A former female writer for "The Late Show with David Letterman" claims that she found a hostile, sexually charged atmosphere that was demeaning to women during her brief stint there.
In an article for Vanity Fair.com, contributor Nell Scovell, a TV writer, producer and director, wrote that although Letterman never hit on her, she was aware of "rumors" that the talk show host was having sexual relationships with other female staffers. Moreover, Scovell said "was aware" that other high-level employees were also engaged in sexual relationships with women employees.
"Did that create a hostile work environment? Yes," Scovell wrote. "Did I believe these female staffers were benefiting professionally from their personal relationships? Yes. Did that make me feel demeaned? Completely. Did I say anything at the time? Sadly, no."
Instead Scovell left five months after she was hired.
"I'd seen enough to know that I was not going to thrive professionally in that workplace. And although there were various reasons for that, sexual politics did play a major part," she wrote on the Vanity Fair Web site.
Scovell said she considered telling Letterman the real reason she was leaving, but backed away when his rumored mistress was nearby.
Scovell said that she was speaking up now not because she was interested in money or revenge but because she wants Letterman to hire "qualified female writers and then treat them with respect."
A call to Letterman's representatives for comment wasn't immediately returned.
Letterman's personal and professional lives and how they overlap have been in the spotlight since news broke of a CBS News employee trying to blackmail him for $2 million by exposing the sexual affairs he allegedly had with female subordinates.
Despite nightly appearances in America's living rooms, Letterman, 62, has worked to keep his personal life hidden from public view, living in a tony Westchester, N.Y. suburb with his rarely seen wife, Regina Lasko, and their 6-year-old son.
When he told viewers about his marriage to Lasko earlier this year after their 23-year relationship, Letterman reflected on his long bachelordom.
"I secretly felt that men who were married admired me," he said, "like I was the last of the real gunslingers -- you know what I'm saying?"
Lasko, like a previous longtime Letterman girlfriend, Merrill Markoe, was also a former staffer, leading some observers to wonder if Letterman habitually forms romantic relationships with female co-workers.
According to a source close to Letterman, the staff liaisons the alleged extortionist, Robert "Joe" Halderman, 51, is accused of threatening to reveal occurred prior to Letterman's recent marriage.
Halderman, a producer for CBS News, pleaded not guilty to extortion charges Friday. He is being held on $200,000 bond.
As Letterman has gotten older, he has altered his image from the rogue host who played by his own rules to that of an elder statesman of television -- a sometimes mischievous great uncle who can joke about his heart surgery and rib dimwitted celebrities, but also a man with the gravitas to throw barbs at Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin.
His admission on the air Thursday to having not just a one-time romantic affair with a single staffer but to having "sex with women who work with me on this show," shed new light on what the public does know about his love life.