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Paris Hilton recalls being ‘publicly humiliated’ by David Letterman, Sarah Silverman

Kerry Justich
·6 min read
Paris Hilton talks about suffering 'abuse' from the media as a young celebrity. (Photo: Getty Images)
Paris Hilton talks about suffering 'abuse' from the media as a young celebrity. (Photo: Getty Images)

Paris Hilton is speaking out about facing "abuse" from the media, explaining how David Letterman and Sarah Silverman used her 2007 jail sentence as a punchline.

"There’s no way that would happen today," the 40-year-old entrepreneur and media personality said during an episode of her podcast This is Paris. "It's such a different world today."

Still, while reflecting on the New York Times Presents documentary Framing Britney Spears, Hilton admitted that late-night television hosts and comedians had certain targets for their comedy back then, including herself, Spears and Jessica Simpson. Some of Hilton's worst experiences came right around her 2006 DUI arrest and subsequent jail time in 2007.

"So at this point, I hadn’t done an interview in months and months because I just didn’t want to talk about it. So Letterman kept calling my PR team to have me be on the show and we kept saying no. And then months later, I had a fragrance coming out and his team called again. And basically, my PR team made an agreement with him that that was off-limits and he would not discuss it and we would only be there to promote the perfume and my other business ventures," Hilton explained. "I felt like it was a safe place because I’d been going on Letterman for so many years and he’d always have fun with me and joke around but I thought he would keep his word on this and I was wrong."

The interview recently resurfaced on social media, as people have started to call attention to old interviews with young female celebrities and re-evaluating the way that many were mistreated by the media. With this one in particular, Hilton said that Letterman was "purposely trying to humiliate me."

"So there was not supposed to be one question [about jail time] and then he just kept pushing me and pushing me and I was just getting so uncomfortable and I was so upset," Hilton continued. "During commercial breaks, I would look at him like, 'Please stop doing this. You promised me you wouldn’t talk about this and that’s the only reason I agreed to come on the show. Please don’t bring it up again.' He’s like, 'Ok.' And then again, it’s just the whole audience, he was getting people to laugh. It was just very cruel and very mean. And then after it ended I just looked at him and said, 'I am never coming on this show again. You’ve crossed a line.'"

Hilton said that Letterman immediately made attempts to apologize to her by "sending letters, calling my team." Eventually, she ended up back on the show when she was promoting another perfume.

Someone Hilton hasn't spoken to since being targeted by the comedian before her 45-day sentence, however, is Silverman.

"What Sarah Silverman did was so disgusting and so cruel and mean," Hilton said of being roasted about her pending jail time while sitting in the audience of the MTV Awards, which Silverman was hosting, just hours before Hilton turned herself in.

"Just getting all dressed up, going there, I had made this commitment ... I was trying to be brave. Just to sit in the audience with [Silverman] just literally publicly humiliating me, being so mean, so cruel. I was sitting there wanting to die. I was trying to hold back my tears so hard, I had tears welling up in my eyes, I literally wanted to run out of the entire room but I was just trying to be strong and sit there. The whole audience is laughing," Hilton recalled. "[She] would not stop. It was so painful, especially what I was going through in my life to then have someone be so mean about it was really hard."

Hilton posted a clip of her podcast about Silverman's roast to her Instagram where she called it one of the "more traumatic experiences of my life."

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"I can take a joke, but being caught off-guard by a fellow female entertainer has stayed with me," Hilton captioned the post on Monday. "On the first day of Women's History Month, we should all be glad that comedy is moving on, and that the bar has been raised for the sake of today's young women in entertainment."

Silverman was recently called out for roasting Spears at the same MTV Awards, calling the singer's children "adorable mistakes" just after her performance. Although Silverman has yet to publicly apologize to either Hilton or Spears, the comedian did address the comments she made about the singer on Twitter.

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According to Us Weekly, Silverman also addressed the hurtful jokes just days after hosting.

"The joke that everyone was upset about — me calling the kids ‘adorable mistakes’ — was the most innocuous joke. It never occurred to me that would be deemed hurtful or over the line," she told the publication at the time. "I don’t want to get into feuds with girls half my age. I’m in it to be funny and not for the drama. It’s embarrassing."

In the podcast episode, Hilton went on to praise growing conversations around mental health and the #MeToo movement for the way that "women are now being respected," saying that people are "finally doing the right thing." And while she wouldn't wish the type of harassment that she faced at the hands of media on anyone, Hilton admitted that prior abuse is what helped her to deal with it.

"I think the only reason I was able to go through all of that and be so strong is because I had went through hell and back as a teenager being verbally, physically, emotionally and psychologically abused on a daily basis for almost two years of my life. So that was before I was famous, that was before I was anything. It was when I was developing as a young girl," Hilton explained, referring to her time at Provo Canyon School. "I think going through something like that, it just made me very strong, almost like I was used to it. Which is sad to think but I think if I hadn’t went through that, I don’t know where I would be at this point because that type of abuse... It’s literally abuse."

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