT that I am surprised it seems that whenever things like this come out there is always someone completely unrelated who picks up a cross to carry and wave at others. They should be looking elsewhere to critic bad behavior, there are much better targets,
    I am thinking whomever slept with Dave WANTED to do so, perhaps to further their career, or maybe they just dug him. Either way they are both adults and from what I heard no one was forced or told they had to or loose their job.
    Maybe NOW should consider his poor wife and childs feeling and leave them all alone for Christ's sake.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  70. Sue

    The letter from NOW would probably apply if the original issue were a complaint lodged against Dave. It wasn't, as Mr. Burnett points out. Dave decided to go public and put his rep out there rather than cave to extortion. The whole thing is unfortunate, but these things happen. I can't fault Dave or the women involved – they made a mistake. I think it would be really brave if Dave had Ms O'Neill as a guest on the show. It appears – if Mr Burnett's letter is factually correct – that she doesn't have much of a case (against this workplace). All workplaces should be merit-based. The percentages stated by O'Neill border on reverse discrimination

    October 22, 2009 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  71. kitty

    How ridulous was WOW's letter?? OMG. I, being a female executive, really do not appreciate WOW's attempts to speak on MY behalf! I have personally seen sexual harassment working BOTH ways. If this organization seriously does not EVER believe that women can be guilty of this behavior, then WOW is living in a totally different world of reality than "us normal folks." I applaud Dave Letterman and the fact that, rather than allow someone extort money from him, he stood up for what was right, even at the risk of losing his own credibility. No one has ever said whether or not the women he slept with initiated the relationship. WOW, do not speak for me! You are dilusional!!! Mr. Burnett, you were too nice in your response.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  72. Cindi

    Very thoughtful and honest reply Mr Burnett. This NOW group really gets on my nerves. Terry O'Neill is just as much a microphone hawk as Al Sharpton.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  73. C Kraft

    Mr. Burnett said:

    "Since that time, our human resources department has consulted every member of the Late Show staff, and not a single complaint has been raised or filed."

    What Mr. Burnett and many of the previous commenters fail to understand is that the fact that no one is voicing a complaint doesn't mean that everyone is happy, everyone feels comfortable in the workplace, and that no sexual harassment has taken place. Even in these so-called enlightened times, there are many reasons why a woman will opt not to file a sexual harassment complaint - or even raise the issue, without going so far as the formal process of filing a complaint, not the least of which is the desire to keep her job.

    In addition, I am astonished at how lightly many of the commenters, men and women, are treating the issue. It shows that women are still a very long way from equality, in the workplace and elsewhere.


    October 22, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  74. DamitaJo

    That letter from Terry O'Neill was laughable! Are you kidding me? 50% should be women? We all need to earn our positions in our careers and nobody should be given a pass solely because they are a woman - in fact, as a successful career woman, a rule like that would be offensive to me.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  75. Becky

    I'm confused. Didn't NOW support Bill Clinton? What is the difference between his actions and Letterman's??

    October 22, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  76. Albie J


    Unless memory fails me, I don't remember a single missive, containing such contempt and vitriol, from NOW with regards to the issues associated with President Clinton and aide Monica. Where's the equity in deed and action. At least Dave isn't on the people's payroll. . .

    October 22, 2009 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  77. Dave S

    Where's the evidence that she wasn't a willing participant?? Let me get this straight: NOW is saying women are completely capable of holding high-level jobs, but not strong enough to turn down a talk-show host?

    October 22, 2009 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  78. SD

    As a woman, I find myself truly offended by NOW. We have plenty of opportunities if you want to work hard enough and as usual, the "politically correct" has run amok. Everyone needs to relax and quit drawing lines around each other.

    I am personally sick to death of people categorizing everyone in segragated groups. We are people pure and simple. There wouldnt be so much animosity and hatred in the general public if those in power quit drawing lines between us. We all came from somewhere else and sexual discrimination works both ways. Women are hardly victims in the workplace anymore. Males can be victims of sexual discrimination and/or harrassment too.

    NOW shouldnt even be involved in this. It's idiocracy.

    It's about time we learn and acknowledge that we are simply people, human beings. Doesnt matter what nationality, creed, race, religion or gender. This starts with our government. Quit categorizing and drawing lines around us!! We are all one species. Let's take care of each other.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  79. meg

    Word, Don. They emboldened Clinton after he caused embarrassment after embarrassment and refused to stand up to him. Badgering Dave who, unlike Clinton, did not lie about or try to excuse his behavior, makes them look like the special-interest bullies they are. NOW is a useless, archaic organization.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  80. dg

    NOW is a great organization, but like the other posters have said..... Leave Dave alone!!!!!

