David Letterman may have ticked off more than just his wife by revealing his indecent liaisons with "Late Show" staffers.
A new poll says that 29 percent of Americans are less likely to tune in to Letterman's shtick following his admission that he had affairs with woman who work for him.
The Rasmussen Reports telephone survey, however, found that five percent of those polled thought that the naughty misdeeds made them even more likely to watch the show, and 63 percent say their viewing decisions have been unaffected.
Dave's popularity ratings in general have also taken a hit. Forty-two percent of adults still have an at least "somewhat favorable" opinion of Letterman, according to the poll, but that's down 8 percent from just May. Forty-six percent of the people surveyed view him unfavorably.
Nevertheless, at lest for the short term, the off-camera shenanigans have brought big ratings for Letterman, who continues to air his dirty laundry on camera.
His apologies Monday night to his wife and staff netted big ratings for CBS. The Nielsen Co.'s overnight measurement of the nation's 56 biggest markets netted Letterman's "Late Show" on CBS a 4.2 rating — higher than anything in prime-time.
But Nielsen didn't immediately have an estimate Tuesday of the size of Letterman's audience. The overnight rating was slightly less than last Thursday's show, when 5.8 million people watched Letterman say he had been the victim of a $2 million blackmail threat that led him to reveal he had sex with staff members.
As Letterman mixed wisecracks with contrition on Monday's show, he said his wife, Regina Lasko, had been "horribly hurt by my behavior" and stated flat-out that those affairs "are in the past."
He vowed to repair his relationship with his wife, 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 ruefully.
Monday's show was the first Letterman had taped since Thursday. While he laced the show with references to the scandal, only one other late-night host, Craig Ferguson, made any reference to it. Jay Leno, Jimmy Fallon and NBC's "Saturday Night Live" had all made jokes in earlier shows, but everyone but Ferguson avoided the topic on their Monday night and Tuesday morning shows.
As host of the "Late Late Show," Ferguson follows Letterman's "Late Show." Letterman also is his boss, since Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants Inc., produces the "Late Late Show."
"The person you work for, the person you admire and respect, is caught in an embarrassing situation," said Ferguson. "And your job is to be funny about that, whilst trying to keep your own job."
"So this is my last show," he joked.
Ferguson did make light of the situation, joking that it had now been revealed how he got the job in the first place.
But Ferguson defended Letterman, calling him "the king of late-night television."
"If we are now holding late-night talk-show hosts to the same moral accountability as we hold politicians or clergymen, I'm out," said Ferguson. "I'm gone."
On the "Late Show," Letterman noted the cool fall weather, reporting, "It's chilly outside my house; chilly INSIDE my house." Then he cautioned the audience, "This is only phase one of the scandal. Phase two: Next week I go on 'Oprah' and sob."