The second female writer ever hired said women advanced their careers by sleeping with superiors

By Michael Y. Park
October 27, 2009 07:00 PM
Greg Allen/Rex USA

A former female writer for David Letterman has provided a behind-the-scenes portrait of the show that is anything but funny.

In an essay published on the Vanity Fair Web site, Nell Scovell, who worked for Late Night with David Letterman for five months in 1990, says that, though she wasn’t personally hit on by Letterman, the sexual shenanigans at the show eventually caused her to leave.

“I walked away from my dream job,” she says. “I’d seen enough to know that I was not going to thrive professionally in that workplace. And although there were various reasons for that, sexual politics did play a major part.”

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According to Scovell, Letterman was only one of a number of men who engaged in liaisons with female staffers, and often gifted their lovers with superior work perquisites.

Felt Demeaned

“Was I aware that other high-level male employees were having sexual relationships with female staffers? Yes,” she writes. “Did these female staffers have access to information and wield power disproportionate to their job titles? Yes. Did that create a hostile work environment? Yes. Did I believe these female staffers were benefiting professionally from their personal relationships? Yes. Did that make me feel demeaned? Completely.”

It got so bad that Scovell turned down an offer to continue working at the show – but couldn’t say anything to Letterman, now 62.

“On my last day at Late Night, Dave summoned me to his office and pressed me on why I was quitting the show. I considered telling him the truth, but with Dave’s rumored mistress within earshot, I balked,” she says.

Boys’ Club

But Scovell lays the blame not just at Letterman’s show but at a boys-only attitude at all late-night shows.

“Now, I don t want a lawsuit. I don t want compensation,” she says. “I just want Dave to hire some qualified female writers and then treat them with respect. And that goes for Jay and Conan, too.”

A spokesman for CBS declined to comment.

Gerald Shargel, attorney for Joe Halderman, who has been charged with attempted grand larceny in an alleged $2 million extortion plot against Letterman, says: “Why should I comment on this when the piece so eloquently says what I ve been saying from the beginning – that there is evidence of sexual harassment at the show.