The outgoing “Late Show” host denied the suggestion that he felt like younger latenight personalities Jimmys Fallon and Kimmel pushed him out of his job, but confessed that being aware of his age made him feel out of place.
“I’m 68,” he said. “If I was 38, I’d probably still be wanting to do the show. When Jay was on, I felt like Jay and I are contemporaries. Every time he would get a show at 11:30, he would succeed smartly. And so I thought, This is still viable — an older guy in a suit. And then he left, and I suddenly was surrounded by the Jimmys.”
Still, Stephen Colbert was named Letterman’s replacement only a week after he announced his retirement — a decision-making process Letterman was not part of.
“Just as a courtesy, maybe somebody would say: “You know, we’re kicking around some names. Do you have any thoughts here?” But it doesn’t bother me now. At the time, I had made the decision [to leave] and I thought, OK, this is what comes when you make this decision,” Letterman said.
This isn’t to say that he wasn’t fearful of losing his job before — particularly after the 2009 scandal that erupted when he announced that someone was blackmailing him with threats of revealing that he’d slept with some of his female staff members.
“Looking at it now, yes, I think they would have had good reason to fire me. But at the time, I was largely ignorant as to what, really, I had done. It just seemed like, OK, well, here’s somebody who had an intimate relationship with somebody he shouldn’t have had an intimate relationship with. And I always said, “Well, who hasn’t?” to myself. But then, when I was able to see from the epicenter, the ripples, I thought, yeah, they could have fired me. But they didn’t. So I owe them that.”
When asked if he thought people were surprised at his candid attitude toward the scandal, Letterman simply replied: “I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t think of a really good lie.”