Loyal to Letterman

October 13, 2009 at 10:26 am 2 comments

The court of public opinion voted:

David-Letterman 2

David Letterman stays.

Even though he acknowledged more than a week ago that he had sexual relations with multiple women who worked for him, making him the target of an extortion attempt, his fans remain loyal.

Not only has his viewers kept viewing, but this publicity — as difficult and unfortunate of a situation as it is– has helped Letterman in the long run. According to David Carr of The New York Times (Mon. Oct. 12, 2009), “ratings have gone up, his advertisers have remained stalwart, and the court of public opinion has been kind, lauding his forthright disclosure of the unpleasant business at hand.”

When dealing with a media-dubbed “scandal” or unfortunate situation, the best way to deal with it is to put on your big-boy or big-girl panties and be the bigger person:

  • Take responsibility.
  • Apologize.
  • Take action to repair any damages (or future damages).

By doing this, you become the solution to the problem instead of the problem itself.

When it comes to unfortunate situations, such as the case with Letterman, it is best to come clean right from the start. Don’t try to hide because the media WILL find you and expose you naked to the masses. Instead, be forthright and candid. Admit you screwed up: we all are human, after all.

Even if you have “your side” of the story, just admit the things you did wrong, apologize to whoever might have been injured by the situation and move on. If you attempt to “fight” when you in fact did have a hand (or even a pinky) in the matter, the media will paint you in a picture and it won’t be pretty.

Though the media is still replaying the same negative propaganda over-and-over again, people are rallying to Letterman’s defense because he was forthright from the start. On the subject of extortion, it seems that Letterman decided to come out and tell the public before his extorter did. Though this decision may have been made in vain, it was still a good decision to make in regards to public opinion: why let the rumors spread like wildfire from the mouth of someone else when the public can hear the real story directly from you? This clears up the perception that you are on the “defense,” trying to cover your rear-end and instead, puts you on the offense. In Letterman’s case, he just looks like a guy that made a few bad decisions (haven’t we all?) while the extorter looks like a criminal, instead of vice versa. However, had Letterman not already been accepted into the hearts of millions for the past few decades, the result of this situation might have turned out differently.

This situation in slightly similar to the insider trading situation with Martha Stewart. Even though she served time behind bars and under house arrest, her fans, from years of watching her make pinecone centerpieces and Bundt cakes, never left her side. Her “scandal” garnered even more supporters, and in a sense, revitalized her brand. However, she was not forthright in her situation like Letterman was, which I think was something that may come back to haunt her credibility in the future.

It seems that once  you find your the way to your viewers’ hearts, you are reserved a spot for life. Had Letterman been a  “newbie,” the court of public opinion may have ruled differently. However, Letterman’s forthrightness, coupled with pre-existing loyalty, will carry Letterman through the nights to come.


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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dan  |  October 13, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    In reference to the point you made about just coming clean and giving your story before the media can’t twist it into something it originally wasn’t, a good example would be the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. Clinton denied, denied, denied, and what happened? He ended up admitting it anyway, and he sure paid the price with his image destroyed in the eye of the public. Letterman is not quite on the same scale as a US president and he is not held to the same ethical standards, but your points still holds true to an extent. Coming clean when you are that much in the public eye while always fare better.

  • 2. steve fox  |  October 19, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Another good example is the use of steroids by professional athletes. Those who admitted to doing something wrong, making a bad choice, or whatever, are faring much better these days in the court of public opinion than those who outright denied ever being involved only to later be proven different…..


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