It is the yet-to-emerge details that will determine just how ugly David Letterman's sexual liaisons and extortion situation will get. Letterman's humor-infused speech about the matter during
his show was impressive -- turning his studio audience into unwitting shills, their every round of applause reinforcing a sense of support. But it's ultimately not in his control.
TMZ and its ilk are leaving no bone untouched; and they have already turned up particulars of his affairs. If all of these relationships turn out to be consensual with women of appropriate ages who will not speak ill of the man, it will keep Letterman's reputation unsullied. But anything inappropriate or any photos or video could be potential career killers.
The greatest unknown is Letterman's wife, Regina Lasko, who is largely offstage. A divorce announcement could be devastating. In any case, Letterman's actions will serve as a national litmus test for sexual mores. Indeed, the only people sweating more than the comic himself are his writers, stuck with "crafting punchlines that tiptoe around the fault lines of their boss's new persona."