Once again, Jay Leno is not holding back on his way out the door at NBC. On Monday night, the departing Tonight Show host compared the upcoming Sochi Olympics to Nazi Germany due to Russia’s anti-gay law.
Leno started the topic by asking guest Meredith Vieira, who will help cover the Games with NBC’s Today team, if she was excited about the event. “I have mixed feelings, with all the stuff going on in Russia with [President Vladimir] Putin and the anti-gay legislation,” Vieira said. “There was a lot of debate, internally … at the end of the day it’s about the athletes. But I really hope that people demonstrate there.”
Then Leno took the chat to the strongest metaphorical level: “I don’t know how [Russia’s law is] different from — I mean, this is how it started in Nazi Germany — ‘Oh, the Jews, let’s put them over here,’” he said. “It makes me uncomfortable.” Germany hosted the Olympic Games in 1936.
NBC has spent billions for coverage rights to the Games, and next year will be used to help promote Leno’s Tonight Show successor Jimmy Fallon, who takes over the veteran series in February. Yet the network is facing potential public backlash during its typically upbeat Games coverage given Russia’s stance toward gays and lesbians — the last thing NBC wants is viewers to be “uncomfortable” with the thought of supporting its programming.