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    April 05, 2008

    Leno unapologizes to Ryan Phillippe

    Posted by: Chris

    Jay Leno is trying his best to have it both ways in the flap over whether he was gay-baiting actor Ryan Phillippe during a "Tonight Show" interview.

    Leno had noted Phillippe's conservative Baptist upbringing and his first role, playing a gay teen on the soap "One Life to Live." Then Leno tried to be funny -- always a risky move on his part, if you ask me -- and said, "Give us your gayest look."  Phillippe responded, "That is so something I don't want to do. Are you just going to embarrass me tonight, or ... ?"

    Here's the clip:

    That led to a handslap from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation for Leno's "misguided use of adolescent humor" and kudos for Phillippe from GLAAD director Neil Giuliano for refusing to take the bait.

    Leno dutifully apologized by press release, insisting, "In talking about Ryan's first role, I realize that what I said came out wrong. I certainly didn't mean any malice. I agree it was a dumb thing to say, and I apologize."

    Came out wrong? Hard to see how he was misunderstood and within days, Leno was unfiltered and unapologizing (listen here), whining about "political correctness" and the rigors of being a comic today. After all, he claims to have gay guests all the time and he never makes fun of their relationships. (I'll bet "some of his best friends are gay," too, and he invites them over for dinner and everything.)

    Woe is Jay.

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    Comments

    1. Andrés Duque on Apr 5, 2008 9:54:20 PM:

      What's weird is that while the catalyst for the apology might have been GLAAD stepping in, most of the pressure actually came from a cheeky website set up by Melissa McEwan and Jeff Whitty at www.mygayestlook.com which went up immediately after the show was aired.

      Sure, there is a limit on how many ways you can make flipping the bird interesting, but it certainly played a role in the initial semi-apology and I am surprised that the site has hardly been mentioned in any of the articles about this.

    1. queerunity on Apr 5, 2008 11:13:18 PM:

      i wouldnt be too hard on leno, he apologized and owned up to his words and thats all id ask of him. he has won awards for being pro-gay in the past and im sure he will come back to his senses.

      http://www.queersunited.blogspot.com

    1. Amicus on Apr 6, 2008 5:13:33 PM:

      Ledger and Gyenhall took a lot of ribbing for their roles (didn't Jake turn it to his advantage on GMA or something).

      I wonder if Phillip hadn't been caught so off guard, if he might have had a better response (as in, "what on earth is a 'gay look', Jay'?).

      As it was, Leno had him on the defensive from the start. It played out like he was putting him through a ringer for having accepted a gay role and that kind of chilling affect is probably something to resist.

    1. Amicus on Apr 6, 2008 5:15:51 PM:

      er, "Phillip" = "Phillippe"

    1. Scott on Apr 7, 2008 9:53:52 AM:

      The perils of being a straight male comic. Give me a f*ckin' break! Gay people are the only group he regularly makes fun of.

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    1. Matt on Apr 8, 2008 10:42:21 PM:

      The fact that talentless hack beats Letterman on any night of the week, much less all of the time, is a sad commentary on America. Howard Stern got a far more interesting and, yes, respectful interview out of Phillippe. (Oh, but my God, how he is hot.) And as GLAAD says, props for not rising to the (gay)bait.

      Listen how stilted and scripted all of Leno's set-ups are based on the producer's pre-interview. How does he even have a career in television?

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