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Letterman tells Winfrey of affairs, depression, Leno

Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman in November at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.MICHAEL CONROY/Associated Press

PASADENA, Calif. — Three years after an extortion scandal that led him to bare his infidelities, David Letterman said he sees a psychiatrist once a week to try to be the person that he believed he was.

The late-night talk-show host gave an extraordinary interview to Oprah Winfrey in which he talked about his feuds with her and Jay Leno, and about his efforts to make amends for his affairs with ‘‘Late Show’’ staff members that became public in 2009.

‘‘For a long time I thought I was a decent guy,’’ Letterman said. ‘‘But yet, thinking I was a decent guy, I was still capable of behavior that wasn’t coincidental to leading a decent life. That’s what I’m working on. I want to really be the person I believe that I was. I wanna be a good person.’’


The interview aired Sunday on Winfrey’s OWN network and will be repeated Jan. 20. It was recorded in November.

Letterman said his wife, Regina, has forgiven him, and he tries every day to regain her trust. He said he still hasn’t forgiven himself.

Letterman said he went through depression that he described as a sinkhole that he thought he wouldn’t come out of. But with medication, he said, he pulled through and told Winfrey he now has compassion for others who have gone through depression.

Details of the affairs emerged after a television producer threatened to unveil them if Letterman didn’t give him money. The producer was later jailed for four months.

Letterman took control of the story by coming clean about his affairs on his show before the details came out.

Winfrey interviewed Letterman for ‘‘Oprah’s Next Chapter’’ at Ball State University, in Muncie, Ind., after being interviewed publicly by Letterman before students at the CBS comic’s alma mater. They cleared the air on their own feud, which fueled Letterman’s comedy for years.


Despite Letterman’s often withering comments about his NBC rival Leno, he said they were friends before Leno was picked over Letterman to be ‘‘Tonight’’ show host. Letterman believes they are still friends.

‘‘He is the funniest guy I’ve ever known,’’ Letterman said. ‘‘Just flat out, if you go to see him do his nightclub act, just the funniest, the smartest, a wonderful observationalist and very appealing as a comic. Therefore, the fact that he is also maybe the most insecure person I have ever known . . . I could never reconcile that.’’

Letterman said some of the trash-talking between the two is simply the way comics often act toward one another. Bruce Bobbins, a Leno spokesman, said Monday that Leno had no comment on Letterman’s interview.