Since the widely received documentary, “Framing Britney Spears,” the media’s sexism towards women in Hollywood has been put under a magnifying glass. The documentary has prompted other incidents of sexism in the media era to resurface. Many celebrities who were once the victims of unhinged media obsession are finally getting recognition for what they endured. One apology that the internet believes is long overdue is that of the esteemed late-night host, David Letterman.
Paris Hilton directly responded to her resurfaced interview with the late-night host in 2007 in her podcast “This is Paris.” The socialite who appeared on the show to promote her perfume was roped into talking about her experience in jail after a parole violation. This was a subject that the host agreed not to discuss.
Despite this, Letterman bluntly asked Hilton about her experience. Almost immediately after taking the stage, Letterman asked “How did you like being in jail?” In her podcast, Hilton recalled being humiliated, even asking the comedian during commercial breaks to stop talking about her jail time.
“You promised me you wouldn’t talk about this and that’s the only reason I agreed to come on the show,” she remembered saying. Letterman would agree but continue to press the matter when the cameras started rolling again.
“It was just very cruel and very mean,” Hilton said. “And after it ended I looked at him and I said, ‘I’m never coming on the show again. You’ve crossed the line.'”
A 2013 interview between Letterman and Lindsay Lohan has been circulating on Twitter and TikTok for similar reasons. In the interview, Lohan revealed the date she was set to enter rehab and Letterman took that as an opportunity to relentlessly probe the actress even deeper.
“What are they rehabbing? What is on their list? What are they going to work on when you walk through the door?” Letterman asked as the audience laughed.
“You can’t make a joke of it, that’s so mean,” the actress responded.
At the end of the interview, Letterman tries to backtrack his remarks by applauding Lohan for being a good sport about his comments, causing Lohan to cry. Twitter users noted that this was deceiving and that his comments at the end of the segment were merely manipulation.
“It’s not often that you speak truth to power and power responds, “Oops, sorry.” Still, copping to one’s failings after getting caught is kind of Dave’s signature move,” said Nell Scovel. Scovel, a former Late Night with Letterman writer, accused Letterman of sexual favoritism in her viral 2009 story “Letterman and Me.”
The media has come a long way since the highly publicized rise and fall of the young women in Hollywood. Media outlets have been coming forward to apologize for their treatment of Britney Spears, whose experience embodied everything about the intensity of this era. Media outlets like The New York Times and US Weekly are among many stepping forward to apologize to the star for the part they played in the mistreatment depicted in the documentary. The phrase “Sorry, Britney” is spreading on social media.
Jen Peros, a former Us Weekly editor who started as a reporter for Us Weekly in 2006 and ultimately became editor-in-chief, believes that with a decade and a half of hindsight, the media would treat these young women differently now.
“Part of the evolution stems from the fact that these subjects are less stigmatized, but it’s also the result of journalists and editors understanding that aggressive media coverage would inevitably receive backlash now,” Peros said.