Nell Scovell: David Letterman Played "Sexual Favorites," Fostered Sexist Environment

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In a new piece for Vanity Fair, Nell Scovell, a contributor to that magazine and former writer for David Letterman, makes damaging claims about the embattled host.

No, for once, there's no allegations of an affair. But she does say NBC's Late Night was a "hostile, sexually charged atmosphere" where "sexual politics" ruled the day.

Moreover, that played a role in why she eventually quit.

Nell Scovell spent five months working for Dave back in 1990. During that time, Dave and other high-level male employees were sleeping with female staff members.

One of those women was Holly Hester, although Scovell does not name anyone. Years later, Dave's affair with Stephanie Birkitt led to an extortion plot against him.

Scovell has no knowledge of the Stephanie Birkitt affair, but at NBC, she says Dave's favorite girls "benefitted professionally from their personal relationships."

David Letterman Photograph

Nell Scovell did not have an affair with David Letterman, nor was she harrassed by him. But she says he fostered an unprofessional work environment just the same.

She says he created an "atmosphere that is demeaning to women." "Did that make me feel demeaned? Completely. Did I say anything at the time? Sadly, no."

In 27 years, she notes that Late Night and Late Show have hired only seven female writers, and those women spent a total of just 17 years on staff combined.

On her last day, Letterman summoned her to his office and asked why she was quitting the show. With Dave’s rumored mistress within earshot, Scovell balked.

She is not seeking legal action of any kind but is speaking out for three reasons:

  1. People with no knowledge of the situation are weighing in.
  2. David Letterman himself opened this to a public discussion.
  3. Because of what she feels is a greater issue: That almost 20 years later, the situation for female writers in late-night-TV hasn’t improved.
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David Letterman hosts our favorite late-night talk show. His top 10 lists are always good for a laugh. In the summer of 2009, he got into... More »
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