Some of the politicians zinged by David Letterman over the years for their indiscretions are offering pity and advice for the scandalized talk show host.
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford says Letterman could benefit from his confession that he had affairs with women who worked on the "Late Show." And former Florida Rep. Mark Foley says, "I feel sorry for Dave _ I take no glee."
Most of Letterman's targets who were approached by The Associated Press refrained from jeering at his plight _ or saying anything at all.
But Sanford sent Letterman warm wishes.
"Both my thoughts and my prayers are with him," he said Tuesday after a speaking engagement at a Rotary Club meeting in Easley, S.C.
In June, Sanford seemed fair game for comedy after he disappeared from the state (and his wife) for a five-day rendezvous with an Argentine woman he called his soul mate.
The governor "didn't really enjoy this year's Fourth of July. He left his favorite firecracker in Argentina," Letterman joked soon after.
"There's a lot more introspection and soul-searching on the way down than there is on the way up," said Sanford, who is under investigation by South Carolina's Ethics Commission, in addressing his woes as well as Letterman's. "He can be a better person for it."
Letterman, like many comedians, feasted on the disgrace of Foley, whose political career was ruined in 2006 by a scandal involving salacious e-mails he sent to underage teens.
"How about that Florida Congressman Mark Foley?" cracked Letterman at the time. "Whoa! At least the Democrats wait until the interns are 18."
On Tuesday, Foley, now a talk-radio host in Florida, voiced concern for Letterman's 5-year-old son, Harry, and for the child's mother, Regina Lasko, whom Letterman married in March after many years together.
"You hope that somewhere along the way," continued Foley, "somebody feels their heart beat and says, 'God, but for the grace of God, there go I,' and they say, 'You, know, this isn't funny anymore.'"
In March 2008, Letterman was taking potshots at Eliot Spitzer, then governor of New York, who was embroiled in an investigation into a high-end prostitution operation.
"It's so sunny and bright outside that, earlier today, Eliot Spitzer came out of a brothel squinting," Letterman cracked in a monologue.
But in Spitzer's case, he didn't stop at lampooning. During an indignant rant, he called for the scandalized governor to step down.
"I mean, can you imagine," said Letterman, "if this happened to me how fast they'd have my ... (backside) out of here?"
Unlike Spitzer, who resigned, Letterman seems secure in his job as host of CBS' "Late Show," nearly a week after his bombshell revelations of having had sex with women on his staff (a disclosure prompted by an alleged $2 million blackmail threat against him).
But considering his acknowledgment of past "creepy" behavior, it's kind of creepy to revisit a joke such as this one from a March 2008 show: "Let me ask you a question. Do you think it's too soon to be hitting on Mrs. Eliot Spitzer?"
In another monologue, Letterman tweaked Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican whose telephone number was found in 2007 among those called by an escort service that prosecutors said was a call girl ring.
Vitter "admitted he's been dating prostitutes," said Letterman. "And he was very generous with one girl: He paid her with a new highway project in her home state."
Perhaps Vitter, like many other embarrassed politicians, had set himself up for ridicule. But hasn't Letterman set himself up for payback, now?
Vitter chose not to return fire at Letterman's glass house.
So did former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart, whose run for the presidency was derailed by a sex scandal in 1987 and who became the butt of many of Letterman's jokes.
"Big weekend for Gary Hart," Letterman grinned when the Hart scanda broke: "He was campaigning his brains out."
Chris Smith, Hart's spokeswoman at the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs, said Hart had no comment.
Letterman has made comic hay of the troubles of Larry Craig, a former U.S. senator from Idaho who in 2007 was arrested by an undercover police officer conducting a sting operation against men cruising for sex at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Noting that Craig was nabbed in an airport men's room, Letterman said, it "gives new meaning to the word 'caucusing.'"
Both during and after his White House years, President Bill Clinton remained a reliable source of Letterman's humor.
Another favorite target: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, with whom Letterman had a run-in over sexually suggestive jokes made at the expense of her teenage daughter in June.
In July 2008, Letterman turned his sights on former presidential candidate John Edwards, who confessed to an extramarital affair. No. 1 on Letterman's "Top Ten Signs Barack Obama Is Overconfident": "Been cruising for chicks with John Edwards."
That was just a joke. But now Letterman has admitted to real-life sexual misconduct _ and put forth his apologies.
"Nobody is above making tragic mistakes," said Foley. "Some never get discovered; some do, in a very public way."
Letterman "can keep apologizing until the cows come home," he added pointedly. "But he's now found his own life the subject of late-night comedians."
Associated Press Writers Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Fla.; Jim Davenport in Easley, S.C.; and Colleen Slevin in Denver, and news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York City contributed to this report.
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