David Letterman, days after revealing on air that he'd been sexually involved with women from his television program, apologized to his wife on Monday's "Late Show," saying she had been "horribly hurt by my behavior."
The late-night host, building on Thursday's startling confessional in a potential seminal moment in his storied career, vowed to repair his relationship with his wife, Regina Lasko, whom he married in March after a years-long courtship.
"Let me tell you folks, I got my work cut out for me," he said, according to an early transcript of the program released by CBS.
Monday's show was the first Letterman had taped since Thursday, when he disclosed that he had had sexual relationships with women who worked for him and said that he had been the victim of a $2 million blackmail threat. During the hour, he also apologized to his staff.
"Inadvertently, I just wasn't thinking ahead," Letterman said. "My thanks to the staff for, once again, putting up with something stupid I've gotten myself involved in."
Letterman, 62, began dating Lasko in 1986, and they have a son, Harry, who was born in November 2003. All the affairs took place before Letterman's marriage, said Tom Keaney, spokesman for Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants.
Letterman arrived on stage Monday to applause and cheers from his studio audience. After drinking it in, he grinned sheepishly and inquired, with a mock stammer, "Did your, did your weekend just fly by?"
After pausing for the audience's sympathetic laughter, he went on: "I mean, I'll be honest with you folks — right now, I would give anything to be hiking on the Appalachian Trail."
"I got into the car this morning," he added, "and the navigation lady wasn't speaking to me. Ouch."
In a more somber display, Letterman voiced his mea culpas. Regarding his wife, he said that, "if you hurt a person and it's your responsibility, you try to fix it."
As Letterman faced Monday's show, and the shows that will come after, it was clear that how he deals with his messy situation could prove to be a defining chapter in his long TV career. And, with any luck, it could clinch his recent ratings victory in late-night TV.
While Letterman has joked about his affairs with female staffers, it's unclear how many women he had sex with, and he has offered no specifics.
But the CBS producer accused of blackmailing Letterman used pages from a former assistant's diary that described an affair with the "Late Show" host, a law enforcement official said Monday. The ex-assistant, Stephanie Birkitt, went to live with CBS News producer Robert Halderman, who found her diary describing her relationship with Letterman and used it to help blackmail him, the law enforcement official said Monday on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
Halderman, a producer for the true-crime show "48 Hours Mystery," pleaded not guilty last week to extortion charges.
The flood of attention on Letterman was inevitable, and the way he initially dealt with this maelstrom recalled an embarrassing dilemma for another star in 1995.
For a celebrity the caliber of Hugh Grant, publicity — including speculation of career suicide — was unavoidable when he was arrested with a prostitute on Hollywood's Sunset Strip 14 years ago. But then he retreated to NBC's "The Tonight Show" to try to explain.
Host Jay Leno wasted no time before asking an instant classic of a question: "What the hell were you thinking?!"
Grant's appearance provided him with some needed image rehab. It also vaulted ratings runner-up "Tonight" past Letterman's "Late Show," a leadership position Leno held through his retirement from late night earlier this year.
Since then, Letterman has reclaimed a ratings edge over new "Tonight" host Conan O'Brien.