David Letterman admitting on his show Thursday night that he'd had sex with female staffers and revealing he was the subject of a related extortion try could help keep his image from being too tarnished, experts agree.
They said on "The Early Show" Friday Letterman was handling things well, and one said the star wouldn't be hurt by the revelations and might even be helped by them.
The late-night host said on his show that someone tried to extort $2 million from him, threatening to make word of the sexual activities public. A veteran producer of "48 Hours", Joe Halderman, was arrested Thursday on charges of attempted grand larceny in the first degree.
CBS is cooperating fully with the authorities and the employee has been suspended pending the results of the investigation. CBS said in a statement it "believes his comments speak for themselves."
On "The Early Show", veteran Hollywood publicist Michael Levine told substitute co-anchor Chris Wragge he doesn't think the developments will have much of a long-term impact on Letterman's reputation. "I think it was very important for him to get on offense, because nothing in this world is private any longer," said Levine, who's worked for stars such as Michael Jackson, Demi Moore and Sandra Bullock. "We're just living in a very different kind of world today than 10 or 20 years ago. And so I think the best defense is an offense, and the only offense is relentless. I think a lot of people also understand that extortion happens to many, many, many celebrities. It's become almost a new job category."
Separately, CBS News legal analyst Lisa Bloom told co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez she "absolutely" thinks Letterman "had to" take the route he did. "Once this matter went in front of a grand jury," as it has, Bloom remarked, "there's at least a dozen citizens who are getting wind of the allegations. Once it's in the district attorney's hands, there's always the possibility of leaks. So, he had to get out there first. He had to tell the story. He had to acknowledge his part in it. He had to acknowledge all of the allegations that he's making. I think he had to do what he did."
Bloom added she thinks prosecutors "have a pretty good case."
She says she's "sure" Letterman is hoping the buzz around the extortion attempt fades quickly. "Clearly, as a major celebrity, his reputation is very important to him. So, by getting his allegations out first, on his own show, in his own way, he's hoping to control the sorry. I'm sure he's hoping it'll be a short story, a brief blip in the news cycle. We'll see, as the allegations unfold and as the facts unfold whether or not that's true, but I'm sure his reputation is very, very important to him."
Levine observed that, "We're living in a culture in which a rumor unanswered in 24 answers becomes truth. And, if there any allegations are leaked, he has to and the district attorney will also have to make sure that their side of the story gets out and gets out forcefully."
"This would be far worse if he were a preacher or a politician," Levine continued. "I think that there is an extraordinarily close likeable relationship between David and his audience. I think he should be fine. I think this will a punch line (on) one of his Top-Ten lists a year from now."
Not only that, but, "One of the unique genius parts of David's personality is his capacity to be self-deprecating. So, I can see this, a year out, playing as a great kind of comedy advantage for him. In the short term, of course, it will create a lot of controversy -- and controversy is the gasoline that drives the engine of ratings success."
Two fans interviewed by CBS News on a Manhattan street already seem fine with the revelations, with one saying, "From watching his show every night, I would want the truth from him," and the other saying, "Honestly, it doesn't change my opinion of him, because I love his show."