Over the course of 33 years in late-night television, David Letterman has become the most influential guy in the game, and one of the most beloved by both audiences and other celebrities (as the last few weeks of shows can attest). That doesn’t mean there haven’t been bumps along the way. In 33 years, you’re bound to anger a few people, and Dave has pissed off his fair share.
With Letterman set to air his final show this week, let’s reflect on 12 of his biggest feuds over the years, many of which also represent some of the show’s best moments and most significant associations.
To call this an outright feud would give entirely too much substance to Letterman’s feelings on Donald Trump, who Letterman simply doesn’t appear to like and thinks very little of. Still, he did call Trump a racist in 2011, though he would later apologize. Kind of, saying, “Maybe he’s not a racist. He’s just a guy who periodically says stupid things… he’s not a racist. He’s just a dope.” Trump has taken a few shots at Dave since then, and for a while refused to appear on The Late Show. Trump, however, did appear again earlier this year, and Letterman continued to make fun of him in a subtle enough way for Trump not to really notice.
This one was fairly well publicized, but back in 2009, Letterman suggested that Sarah Palin looked like a “slutty flight attendant,” and also joked that Palin’s daughter had been knocked up by Alex Rodriguez. Letterman did apologize to Palin the next week, after the National Organization of Women also called Letterman out. Palin nevertheless declined to appear on Letterman’s show when invited.
Kathy Griffin was banned from Letterman’s show for several years during the 1990s for excessive use of profanity. When Dave finally lifted the ban, how did Griffin repay him? By stripping off her dress on the show. She was not, however, banned for that (in fact, Griffin appeared on the show earlier this year).