    He was the victim here. I have not seen or heard the women that he had relations with come forward and say anything negative about Dave what so ever. In fact is seems that the woman that the extortion attempt was over, in fact was treated very well by Dave and she even prospered from her relationship with him.

    Maybe Dave should claim that she only slept with him to get ahead!!

    October 22, 2009 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  81. Justin L.

    Great response by Burnett. O'Neill's claim that at least 50% of the people with power should be women is ridiculous, it should be whoever does the best job, even if that means it's 100% women in power. There were no allegations of rape or sexual harassment, the women who had relationships with Dave were adults and knew what they were doing, her point is a moot one.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  82. Sam

    Why does NOW needs to stick up for women who are considered adults and able to make their own decisions?

    October 22, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  83. Marsha J

    NOW needed attention or are they just jealous? And what about responsible reporting...get your facts straight first. Adults in a consenual relationship...what a concept!

    I agree leave Dave alone.

    October 22, 2009 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  84. Dian Scott

    I think Mr Burnett makes good points; Dave's company and behavior; although we may not all agree with it; have been fair to the women in his employ. As a huge fan of the show and Dave; I've always had the feeling Dave likes women; trusts them and enjoys their company. I'm thrilled to learn the actual makeup of his staff and that no one had or has filed a complaint. Now, Dave's wife; if I were her that would be entirely another matter!

    October 22, 2009 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  85. Chris

    Given that a majority of the employees at Worldwide Pants is female, and that they occupy a plurality of the executive positions, will Terry O'Neill demand that they hire more men to level the playing field?

    Of course not. That would be sexist. Then again, so is saying that "About 50% of the people with real power and authority should be women".

    To be fair, we should ask Dave why he doesn't hire more men. New York is a big city; surely he could find qualified men to fill these positions. Maybe the National Organization for Men (or NOM!!!) should mobilize against Worldwide Pants.

    October 22, 2009 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  86. the hairball

    the NOW organization has just show it's true colors to me - intrusive, full of ulterior motives, hidden agendas and just pure b.s., i this situation.
    shame on them.

    October 22, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  87. Chris Braaten

    While I agree and disagree with alot of their points, what stood out to me is that Rob Burnett is making it abundently clear that he is an employee of David Letterman, and that Latterman calls the shots. Normally, someone who is President/CEO of a company doesn't talk about who he/she works for so openly, since most of the time they don't work for anybody but themselves. Really sounds to me like people are distancing from Letterman, and maybe there is more to this story that will come out later.

    October 22, 2009 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  88. Krista

    What Terry O'Neill seems to not realize is that having sex with your employees does not equate to sexual harassment. This issue didn't come to light because someone filed a complaint that they felt they had to perform sexual favors in return for promotion, it came to light because someone tried to extort Lettermen because he engaged in consensual sex with an employee.
    It's a shame that we even have to have a conversation about promoting women in the workplace. It should be about merit and not about filling a quota. I wouldn't want a promotion because I'm a woman, I would want it because I deserved it and I was qualified for it. NOW is doing a disservice to those it purports to support by stipulating a quota. That is truly shameful.

    October 22, 2009 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  89. Alex

    The NOW letter is an absolute joke and an embarrassment to all women especially any that have faced real discrimination or gender-based uncomfortable situations in the workplace.

    October 22, 2009 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  90. Don

    I wonder if NOW wrote a similar letter to the Clinton administration. I am not defnding Letterman's actions, but why is now going after someone like Letterman when the were silent when President Clinton commited the same offense?

    October 22, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  91. RNRW

    Bravo Burnett!

    October 22, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  92. becky

    I think the response from Burnett is respectful, & fair. Leave Dave alone you freaks!!

    October 22, 2009 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  93. jr in canada

    As if....get over yourself-David Letterman is a normal human being and his own personal business should be discussed between his wife and him. I'm sure that if these woman didn't want to be a part of his "extra-curricular" activites they would have said no thank you. Seriously, why must everything be so blown out of proportion. Get a life!!

    October 22, 2009 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  94. Diggity Dave

    Way to dip your stick, Dave! The women that slept with you are adults who care capable of making adult decisions.

    October 22, 2009 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  95. Steve

    The letter from Terry O'Neill is absolutly rediculous. To say that 50% of the people with real power and authority should be women is just the start of a corrupt attempt at equality by giving positions to people who don't deserve them. I'm not at all against women in power in the workplace but they have to earn it like everyone else and to simply state that someone has to appoint 50% women and 50% men is not the right way to go about it.

    October 22, 2009 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |

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