‘TONIGHT’ drops Ranks after slur

“The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” canceled a scheduled guest appearance tomorrow by Shabba Ranks because of anti-gay remarks recently made by the Grammy-winning reggae artist.

NBC confirmed that Ranks wouldn’t appear on the show, apparently after some gay crew members and the New York chapter of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation brought the remarks to the attention of the show’s producers.

A GLAAD spokesman said he was notified of the decision to scrub Ranks’ appearance by “Tonight” co-producer Bill Royce, who books all music acts for the show, after consultation between Leno, Royce, producer Debbie Vickers and musical director Branford Marsalis.

Ranks, who won a Grammy last week in the reggae category for his album “X-tra Naked,” appeared on British talkshow “The Word” and expressed support for a song by fellow reggae artist Buju Banton that advocates violence against gays.

Ranks said that the song was “most definitely right,” adding, “If you forfeit the laws of God Almighty, you deserve crucifixion.”

Rapper Marky Mark, appearing on the same show, also drew fire from GLAAD for failing to take issue with the singer.

GLAAD provides tape

GLAAD New York public affairs director Donald Suggs said he contacted staff of “The Tonight Show” on Friday when the organization heard about Ranks’ scheduled appearance and provided Royce with a videotape to verify the remarks made on the earlier talkshow.

An NBC spokeswoman stressed that the decision to cancel Ranks’ appearance wasn’t based on pressure from GLAAD but rather being apprised by the group and others associated with the show of the controversy surrounding the artist, calling the matter “a human rights issue.” Officials at Ranks’ label, Epic Records, couldn’t be reached for comment.

“Tonight” will replace Ranks with another unspecified musical act along with previously scheduled guest Michael Douglas. Tomorrow marks the final night of the Nielsen February ratings sweeps.

GLAAD’s current newsletter lauds Leno for his sensitivity to gay and lesbian concerns.

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