Letterman's Use of CBS News Feed Causes Internal Controversy

After being canceled on by John McCain, CBS late night talk show host David Letterman lit into the GOP presidential candidate in a ten-minute rant on Wednesday's show.

Letterman had originally been scheduled to host McCain on his program but the Arizona senator canceled at the last minute. Letterman claimed McCain had said he was needed back in Washington to help with economic negotiations. He then cut to a live feed from CBS News which showed McCain being made-up for an appearance on Katie Couric's "Evening News."

How the left-leaning comedian got access to that feed has provoked some controversy within CBS with one news division executive saying that had Letterman had that stunt pulled on him, someone would have been fired for it.

Asked if CBS officials had a problem with Letterman using the internal news feed, a spokeswoman for "The Evening News" refused to address the issue.

But several CBS News executives - who asked not to be identified - said that the stunt did not go down well within the news division.

"If we had done something like that to him, someone around here would end up getting fired," one said.

News officials found out Letterman was using the internal feed shortly after it showed up on an internal CBS feed carrying the "Late Show" taping.

"They were pretty aggravated," a CBS News source told The Post.

"But they were not about to start a fight with Letterman," the source said. "We're in the middle of a heavy, heavy news cycle and Letterman is Letterman.

"He does whatever he wants and always has."

Paradoxically, even though his featured guest was leftist Keith Olbermann (see Brent Baker's summary of that segment), Letterman's rant was by far the most vituperative segment of the show. 

Reached after the blowup a McCain spokeswoman said the senator "felt this wasn't a night for comedy," but could it really be that to McCain getting on Couric's "Evening News" actually was a better idea from a ratings standpoint?

Despite the fact that Couric's show is a distant third in the nightly news race, she's still pulling down much better numbers than Letterman who earlier this summer finished with a 0.9 rating in adults 18-49, the lowest ever in the history of his program.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013