In a new interview with the Wall Street Journal, the star recalled the moment that the long-standing talk show host broke her heart and left her feeling “uncomfortable” as she admitted that she “didn’t know how to handle” the situation.
“I did not have a good time,” she said of the 13-year-old TV appearance.
And revealing exactly what Letterman had done to evoke this response, Maya continued: “He said my name wrong, and I just sat there, like, I grew up my whole life in love with you.”
“And now my heart is broken. And I’m sitting here embarrassed and humiliated. I didn’t know how to handle it,” she added. “I didn’t know how to come up with something funny to say. My public persona muscle wasn’t strong yet.”
The actor and comedian went on to acknowledge that more than a decade after the incident she has “gotten much better,” before explaining to the WSJ: “When I’m uncomfortable, I try to be funny.”
In a clip from the 2009 interview, Letterman can be seen introducing Maya by calling her a “talented actress.” He then tells the audience: “Please welcome the lovely Amaya Rudolph, ladies and gentlemen.”
While some viewers thought that he’d just stumbled over a filler word and said “uh, Maya Rudolph,” Letterman himself acknowledged the blunder during Maya’s interview.
“I’m sorry that I mispronounced your name,” he told her. “I’m just a boob, there’s no excuse for it and from the bottom of my heart I sincerely apologize.”
Maya softly replied at the time: “Thank you, Dave.”
And while Letterman has a reputation for putting his guests in uncomfortable situations, it was widely argued that this was not one of those times. And after reviewing the footage, many people were confused as to why Maya was bringing the seemingly inconsequential incident up all these years later.
“I don't get the Maya Rudolph Letterman story. In the clip, he seems to say her name right, and then he apologizes profusely. Why was she humiliated?” one person asked on Twitter.
“So #davidletterman mispronounced @MayaRudolph’s name decades ago (and apologized on air at the time, btw) and all this time later she’s dragging him through the mud saying he humiliated her?!!! Really?!?!” someone else wrote.
“That's it, @MayaRudolph ?” another tweeted. “I love you dearly but this seems a bit minor or am I totally missing something?”
Others called Maya “fragile” and thin-skinned after reading her latest comments, with one person tagging her as they tweeted: “So David Letterman mispronounced your name and that left you feeling humiliated and embarrassed? Are you for real? You obviously haven’t experienced true humiliation or embarrassment to have such thin skin. Kindly get over yourself.”
“Maya Rudolph just gave the oddest interview where 13 years ago David Letterman said her name wrong and she said it wrecked, embarrassed, and humiliated her, and broke her heart. A bit much?” another user added.
“How fragile is Maya Rudolph?” one more asked. A fourth echoed: “Someone saying your name wrong broke your heart? Damn girl.”
Maya has not publicly responded to the backlash, and BuzzFeed News has contacted her rep for comment. Letterman’s rep previously declined to comment on Maya’s interview.
Although the jury's still out on Letterman's treatment of Maya in this particular scenario, he actually has a long history of putting famous women in uncomfortable situations on his show.
Among multiple other instances, Letterman has been criticized for a 2013 interview with Lindsay Lohan where he repeatedly probed her about her arrest for shoplifting and spell in rehab.