The clip got renewed attention as other past Letterman interviews – with Jennifer Aniston and Lindsay Lohan – were also revisited by social media users.
The overall conversation came as part of an ongoing, wider reckoning about how celebrities are treated by the public and the media, in the wake of the release of the Framing Britney Spears documentary.
Hilton visited the set of The Late Show with David Letterman in September 2007. In May of that year, she’d been sentenced to 45 days in county jail after a judge found that she had violated her probation after a previous driving offence. The sentence was later shortened to 23 days, and Hilton was released in June 2007.
During his sit-down with Hilton, Letterman began with a couple questions about life in New York City and Los Angeles before shifting gears, asking her: “How did you like being in jail?” – eliciting laughter from the audience.
“Um, not too much,” Hilton replied.
“Was it horrible?” Letterman asked among other follow-ups, which also included: “Looking back on that experience, what have you learned? What can you tell us? What’s different about you, going forward – as you look back?”
“Obviously, it was a very traumatic experience, but I did it, so I feel like I can do anything now,” Hilton replied.
Letterman pressed her on the quality of the food, asking if it was “just awful”, to which Hilton replied: “It’s not supposed to be good, it’s jail.”
The exchange continued with Letterman asking Hilton whether her friends had “treated you differently since you’ve been out of the slammer”.
“People think that I was really strong that I went through it,” Hilton told him, adding: “But I’ve moved on with my life so I don’t really want to talk about it anymore.”
Letterman told her in response: “This is where you and I are different, because this is all I want to talk about.” When he asked her if she “made any friends” while in jail, Hilton answered: “I’m not answering any more questions about it. I’m here for my clothing and my movie and my perfume. I’m not here to talk about that. I’ve moved on.”
The conversation carried on in a similar way, with Hilton eventually telling Letterman: “Now you’re making me sad that I came [on the show], because you’re hurting my feelings.”
Letterman eventually moved on to other topics, asking Hilton about her professional projects.
A clip from the interview was recently shared on the Instagram account literally.iconic, where it has been viewed more than 63,000 times. A caption on top of the video denounces the interview as “just bullying and disgusting”.
“Since the #FramingBritneySpears doc I’ve been thinking about other older interviews with female celebrities where they got bullied, harassed and made fun of on national TV by men who got away with it too easily, while these women had to deal with life time problems,” reads the accompanying post. “Here is Paris Hilton and David Letterman, she came there to promote her newest fragrance but he thought this bullying and character assassination would be better for his show.”
Other Instagram users agreed in the comments section, saying Hilton “deserved better” and deeming the interview “cringy”.
The interview has also been criticised on Twitter, where people have shared it in response to discussions about Letterman’s sit-down with Lindsay Lohan and other guests.
Letterman apologised to Hilton in a later appearance on his show in 2008, acknowledging he had “offended” her and “felt horrible” about it. “I’m terribly sorry,” he said. “How did you feel? What did I do? You didn’t want to talk about [it] but I kept pressing you on it, didn’t I?”
“Yes,” Hilton said, “and you better not try doing it again. I hope you got the whole jail thing out of your system.”
The Independent has contacted Letterman’s representative for comment.