The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Mai Shiozaki, 202-628-8669, ext. 116; cell 202-641-1906

The Latest Letterman Controversy Raises Workplace Issues for Women

Statement of NOW President Terry O'Neill


Recent developments in the David Letterman extortion controversy
have raised serious issues about the abuse of power leading to an
inappropriate, if not hostile, workplace environment for women and
employees. In the case of Letterman, he is a multi-million dollar host
of one of the most popular late-night shows; in that role, he wields
the ultimate authority as to who gets hired, who gets fired, who gets
raises, who advances, and who does entry-level tasks among the Late
Show employees. As "the boss," he is responsible for setting the tone
for his entire workplace -- and he did that with sex. In any work
environment, this places all employees -- including employees who
happen to be women -- in an awkward, confusing and demoralizing

Most women can attest to the fact that many workplaces are plagued
with inappropriate behavior by men in power. The latest Letterman
controversy sheds new light on the widespread objectification of women
in the workplace.

We recently received a call from a man in Rockford, Ill., who wanted
to get advice from NOW about what to tell his 16 year-old daughter who
was confused by reports on the latest Letterman controversy. The father
raised his daughter to be a feminist. He raised her to stand up for
herself. He raised her not be objectified as a sexual object. She
admits she is confused because the messages she sees on television and
news reports appear to make it okay to objectify women as long as the
man in power is famous. He can crack a few jokes and publicly apologize
for his mistakes. It is this kind of hypocrisy that perpetuates the
image of men in power preying on women, while many look the other way.

Every woman -- and every man -- deserves to work in a place where
all employees are respected for their talents and skills. The National
Organization for Women calls on CBS to recognize that Letterman's
behavior creates a toxic environment and to take action immediately to
rectify this situation. With just two women on CBS' Board of Directors, we're not holding our breath.

The National Organization for Women (NOW) is the largest organization of feminist activists in the United States. NOW has 500,000 contributing members and 550 chapters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.