David Letterman Apologizes to Comedy Writer Who Accused Him of Sexual Favoritism 10 Years Ago

In a follow-up piece to her viral 2009 story "Letterman and Me," comedy writer Nell Scovell describes a recent meeting with Letterman in New York.

Ten years after a former Late Night With David Letterman writer wrote a story excoriating the host for his treatment of women on the show, David Letterman has apologized to the writer and other women who worked for him.

In a follow-up piece in Vanity Fair to her viral 2009 story "Letterman and Me," comedy writer Nell Scovell describes a recent meeting between herself and Letterman in New York where he apologized for how female writers and other staffers were treated on Late Night. Of his track record of hiring few women to write on the show, Letterman told Scovell, "It was sloppiness. Inertia. I see it differently now, and if I were to start a show today, holy God, I’m certain there’d be mistakes, but not the mistakes that were just so gosh-dang obvious."

He adds, “When I read that document you wrote 10 years ago," Letterman said, "I just thought, There’s nothing to be upset about here. It happened, that’s all true."

At the top of the meeting, Letterman admitted to Scovell that he didn't read "Letterman and Me" when it was initially published — nor did he read Scovell's 2018 memoir, Just the Funny Parts, which also details her time on Late Night. “You know, the other night I read the piece that you wrote 10 years ago," he tells her. "And I thought, Holy shit, this is so disturbing and, sadly, a perspective that I did not have because the only perspective I had was in here," he added, gesturing to himself.

In trying to explain why he didn't read Scovell's original piece when it was published, Letterman told her he was working to keep his marriage from falling apart, an explanation of which she is skeptical. "Dave using his family as an excuse for neglecting his professional duties is a luxury no high-level female could ever afford. He faced no corporate punishment after his on-air disclosure [about a CBS employee's attempt to extort him over multiple affairs with staffers]," Scovell writes. "Self-reflection can save a marriage, but it can’t change history."

In "Letterman and Me," the comedy writer said that, as the second-ever woman hired to Late Night's writing staff, she experienced a hostile work environment for women. She recalls rumors that Letterman was having relationships with female staffers, that those female staffers accumulated extra power in the office, and that she was paid extra attention as a woman on staff. Scovell also pointed out the dearth of female writers on late-night television at large, not just on Letterman.

In her 2019 conversation with Letterman, Scovell shared with him her belief that her comedy career suffered as a result of writing "Letterman and Me." She says that in writers rooms in the last 10 years, she has been viewed as a "prig," and after one colleague made a sexist comment in the room, he asked her if she was going to "write about that."

Scovell also shares allegations she made in Just the Funny Parts that The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour head writer Jim Stafford once forced her to have oral sex when she was up for a job on the show's second season. (She never got the job.) Letterman offered her sympathy that she commends in the story. "At the time, Dave’s sympathetic words washed over me, but listening to the playback a week later, I was grateful. Dave took the moment seriously and didn’t allow me to end it with a punch line," she writes.

After their conversation, Scovell reports, Letterman reached out to two women who "should have been writers" on the show and apologized to them. Nevertheless, Scovell doesn't give him a pass after their conversation: "Dave still carries around his guilt and I still carry around my anger."