TODAY   |  October 06, 2009

Letterman apologizes to his wife

Oct. 6: On his first show since going public with an alleged extortion plot, TV host David Letterman takes shots at himself and talks about the scandal’s impact on his wife. NBC’s Peter Alexander reports.

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>>> members. nbc's peter alexander is outside the " late show " studio with more. peter, good morning.

>> natalie, good morning. letterman apologized to his wife and to his staff, but not before making fun of himself. and if you think that's the end of this story, well, think again. in fact, this morning, t"the new york times" is reporting that the lawyer for joe halderman, the man accused in this extortion plot, has threatened to provide evidence that letterman sexually harassed members of his staff, and he says he's willing to show that evidence in court.

>> i got into the car this morning and the navigation lady wasn't speaking to me.

>> reporter: back in front of the cameras for the first time since his embarrassing office sex scandal exploded last week, david letterman had himself to thank for all that new material.

>> things are still pretty bad. there's a possibility that i'll be the first talk show host impeached, so. it's fall here in new york city , and i spent the whole weekend raking my hate mail. cold, cold, too. i mean, it's chilly outside my house, chilly inside my house.

>> reporter: on monday night, the " late show " host, clearly wounded by the impact his revelations about having sex with co-workers have had on his employees, blended his comedy with contrition.

>> when you're blackmailed, it's a crime and you're a victim. it did not occur to me last week when i was discussing having had sex with the women who worked on this show that then what would happen is reporters and newspaper people and radio and tv would start hounding the staff and saying, what do you say? are you? and this and that. it was very, very unpleasant. and i would just like to set the record straight -- no, i'm not having sex with these women. those episodes are in the past. my thanks to the staff for, once again, putting up with something stupid i've gotten myself involved in.

>> reporter: then, letterman apologized to his wife, a former staffer on the show, regina lasko.

>> 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. and at that point, there's only two things that can happen. either you're going to make some progress and get it fixed or you're going to fall short and perhaps not get it fixed. so, let me tell you, folks, i've got my work cut out for me.

>> reporter: was it a genuine apology or another well-crafted maneuver to get ahead of the story? suspended cbs news producer joe halderman who prosecutors say was in debt and desperate when he allegedly tried to extort $2 million from letterman, still isn't speaking, but his lawyer was already questioning letterman's credibility and truthfulness monday on "today."

>> he's a master at manipulating audiences. that's what he does for a living. so, to think that david letterman gave the entire story and there's nothing more to be said is simply wrong.

>> the defense in this case is trying to muddy the waters, because everyone knows that the defendant and letterman did not get along. what matters is one juror thinking to himself or herself, you know what, i am not so sure letterman's the victim. i'm going to acquit this guy, halderman.

>> reporter: one published report suggests letterman held a personal grudge against halderman, who until recently was living with steph ni birkitt, one of letterman's assistants, and according to "the new york times," one of letterman's past lovers, who frequently appeared on letterman's on-air sketches. the "ap" reports that a new york city law enforcement official says halderman copied birkitt's diary, which contained details of her affair with letterman and tried to use it as blackmail. facing 15 years, if convicted, of attempted grand larceny , halderman is currently out on bail. this week, letterman's past girlfriend and former head writer on the show, merrill markoe , responded to the sex scandal on her blog with a hint of humor, writing "dave promised me many times that i was the only woman he would ever cheat on."

>> let's look at the news. first of all, bill clinton said -- no. good news for south carolina governor mark sanford , because he -- how about that eliot spitzer ? would you take a look at --

>> reporter: after what at least one staff member called a strange day at the office, letterman hopes his audience has the last laugh.

>> by the way, the going price for a screenplay based on this show right here, $3 million.

>> $3 million.