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David Letterman faces fresh scrutiny over old interviews with female stars

Rachel McGrath
·5-min read
LAS VEGAS - APRIL 9: In her first interview anywhere since November 2012, actress Lindsay Lohan talks about her upcoming trip to rehab, her guest star roles in the series
Lindsay Lohan appearing on The Late Show With David Letterman in April 2013 (Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS via Getty)

David Letterman is facing fresh scrutiny and criticism online over a number of his previous interviews with female celebrities.

The US television host fronted his own talk show for over 30 years before signing a deal with Netflix, which has seen him present a programme for the streaming service since 2018.

In the wake of the New York Times’ much talked-about Britney Spears documentary, Twitter users have been reexamining the treatment Spears and other famous women previously faced, sharing past interviews featuring various stars and hosts.

Among them is a 1998 interview with Jennifer Aniston who, at that point, was four years into her time playing Rachel Green in Friends.

Actress Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, stars of the new romantic comedy
Jennifer Aniston and her Object Of My Affection co-star Paul Rudd in April 1998. (Reuters)

Aniston was appearing on Letterman’s show to promote the film Object Of My Affection and recalled an incident which saw fans recognise her in a spa steam room.

In the clip, which has been shared widely on Twitter, Letterman moves towards to the star, places one hand on her shoulder and pokes his tongue out as he edges nearer to her face.

Aniston shrieks: “What are you doing?”, before Letterman catches a strand of her hair in his mouth.

Read more: The Britney Spears doc looks at the star’s conservatorship — and whether she’ll ever get out of it

When he returns to his seat, he offers her a tissue to wipe her hair clean.

Posting the clip online, one fan called the moment “creepy and disgusting”.

Others added:

Another resurfaced video shows Letterman interviewing Lindsay Lohan in 2013.

In it, he grills a seemingly blindsided Lohan about addiction and her well-documented rehab stays.

A Twitter user, who shared the clip, labelled it “horrifying”:

One reply reads: "This is vile on so many levels. The misogyny. The blindsiding. The stigma of addiction & rehab.

“The hypocrisy of wanting people to recover, but then judging how they choose do so. I hope Lindsay Lohan knows how loved she is. The world has treated her and many others so unfairly.”

A third clip which has attracted attention sees Letterman interview Paris Hilton in 2007. In the months before her appearance on his show, Hilton had spent 23 days in jail after violating her probation on a driving offence.

Watch: David Letterman slammed for 'gross' Lindsay Lohan interview

Read more: Britney Spears says people don’t know her real story amid doc uproar

After a few cursory questions about other aspects of her personal life, the host turns his attention to the heiress’s jail time, asking: “Looking back on that experience, what have you learned? What can you tell us? What’s different about you, going forward – as you look back?”

“Obviously, it was a very traumatic experience, but I did it, so I feel like I can do anything now,” she said.

Letterman continued asking questions on the theme, prompting Hilton to say: “But I’ve moved on with my life so I don’t really want to talk about it anymore.”

“This is where you and I are different, because this is all I want to talk about,” he replied.

FILE - Paris Hilton speaks during the YouTube TCA 2020 Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. on Jan. 18, 2020. Hilton says she “finally feels free” after discussing her time at a Utah boarding school as a teenager. She opens up about her experience in a new documentary “This is Paris,” debuting for free on Sept. 14 on Hilton’s YouTube channel. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File)
Paris Hilton, pictured in January 2020, made numerous appearances on Letterman's show (Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)

The clip was shared on the popular Instagram account literally.iconic, with a caption which explained: “Here is Paris Hilton and David Letterman, she came there to promote her newest fragrance but he thought this bullying and character assassination would be better for his show.”

The Instagram video has so far been viewed over 66,000 times.

“How did I never realize how bad he is!!! Paris did not deserve this,” reads one comment.

“I know that society and media was MUCH different 10+ years ago, but I don't think it should be swept under the rug,” says another. “I can't speak for anyone, but I'm sure a lot of these female celebs who were bullied and harassed for years and years are still emotionally affected by it. They are human beings. Thank you for posting this!” [sic]

Letterman is yet to publicly address the fresh criticism. Yahoo UK has contacted his representative for comment.

Framing Britney Spears received its UK debut earlier this week. The film was aired on Sky Documentaries and instantly became the channel’s most-watched premiere ever with over 200,000 people tuning in.

It remains available to watch on Now TV.

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