Leno says he was asked to leave ‘Tonight’ show
CHICAGO (AP) – Jay Leno told talk show host Oprah Winfrey he was “devastated” when NBC executives asked him to leave “The Tonight Show” in 2004 because they wanted to give the program to Conan O’Brien.
Leno told Winfrey on Thursday’s episode of her talk show that he told “a white lie on the air” when he said he was going to retire because he assumed he would find another job in show business.
He says the experience “was pretty shocking.”
NBC has now unseated O’Brien from “Tonight” and moved Leno back to the program he had hosted for 17 years. Leno is scheduled to return to “Tonight” on March 1.
Leno told Winfrey that he “felt really bad” for O’Brien and he thinks what happened to him is “unfair.”
Leno also says he has “regrets” that the situation wasn’t handled better – but he isn’t sure what he could have done differently.
Harpo Productions has asked O’Brien to appear on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” but an appearance hasn’t been confirmed.