Ex-Letterman writer claims hostile environment

October 28, 2009 7:59:59 AM PDT
A former writer for David Letterman said she quit his NBC talk show in part because of alleged sexual favoritism and a hostile work environment.

Nell Scovell, writing for Vanity Fair online Tuesday, said she had no intention of filing a lawsuit and wasn't seeking revenge.

"I wanted to shine a light on gender inequality in that particular workplace," Scovell, who went on to a successful Hollywood career, said in a telephone interview.

In the Vanity Fair article, Scovell said Letterman didn't "hit on her" during her roughly five-month stint with NBC's "Late Night with David Letterman" in 1990.

"Did he pay me enough extra attention that it was noted by another writer? Yes. Was I aware of rumors that Dave was having sexual relationships with female staffers? Yes," Scovell wrote.

Other high-level male employees were having sexual relationships with female staffers as well, she alleges, and the women gained professional benefits from those relationships.

"Did that make me feel demeaned? Completely. Did I say anything at the time? Sadly, no," wrote Scovell, whose credits include writing for the series "Coach" and "Monk" and creating "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch." She's also produced and directed.

Letterman, who moved to CBS in 1993 for "Late Show," has admitted to workplace affairs that led to an alleged blackmail plot.

Officials from Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants, Inc., declined to comment Tuesday on Scovell's article.

CBS News producer Robert J. "Joe" Halderman has pleaded not guilty to trying to extort $2 million from Letterman to keep some of the comedian's sexual affairs quiet.

Scovell wrote she doesn't intend to seek legal action. Instead, she said, she wants to call attention to the complete lack of women writers on all talk shows, whether hosted by Letterman or NBC's Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien.

"I don't want compensation. I don't want revenge. I don't want Dave to go down (oh, grow up, people). I just want Dave to hire some qualified female writers and then treat them with respect. And that goes for Jay and Conan, too," she wrote.

She quit Letterman's NBC show, Scovell wrote, because she saw "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."

When Letterman asked why she was leaving the New York-based show, she says she considered telling him the truth but balked because his "rumored mistress" was within earshot. Instead, Scovell writes, she told him she missed Los Angeles.

"You're welcome back anytime," Scovell recalls Letterman telling her.

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