With his departure from NBC’s “Tonight Show” approaching, Jay Leno isn’t holding back. The comedian is making headlines after his Monday night interview with his guest, “Today’s” Meredith Vieira, in which he compared the upcoming Sochi Olympics to Nazi Germany because of Russia’s anti-gay law.
In the interview, Vieira began by saying that she and the “Today” team had “mixed feelings” about covering the event because of “the stuff going on in Russia with [President Vladimir] Putin and the anti-gay legislation.” At the end of the back-and-forth discussions, they opted to cover the games after they decided the Olympics are about the athletes. Though Vieira did mention that she hopes people continue to demonstrate in protest. Leno, however, took the discussion one stronger step further with a controversial comparison.
“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,’” Leno said. “It makes me uncomfortable.” Germany hosted the Olympic Games in 1936.
In 2011, NBC agreed to pay approximately $4 billion to the International Olympic Committee for exclusive broadcasting rights for the 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020 Olympics. It was the most expensive television rights deal in Olympic history.
Next year NBC will promote Jimmy Fallon as Leno’s “Tonight Show” successor. But with potential backlash about Russia’s anti-gay laws, the network is facing the risk of making viewers “uncomfortable.”