Published October 07, 2009
NEW YORK – The National Organization for Women has put David Letterman in its crosshairs.
NOW issued a strongly worded statement Tuesday night saying the late-night host created a "toxic environment" for his female employees by having sex with several young staff members over the years.
Letterman admitted to having multiple affairs last week after a CBS News producer allegedly threatened to blackmail him.
NOW President Terry O'Neill blasted the late-night funnyman, saying the affairs were classic examples of sexual harassment in the workplace.
"As 'the boss,' he is responsible for setting the tone for his entire workplace — and he did that with sex," O'Neill said. "This places all employees — including employees who happen to be women — in an awkward, confusing and demoralizing situation."
A powerful man with a public forum like Letterman, O'Neill said, can get away with turning women into sex objects because "he can crack a few jokes and publicly apologize for his mistakes."
"It is this kind of hypocrisy that perpetuates the image of men in power preying on women, while many look the other way," O'Neill said.
NOW urged CBS to take immediate action against Letterman for his lewd behavior — but so far, it has stopped short of calling on the network to drop his show.
"The National Organization for Women calls on CBS ... to take action immediately to rectify this situation," O'Neill said.
But, she added: "With just two women on CBS' board of directors, we're not holding our breath."
Also coming down hard against Letterman is celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, a women's rights activist whose California firm specializes in sexual harassment cases. She is urging Letterman's former and current employees to take him to court.
"I think the best way to get (the message) out to Letterman is to sue him," Allred told FOXNews.com.
Allred, known for her publicity stunts and representation of high-profile clients, paraded down a Hollywood movie premiere red carpet Tuesday night carrying an open letter she penned to the "Late Show" host that read in part, "David Letterman, Just Say No to Sex in Your Workplace."
She was coy when asked whether her involvement is an attempt to woo Letterman's staff members to hire her if they decide to sue the comedian.
"If somebody contacted me, I'd have to explore the facts," Allred told FOXNews.com.
Longtime CBS News producer Robert "Joe" Halderman, 51, was charged last week with trying to extort $2 million from Letterman in exchange for keeping silent about the affairs. Letterman has since apologized for his behavior to his wife, family, staff and fans on his show.
Founded in 1966, NOW has more than 500,000 contributing members in all 50 states, according to its Web site.
This isn't the first time the group has come out against Letterman and other celebrities for what it sees as offensive and sexist comments.
In June, NOW blasted Letterman for inappropriate jokes about Sarah Palin and her daughters, the oldest of whom got pregnant while in high school.
"Comedians in search of a laugh should really know better than to snicker about men having sex with teenage girls (or young women) less than half their age," NOW said then in a statement on its Web site. "The sexualization of girls and women in the media is reaching new lows these days."
NOW also pressured NBC and CBS to drop shock radio host Don Imus after he called Rutgers University women's basketball players "nappy-headed hos" in 2007. Ultimately, both networks did.