David Letterman apologized on the air Monday to his wife, Regina, for his revelation last week of his sexual relationships with staff members, saying she had been “horribly hurt” and adding, “I’ve got my work cut out for me” to mend the relationship.
Mr. Letterman made the remarks at the start of the taping of his Monday night show on CBS . They were his first public comments since last Thursday when he revealed details of an apparent extortion attempt tied to sexual relationships with his staff members.
The comedian also apologized to his staff, saying, “I’m terribly sorry that I put the staff in that position.” He labeled his mistake as inadvertent because “I just wasn’t thinking ahead.” He thanked the staff for being supportive and for “putting up with something stupid I’ve gotten myself involved in.”
In his monologue, a rueful Mr. Letterman told several jokes related to the incident and the critical reaction to it.
“I got into my car this morning,” Mr. Letterman said, “and even the navigation lady wasn’t speaking to me.”
Though Mr. Letterman said last Thursday that he hoped not to have to make any further comment on the incident, the details of his relationships, especially with a personal assistant, and his future at CBS have continued to be the subject of intense media scrutiny.
Last week, some of his staff members suggested that Regina Lasko, Mr. Letterman’s wife, might make a statement of support. But that did not take place. Monday night Mr. Letterman said, “When something happens like that, if you hurt a person and it’s your responsibility, you try to fix it. And at that point, there’s only two things that can happen: either you’re going to make some progress and get it fixed, or you’re going to fall short and perhaps not get it fixed.”
Meanwhile, Gerald Shargel, the lawyer for the man accused of the extortion attempt, asserted that he would put forward evidence that Mr. Letterman had engaged in sexual harassment of his staff members.
Mr. Shargel, representing Robert Joel Halderman, said in a telephone interview on Monday, “I do have evidence of that. I’ll be sharing that in a courtroom.”
Mr. Shargel, who also made a round of television appearances on Monday, said of Mr. Letterman, “He had a relationship with my client’s girlfriend.”
One of Mr. Letterman’s assistants, Stephanie Birkitt, has been identified as Mr. Halderman’s former girlfriend, as well as one of the women whom Mr. Letterman was referring to when he admitted to sexual relationships with some women on his staff.
“I’m allowed to introduce evidence that’s relevant to my client’s state of mind,” Mr. Shargel said.
Some criminal lawyers said on Monday that issue would most likely be a contentious point before a trial, and a judge could rule the specifics of Mr. Letterman’s behavior irrelevant to the charge of extortion.
“It is wholly irrelevant and goes to no issue in the case at all,” said Thomas Curran, a criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor. “This is just a defense attorney throwng a self-serving bomb and he admits it’s based on no evidence at all.”
But the lawyers also said that the risk that such details could be brought out in court might be enough to compel Mr. Letterman to ask the district attorney to look for ways to avoid a trial.
“It could foreseeably be admissible,” said Gerald Lefcourt, a defense lawyer with experience in both criminal and celebrity cases. He said the court could decide to hear the defendant’s explanation that he intended to write a true story in a screenplay and went to Mr. Letterman to see if he would pay to avoid that.
Mr. Lefcourt predicted that the case would end up being decided in a plea bargain before a trial. “And I would argue that it should be,” Mr. Lefcourt said. He said that the district attorney often takes a victim’s wishes into consideration, and that in this case Mr. Letterman would probably prefer not to have the details made public.
“From the D.A.’s point of view, he has done everything right,” Mr. Lefcourt said of Mr. Letterman.
As for Mr. Halderman, Mr. Lefcourt said, “Wouldn’t this fellow rather resolve it than spend five years in prison?”
Mr. Shargel did not mention the sexual harassment accusation in television interviews on Monday, but on NBC he said that Mr. Halderman, who is known as Joe, is not an extortionist, despite the charge against him.
“Joe Halderman is a person with an impeccable reputation, highly regarded in the industry, and he is entitled to the presumption of innocence.” Mr. Halderman is a CBS News producer assigned to the program “48 Hours Mystery.”
In the telephone interview on Monday afternoon, Mr. Shargel said that he felt prompted to appear on TV because the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, had “so embraced Letterman’s story.”
“I just wanted to say, essentially, don’t rush to judgment,” Mr. Shargel said. “The public is not getting the full story from David Letterman.”
On NBC’s “Today” show, Mr. Shargel said that Mr. Letterman already had a big opportunity to tell his side of the story.
“He’s a master at manipulating audiences,” Mr. Shargel said.