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Crisis Communication: David Letterman's dilemma

By Suzanne Spurgeon  October 4, 2009

David Letterman is the talk of the town; make that country.  Everyone is weighing in on David's dilemma.  NBC's Ann Curry says women view the situation differently than men. The New York Post is referring to Letterman as "Dirty Dave".  I would have advised Letterman to break the news exactly as he did; in front of a friendly audience on his own terms.  It didn't take long though for the media to shift the focus from the actions of the alleged blackmailer to the actions of the late night host himself.  Letterman showed bad judgment having sex with women who worked for him.  But the point needs to be made, he was single and no woman has alleged sexual harassment.  But it is a thin line; one that gets crossed in many work places.  And that's why Ann Curry is probably right; women may not think Dave is completely innocent in this ugly story. 

Letterman is a victim but perhaps not an "innocent" victim.  He should be applauded for going to authorities and not trying to buy his way out of an embarrassing situation.  But, his actions on the job opened the door to all sorts of problems for himself, the network, and the women involved.  Just how quickly this story fades depends on many factors.  If we see a plea bargain, the story moves along quickly. If no woman says she felt pressured by Dave, the story begins to diminish. When another major, celebrity story comes along, the story moves to the backburner. 

Letterman would be wise, I believe, to avoid further public comments while the dust settles.  He will be the brunt of other people's jokes for a while, but I think he can take it.     




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