A brief history of late-night hosts apologizing

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WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 1: David Letterman and his wife, Regina arrive for a dinner for Kennedy honorees hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the U.S. Department of State on December 1, 2012 in Washington, DC. The 2012 honorees are Buddy Guy, actor Dustin Hoffman, late-night host David Letterman, dancer Natalia Makarova, and members of the British rock band Led Zeppelin Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones. (Photo by Ron Sachs – Pool/Getty Images)

David Letterman apologizes for cheating

Former Late Show host David Letterman’s apology is the odd man out of the list, targeting a much smaller audience and with more scandalous personal circumstances. In 2009, a CBS producer (and ex-boyfriend of the host’s personal assistant, Stephanie Birkitt) attempted to extort Letterman. The price? Two million dollars in exchange for his silence about his affair with Birkitt.

The comedian decided to get out in front of the spiraling story, opening his Monday monologue with a tell-all apology for repeatedly cheating on Regina Lasko, his partner of more than 20 years, with a number of female staffers, including Birkitt.

“I’ll just say I’m terribly sorry that I put the staff in that position. Inadvertently, I just wasn’t thinking ahead,” he told the audience. “My wife, Regina. She has been horribly hurt by my behavior. And when something happens like that, if you hurt a person and it’s your responsibility, you try to fix it.”

But was it necessary for Letterman to apologize for a private matter to a public that didn’t ask for it? Not really, which might lend credibility to his sincerity — publicly humiliating himself for really no reason other than making amends through an embarrassing confession. Revealing the full story also gave his staff a break, all in the awkward position of being constantly harassed by the media for information on their boss. Still, some called Letterman a “master manipulator.”