On a Thursday taping of David Letterman’s CBS Late Show, Letterman put paid once and for all to extortion threats by CBS employee Robert Halderman. How? By using textbook public relations skills to admit, yes, he had sex with several women that worked for him and, yes, he was being blackmailed because of it. During his short monologue, David Letterman showed what a public relations master he is, and showed the world how public relations should be done.
According to a news story by WLTX in Columbia, South Carolina, the David Letterman extortion story begins several weeks ago when, one morning getting in his car, Letterman discovered a package. There was a letter with the package that said, “I know that you do some terrible, terrible things and that I can prove that you do some terrible things.”, and that the package contained some proof. Rather than panicking, trying to hide it, or paying the extortionist the $2 million he wanted, Letterman called his lawyer, set up a meeting with the man, CBS Producer Robert Halderman, and then called the police. A dummy check for $2 million was given to Robert Halderman and, as soon as he deposited in his bank account, he was arrested and charged with attempted grand larceny in the first degree.
Then the public relations master, David Letterman, went to work. On his Thursday taping of the CBS Late Show, he sat down at his desk, leaned towards the camera and very calmly and purposefully talked about his experience that morning with a grand jury. “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.
He went on to say, ” The creepy stuff was that I have had sex with women who work for me on this show,” he said. My response to that is yes, I have. Would it be embarrassing if it were made public? Yes, it would, especially for the women.”
Letterman got nothing but applause and laughter from the audience, a sign they, at least, were behind him. Which, immediately showed how Letterman had judged his audience correctly and acted the way he felt would get him the best public relations outcome. A true public relations master indeed.
As someone who has 20 years of public relations experience, I applaud David Letterman for his excellent public relations skills. The first rule any public relations professional knows is, when the jig is up, admit it and accept responsibility for it. Sure, it’ll sting for a minute or two but, once it’s over, the good will you or your company will get from it is monumental. Conversely, if you try to hide it, deny it or lie about it, the backlash will be volcanic. Look at Bill Clinton and how well denying he “had sex with that woman” worked for him.
On the CBS Late Show on Thursday, David Letterman showed what the textbook way to deal with someone who is extorting you is. Extortionists can only operate in the dark. When the information becomes public, they’ve nothing left to sell. Robert Halderman, apparently, was planning on blackmailing David Letterman for $2 million or otherwise he was going to write a book and a screenplay and out Letterman about his affairs. Letterman basically told the guy, don’t bother, I’ll do it myself. And in a way that will make me even more popular.
Sure, Letterman’s speech on Thursday could still backfire and cause him more problems, but it’s highly unlikely. Almost all news reports are already treating him in a positive light and defending him as much as they can. With Robert Halderman already arrested for grand larceny, Letterman is continuing on with his career and his life and flying higher than he ever has. Besides, if he loses because of this, he has a great career as a public relations expert ahead of him.
SOURCES: Greenville News – During TV show, David Letterman admits to affairs, claims extortion
WLTX – CBS Employee Accused of Trying to Extort David Letterman