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Leno denounces NBC’s decision on Lawrence

Comic Martin Lawrence issued a statement Monday falling just short of an apology regarding his Feb. 19 “Saturday Night Live” monologue, which prompted NBC to cancel his upcoming appearance on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” (Daily Variety, Feb. 28).

Leno, meanwhile, spoke out publicly against the decision, saying he strongly objected to the action of withdrawing Lawrence’s booking in meetings with network officials Friday and again Monday morning.

“I feel as if I’ve let somebody down,” Leno said, adding that the situation — in terms of the network dictating booking policy — was “an isolated incident” due to affiliates’ overwhelmingly negative response to Lawrence’s material.

Leno noted that Lawrence had been on the show before without any problems and that he didn’t anticipate any regarding the previously scheduled March 9 date. “I mean, he’s on TV every week,” the host said, referring to Lawrence’s sitcom, “Martin.”

Through a spokeswoman, Lawrence said of his “SNL” guest-host stint, “It was not my intent to insult anyone nor single anyone out. I am not a malicious person. I am a comedian who lives to make people laugh, and I enjoy finding humor in everyday life.”

NBC reiterated that the web felt it was “inappropriate to have Lawrence appear on any of the network’s shows at this time.”

Lawrence’s comments on “SNL” included references to oral sex and John Wayne Bobbitt.

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