Jay Leno Clears The Air On Those Conan O'Brien Sabotage Rumors

Comedian Jay Leno's exit from the iconic "Tonight Show," which he hosted from 1992 to 2009 and again in 2010 until 2014, was not without controversy. Leno made an enemy of "The Late Show" host David Letterman when he took over the legendary show from Johnny Carson rather than NBC stalwart Letterman. Then, when he was due to step aside from his hosting duties and let then-host of "Late Night" Conan O'Brien move into his position, the late night wars erupted all over again. 

O'Brien hosted the long-running show for less than a year, until Leno returned, reportedly muscling O'Brien out of his own job. O'Brien wrote an open-letter about the negotiations with NBC, namely to move his time-slot past midnight, which as he put it, would dismantle the very premise of "The Tonight Show," per The Los Angeles Times.  It caused a huge controversy for late night fans and NBC alike, with many aligning with O'Brien. The term "Team Coco" gained popularity from this debacle, and the nickname stuck with O'Brien long after the late night wars were over.

Leno, for his part, has suffered the slings and arrows of suspicion over the past decade for his alleged involvement in sabotaging O'Brien's shot at the big chair. Leno has now set the record straight, and according to him, the series of events were out of his hands. 

Jay Leno says he didn't deliberately sabotage Conan O'Brien

Jay Leno stopped by Bill Maher's "Club Random" podcast on August 1, determined to say his piece on "The Tonight Show" controversy with Conan O'Brien, more than a decade after it all went down. Telling Maher he never intended to "deliberately sabotage" O'Brien's version of the show, he explained (per People), "That doesn't work. It doesn't work that way. You try and do the best you can and it didn't work." However, Leno noticeably didn't apologize for any hurt caused.

On the other hand, he did have an apology for another late night host, Jimmy Kimmel. Around the time of the O'Brien controversy, Leno says ABC approached him with a possible show deal, which would have pushed Kimmel's show to a later time slot, per Decider. Leno and Kimmel spoke about the deal, but Leno then ghosted him when it never materialized. "I think maybe he was hurt by that, and I apologized to him for that," Leno said.

Kimmel famously mocked Leno to his face after Leno had resumed his role as "The Tonight Show" host in a 2010 now-infamous interview. When Leno asked him, "What was the best prank you ever pulled?" Kimmel deadpanned, "I think the best prank I ever pulled was I told a guy that five years from now I'm going to give you my show, and then when the five years came, I gave it to him and then I took it back almost instantly."