Then there's another line of defense raised by others, among them actress Jamie Lee Curtis: "David Letterman makes this revelation about his personal life because he was being extorted. I understand he was staying ahead of the wave and I commend him for it, but really, is this any of our business? Why should this matter?"
There's another way of putting it: Is anyone surprised? Surprised that a Hollywood superstar has affairs? Stop the presses! On that score, I'm almost willing to agree with Ms. Curtis. Almost.
But then Ben Mankiewicz of Turner Classic Movies goes on CNN and in defending Letterman, actually underscores why Letterman's behavior was so distasteful. "It's not like Bill Clinton having sex with an intern," Mankiewicz said. "It is the story of a guy who was single for 25 years, a sort of pronounced bachelor, having affairs with women who worked on his staff. That may be a problem for CBS. I really don't think it's a problem for anyone else in the country." He insisted: "I just don't see the scandal, and I certainly don't see the hypocrisy."
That leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It's clearly hypocrisy.
Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales also saw zero hypocrisy, even as Letterman mocked every sex scandal subject from Clinton to Gov. Mark Sanford: "Letterman can continue to lampoon sleazy political figures with no real fear of hypocrisy, however, because a TV comic is not an elected official responsible for the well-being of the nation or its citizenry."
But is Letterman only a "clown," as Shales put it, or does mocking adultery imply a moral judgment? AP television writer Frazier Moore forwarded a list of scandal figures Letterman has mocked, and then trumped it. With Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Letterman demanded the governor resign: "I mean, can you imagine," said Letterman, "if this happened to me how fast they'd have my (backside) out of here?"
Shales insisted the scandal shouldn't ruin Letterman's reputation as "the wisecracking, self-deprecating, overgrown adolescent who has one of the keenest, cleverest and funniest comic minds of all time."
Shales then went to an online chat at the Post website and defended Roman Polanski's rape: "In Hollywood I am not sure a 13-year-old is really a 13-year-old."