David Letterman’s Affairs

Some years ago, I read an insightful remark about Hugh Hefner.   I can’t remember now who made the remark, except that it was a male friend of Hefner’s.  At any rate, Hefner’s friend was defending Hefner from charges that he exploited women.  And the friend said something along these lines:

“Hugh Hefner has had sex with at least 2000 women during his career and yet not one of those women has come forward with a complaint against him.  Think of that.  Many of us have one or two ex-spouses who cannot for the life of them speak good of us.  But Hefner has in effect thousands of ex’s, none of whom speak ill of him. If he is bad news for women, where then are the complaints?”

I was reminded of that man’s remarks this morning when I was looking at a video of David Letterman’s confession to having had sex with several of his female employees.  Having sex with an employee — let alone several of them over the years — is a risky thing to do.  It’s risky because it’s possible your employee is having sex with you only because she fears losing her next promotion — or perhaps her job.   No morally sane person wants someone to have sex with them out of fear of what will happen if they don’t.

In Letterman’s case, though, where are the complaints?  If it turns out that some employee he’s had sex with comes forward with charges that she did not want to have sex with him, then Letterman will deserve to be brought up on charges of sexual harassment.

But if none of the women he’s had sex with charge him with sexual harassment, why should anyone care what went on between him and his employees?

At least that’s the way I see it this evening.  Am I making any sense, or should I go fetch some sleep and then re-think the issue?

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11 thoughts on “David Letterman’s Affairs

  1. You’ve pretty much got it. The people we work with, tend to be our friends, and sometimes more than friends. The current workplace puritanism doesn’t make much room for that kind of relationship, risky though it be, doesn’t make much room for the fact that we’re not robots. Even famous people have feelings.

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  2. Lets tackle this from a purely business and also business ethics point-of-view.

    This is my immediate perspective because I’m in the human resources-oriented business of executive recruiting and business and executive coaching. So, I see elements of this sort of activity from multiple angles quite often.

    I don’t know if David Letterman’s company, or any of the business around him has investors or shareholders. But, he does have people that are counting on him and he is responsible for and to – his employees.

    Certainly Mr. Letterman is human and “has feelings”. But, he is also in a unique position of leadership, responsibility and accountability. Under basic rules of best-business-practices, Letterman has made a crucial mistake. He overstepped a time-honored boundary.

    We don’t know if the female employees he slept with were married themselves. How old and experienced were they? Were they interns? We don’t know if they leveraged sex for opportunities. That alone would be unfair to male employees. So, the potential for controversy exists, and likely abounds.

    Leaders don’t create problems. They’re supposed to inspire by example.

    I could go on for hours around why and how what Letterman did was wrong, questionable, and under poor judgment. But, I am confident we all instinctively feel his actions were, at best, inappropriate. Some might add unethical.

    No judgment here. I know as a father I’d not encourage to work for the man. And, as a businessman, I now know Letterman has moral boundaries issues.

    He did apologize for his actions. So, that needs to be factored into the equation. So, forgiveness must also be factored in. But, anyone who works for Letterman and with his organization now has more to ponder.

    Cork

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  3. [quote]That alone would be unfair to male employees.[/quote]

    Why must we assume that he had affairs only with female employees? Perhaps he is a philanthropist and is sharing his talents with any who seek the benefits. And, as others have mentioned, where’s the complaints? Can there be consensual sex between employees and employers? I think so.

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  4. Acknowledged leguru.

    Under the best-business-practices standard, it doesn’t matter if Letterman engaged female or male employees.

    Legally there can always be consensual sex amongst employees – and, also employers and employees. An exception is the military where such contact between officers and enlisted personnel is strictly forbidden (its called fraternization, and enforced).

    And, that’s the example and standard to be set here.

    So, consensual sex might be legal amongst civilian organizations, but it’s still not a good idea from best-business-practices. And, the leading question will be the perspective of the employee and whether they feel compelled, in some form or fashion, or not. We’re talking about an organization here, not a harem.

    Food for thought: If an employee did complain… Under almost any circumstance, based on precedent and statistics, they would win in court, even though these matters are often settled out-of-court. But, with that always a concern, it’s just another point that the leader (Letterman) needs to be mindful of.

    Cork

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  5. Mr. Letterman was the victim of a crime. He went to the cops and he cooperated with the police. He did the right thing.

    There doesn’t seem to be any evidence of his modern morals having veered into criminal conduct. Even if that were the case, the man still did the right thing by going to the police about an extortion case.

    It is amazing to me how many comments I got from people on my blog posting about this topic who could not fail to separate the two issues — the crime of extortion and the off camera behavior.

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  6. The people we work with, tend to be our friends, and sometimes more than friends.
    My son has told me about a current term which I was unfamiliar with in my youth: “friend with benefits.” Has anyone else heard of this term?

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  7. I’ve heard the term, and it seems odd to me. But lots of things seem odd to me that are routine for others, I guess. If nobody’s being coerced, or deceived (which is a form of coercion), I guess it’s OK.

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  8. I graduated from college in 1984. We were using that term then.

    It typically means friends that have no-strings-attached sex. This is often the case with “partners” in the same dorm, for example. They trust one another, and want the physical contact – but, are not interested in a committed relationship with the associated demands, pressures and drama.

    Cork

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  9. Letterman’s wife might see things differently, but that’s their business.

    The guy was trying to blackmail him – that’s a crime, it’s unethical, and it’s pretty stupid in this case. Makes for interesting gossip/news.

    We, the public, like to pretend to be puritans, so adultery is always good for a frisson.

    Some feel his a bit of hypocrite because he liked to lampoon other public figures for their sexual peccadilloes. But that’s his job.

    I have never seen his show – past my bedtime. I have a hard time understanding why anyone, would be interested in this at all.

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