leno1000.jpgNot since the Helen Kushnick debacle 15 years ago when his manager crashed and burned as The Tonight Show‘s exec producer has Jay Leno taken such a terrible PR wallop as he did today. Today’s Drudge headline, misleadingly, says “Leno fires staff” when what happened is that about 120 of the show’s non-writing staffers today were laid off by NBC due to Leno’s refusal along with the rest of the Top 5 late night hosts to cross WGA picket lines (since they’re all guild members and supporting the writers). And everyone knows Jay was treated horribly by NBC which ordered him to leave in 2009 to make way for Conan — the result of yet another shake-up orchestrated by Jeff Zucker in a brutal way. Problem is, Leno looks like a shit for lotsa other reasons.

The worst is that news reports trumpeted that, just a couple of days after the WGA strike began November 5th, he assured staffers they didn’t have to worry because their paychecks would be safe. nbc-logo-rgb-pos2.jpgSo I was told many of the laid-off employees left NBC’s Burbank offices this morning in a sea of tears and expressing a sense of betrayal and wondering aloud “Where’s Jay?” (Along with some vocal muttering about the big bucks he spends on his famous car collection…) True, Jay’s Big Dog Productions only co-produces The Tonight Show whereas David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants owns The Late Show and The Late Late Show and is paying production staff. But today Conan O’Brien, whose company Conaco also doesn’t own Late Night, began picking up the tab for his show’s 80 employees which sure puts Leno in an awkward position since he hasn’t.  Especially since it’s so well known that Jay lives off his outside gigs and banks his Tonight Show salary.

It’s one thing to be angry at NBC and not want to help the network, yet quite another to not financially help The Tonight Show employees who helped make him No. 1 in the ratings pre-strike. Instead of doing it himself, Leno had his assistant notify the staff yesterday that they would get their Christmas bonus early. Well, big fucking deal. (One news report said the bonus is only $100 for each year worked.) I, for one, don’t understand why right now Leno isn’t front and center or making a statement or otherwise protecting his public image — especially if he exits NBC to jump-start Fox’s late night talk in 2009.

  1. Conan O’Brien To Pay Staff
  2. WGA Scolds Carson Daly For Returning ‘To Support Staff’ And Seeking Scab Jokes
  3. Letterman Confirms He’s Paying His Staff
  4. Dave Opens Own Wallet To Pay His Staff
  5. Tonight Show Returns With Guest Hosts After Leno’s Nonwriting Staff Laid Off
  6. Strike Forces Late Night TV Into Repeats
  7. Leno vs NBC: Last Night’s Latest Round…
  8. Is Leno Starting to Hint About His Future?