Now Scovell has written a devastating piece about Letterman’s recent conversation (on his Netflix series) with Tina Fey in which he shrugs his shoulders and offers no excuse for not hiring more women (or any people of color, for that matter), just the lame claim, “I don’t know.” Like Scovell’s book, it’s a great read, with one of the best quotes of the year from Merrill Markoe:
After only two sentences, we’ve learned that from Letterman’s standpoint, the problem of not hiring women is both (1) unsolvable and (2) not that big a deal. Still, “people” kept forcing him to consider the issue and, after giving it a lot of thought, he’s come up with this insight: “I don’t know.” Letterman’s a smart guy so this strikes me as him playing dumb. It’s possible he’s trying to throw doubts on the legitimacy of the entire topic or simply distance himself from the “oversight.” This seems disingenuous, since he had the power to choose his writers. (Before I was hired, I was called in to meet with Letterman and get his approval.) To me, he looks like the kid whose face is smeared with chocolate and has “no idea” what happened to the last cupcake.
Next he claims, “I didn’t know why there weren’t women writers” and here’s where it gets weird. Earlier in the interview, Letterman notes that Fey was the first female head writer of Saturday Night Live, but technically the first female head writer in late-night variety was Merrill Markoe who co-created Late Night with her then-boyfriend, Letterman. (Fun fact: the show’s writing staff won Emmy awards every year until Markoe left the show in 1987. After that, Late Night never won another Emmy for writing.) Did Letterman forget about Markoe? This seems to go beyond memory lapse into disinformation. I emailed Markoe, a friend, and asked her why she thinks she may have slipped Letterman’s mind. She wrote back, “Because we were having sex, maybe he remembers me as an intern.”