David Letterman Says He Was Left Out of Decision That Made Stephen Colbert His Replacement

Departing “Late Show” host says he wouldn’t have minded a black person, a woman or Jon Stewart as his successor

David Letterman, who’s preparing to exit CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” after more than two decades as host, wasn’t consulted by the network when it decided to tap former “Colbert Report” host Stephen Colbert as a replacement, Letterman told The New York Times in an interview published Wednesday.

“No. Not my show,” Letterman told the Times, when asked if he was involved in the choice. “When we sign off, we’re out of business with CBS.”

Letterman admitted that the decision bothered him initially, but he’s since made peace with his exclusion from the process.

“Just as a courtesy, maybe somebody would say: ‘You know, we’re kicking around some names. Do you have any thoughts here?'” Letterman reflected. “But it doesn’t bother me now. At the time, I had made the decision [to leave] and I thought, O.K., this is what comes when you make this decision.”

As for who Letterman would have suggested as a replacement, the 68-year-old host offered Colbert’s former “Comedy Central” colleague Jon Stewart, who’s since made his own decision to depart “The Daily Show.”

“I always thought Jon Stewart would have been a good choice. And then Stephen,” Letterman suggested.

Letterman then┬átouched on a topic that’s plagued late-night programming: the lack of diversity among its hosts.

“And then I thought, well, maybe this will be a good opportunity to put a black person on, and it would be a good opportunity to put a woman on,” Letterman offered. “Because there are certainly a lot of very funny women that have television shows everywhere. So that would have made sense to me as well.”

Letterman, who announced his decision to depart “The Late Show” last April, will sign off as host with his final episode on May 20. Colbert will come aboard Sept. 8.

In the Times interview, Letterman also dismissed the notion that he was edged out of the late-night game by the rises of “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon and ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel.

“No, they didn’t push me out. I’m 68. If I was 38, I’d probably still be wanting to do the show,” Letterman posited. “When [former ‘Tonight Show’ host] Jay [Leno] 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.”