Sunday, October 18, 2009

Beware glass houses

To paraphrase an old cliché, if a person is going to criticize somebody else, he better make sure he has his own house in order.

Of course, the point of that saying is that it would epitomize hypocrisy if a person made fun of or criticized another person while doing the same thing. We all make mistakes, but ridiculing somebody while engaging in the same mistake they have made is just plain wrong.

David Letterman is a funny man, but recently, he found himself embroiled in a controversy that was not funny. He was the victim of an alleged extortion attempt. The person accused of the crime was arrested, but in the process, information about Letterman's personal life became big news.

The root of the extortion attempt was that if Letterman did not cough up $2 million then information about sexual relationships he had with members of his staff would be made public.

Of course, workplace sexual harassment has been a high-profile topic during the last couple of decades. Perhaps most famously, the topic became a prominent issue in the confirmation hearings of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

I won't re-hash all that information, but for those who remember, there were people mentioned in those hearings that I doubt will ever be mentioned again in the halls of Congress.

Since Letterman's personal information hit the news, he has been on the receiving end of scathing commentary from some who feel that it was inappropriate for him to have relationships with people on his staff. Couple this with the fact that he was in a long-term relationship with a woman that he eventually married during this time, and he is coming off looking really bad.

Boiling this down to a simple sex scandal is oversimplifying the topic. The ironic aspect of this is that Letterman has made his living for years ridiculing public officials who were caught in compromising positions.

During the final years of President Bill Clinton's administration, Letterman needled the president relentlessly after Clinton’s affair with intern Monica Lewinsky became public.

Of course, there are other examples of Letterman doing this. When South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford got caught going to Argentina to see his mistress, Sanford became cannon fodder for Letterman night after night.

The same goes for former New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer and others. Their mistakes were compounded because comedians like Letterman reminded the public of them every night.

How are these officials reacting to Letterman being caught in basically the same situation? It is tough to say because most of them have been tight lipped about the matter.

If they are chuckling to themselves, they are doing so in private.

The reaction of some organizations to Letterman's situation has been interesting. The National Organization of Women (NOW) came down hard on him. They criticized him because they viewed him as an example of a man in power using a workplace setting to engage in sexual relationships.

Of course, NOW is the same organization that remained almost completely silent when President Clinton had his relationship with an intern. I guess the organization's conviction about an issue depends on how it helps them politically.

The bottom line is Letterman's situation is a casebook example of how our words can make us look really bad if we get caught doing the very acts that we ridicule.

We all do this to a certain extent. We all have our dark side that has done things that we would hate for other people to know.

If nothing else, we should be grateful these things have never been exposed.


Mister Jimmy said...

David Letterman is only marginally funny. He and Bill Maher can't stop at poking fun, they have to mock, to humiliate and excoriate using language and material that is often abusive and vitriolic. And they don't stop at egregious acts on the part of their victims. Any little thing they don't like is fodder and they assume everyone else will fall in line.
Their pathetic attempts at humor often serve only to feed their oversized, puerile egos. They could learn a lesson from Craig Ferguson.
But that's just me.

Joltin' Django said...

What a shame it is that Norm Macdonald ain't on SNL right now to make light of Letterman's "troubles."

Dave's supposed sex tape ... what could ol' Norm do with THAT?!