Jay Leno on Bill Cosby: ‘I Don’t Know Why It’s So Hard to Believe Women’

Jay Leno
Steve Snowden/Getty Images

MIAMI — Jay Leno left no doubt where he stands on the Bill Cosby controversy with his remarks during a Q&A session at the NATPE conference on Wednesday.

“I don’t know why it’s so hard to believe women,” Leno told comedian Tom Papa, who moderated the conversation. “You to go Saudi Arabia and you need two women to testify against a man. Here you need 25.”

Leno noted that the Cosby scandal was driven by a viral video made by comedian Hannibal Buress. He cited that as an example of how news and information is getting out unfiltered these days, which he said was a good thing.

Buress “made a flat-out statement that reverberated around the world,” Leno said. “On any other media that would have been edited. People are getting news unfiltered now.”

Leno had kind words for Jimmy Fallon and Larry Wilmore during the wide-ranging Q&A. He called Fallon’s “Tonight Show” excellent and a strong contrast to his approach. He’s been watching Wilmore’s debut on Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show” this week. “He brings a different perspective,” Leno said.

Leno also observed that “it’s a good time for female comedians right now” and said he was “disappointed there isn’t more diversity in latenight comedy.” He noted that Phyllis Diller would occasionally call to give him jokes during his 22-year run on “The Tonight Show.”

Leno told Papa he had no regrets or resentment over signing off — for good — last February. “You have to know when it’s time to move on,” he said.

Leno emphasized that he always made sure to have an active life outside of showbiz so that when the end came, he wasn’t crushed. His standup touring is a big part of what has kept him grounded. “I always had another trade that I kept in my back pocket,” he said. “Show business is like champagne. If you drink it every day you become an alcoholic.”

Reflecting on the ups and downs of his time at NBC, Leno said he never thought his ill-fated 10 p.m. variety show would work on NBC. “The idea behind the show was that we were never going to win in primetime but when reruns of (competing drama series) came along, we would do OK,” Leno said, adding that he never “wanted to have a show with my name on it.”

One of the reasons he agreed to do the 10 p.m. “Jay Leno Show” in 2009 was that NBC made two-year salary commitments to his entire “Tonight Show” staff. He asserted that the show was hurt by an industry boycott among some stars because the show was seen as taking away jobs from the scripted creative community.

Nowadays he feels like an outside observer to the showbiz rat-race. Asked if he had offers to do another talk show, Leno joked “Oh yeah, the phone’s ringing off the hook. ‘We’re looking for a 64-year-old worn-out comedian.’ “

Leno didn’t comment directly on the pending sign-off of his longtime rival David Letterman from latenight in May. But he drew a distinction between their career paths. “I was a comedian who was lucky enough to get a talk show,” Leno said. “Dave is a broadcaster who is also a comedian.”

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  1. veronica says:

    Gotta love Leno!

  2. cdhaskell says:

    Jay Leno make it sound like the women aren’t telling the truth since it have be years since the truth finally. Most people believe the worst.

  3. G M Wheatex says:

    Way to ramble. I thought this article was going to be about the Cosby scandal. Not. Nope. It’s about Leno.
    Never mind.

  4. Kay says:

    I have always loved Jay he has always been one of the most honest, human males in existence!
    OK, someone would either have to be brain dead or guilty of the same thing, to keep trying to believe that Cosby is innocent. You will notice that the women who worked around him, who say that he didn’t do anything to them, are not saying that he is such a great and honest man he wouldn’t do what he is accused of. They only say he did nothing to them. Huge difference. There aren’t women who worked with him standing up for him, the way they would if he was innocent. Too many women buy into the idea that the victim is to blame, just as the women who commit adultery are stoned, in the Middle east, they must do it alone because males are not stoned with them. Everything you have heard about blaming women for what men do is a LIE, LET IT GO! LET THE LIE GO!!!!.

  5. Scott Parkhurst says:

    All I know on the Cosby issue is this….He did in fact act at one time questionable on a movie set back in ’96 or ’97 to my sister. I saw it, I was there….We even had a couple of witness’s. But it was one of those things where you’re going “Did he just really say that?” And did he just really do that? But it was quite out of line to where it was reportable, but it was “weird”. So these women I strongly believe!

    • zyggie says:

      I read years ago that a young lady at a college campus complained about his inappropriate behavior. So, all of those women are not lying for money or attention. It will be interesting to see the final outcome. His acting abilities has nothing to do with him as a man in his personal life.

      We should keep that separate.

      There are a lot of actors and people out there who are living lies. Even with all the women coming out, this type of situation is hard to prove. Not saying it did not happen but, the time span, those who took monies at the time to keep quiet all kinds of scenarios are there that we still don’t know about.

      Do i think Cosby will come clean…NO….he has rationalized everything that took place and as old as he is, this may not be fully explained even after he passes.

  6. cdhaskell says:

    I believe the reason why no one don’t believe these women because they wait too long to bring the charge against Dr. Bill Cosby. Most people forget it just taken one woman who discover to be a liar make it hard for the rest of the real victim getting their story heard.

  7. Kevin says:

    “I don’t know why it’s so hard to believe women,”

    Is it so hard Jay? Clearly it isn’t that hard for you. Clearly it isn’t hard for the media in general.

    “You to go Saudi Arabia and you need two women to testify against a man. Here you need 25.”

    Of those twenty five, how many ever actually testified against Dr. Cosby? Far from needing twenty five, it would seem that while you may need two women to testify against a man in Saudi Arabia, you need only zero to testify against a him in America. Apparently they need only make decades old, unsubstantiated accusations here. I wonder how many men would need to made decades old, unsubstantiated rape accusations against, say, Hillary Clinton before celebrities and the media piled on her the way they are on Dr. Cosby?

  8. sandy says:

    I can’t believe these comment’s and how many miserable, old ,woman haters are still out there. I thought those days were pretty much over and men were smarter and more sophisticated nowadays. All these comedians that have come forward and know cosby s behavior [rapist, drugs woman] is common knowledge amongst them and other actors are men! Again_ men. So what’s your problem. Good for you leno_ not to many like you out there nowadays. You alway stood out and made most look cheap and common. Miss your show.

  9. Kevin says:

    Turns out Leno’s freak-show chin isn’t so abnormally huge after all. It’s actually just the right size for a
    two-faced piece of crap. How many times over the years as host of “The Tonight Show” has he gushingly
    introduced Bill Cosby as a living legend in the entertainment industry who played a big part in creating the
    standard for stand-up and TV comedy. And he also called him a longtime friend.
    Welcome to the trinity of spineless, hypocritical NBC butt boys who’ve also hosted “The Tonight Show”- with the only exceptions being Jack Parr and Steve Allen. First there was Johnny Carson who regularly made insinuating queer jokes about Wayne Newton until he nearly got his ass kicked. Then there was Jimmy Fallon who regularly made facelift-gone-way-wrong jokes about Bruce Jenner until he nearly got his ass kicked. Now we have Jay Leno using a post late-night, non-concert, industry schmoozing venue to cowardly ambush his so-called longtime friend out of nowhere by sickeningly making light of his misery and
    the sexual molestation of women, which sure as hell isn’t funny.
    Of course, I’m sure Leno could readily make Cosby his bitch in a fair fight-unless the old guy has some
    hidden crazy-ass kung fu skills. But what Leno really needs to keep in mind is before his just over two-
    decade run on “The Tonight Show” that he wasn’t much more than a middle of the road comedian whose
    appeal as a TV star was mediocre. And his profile in movies was less than squat. Does anybody even
    remember that cop buddy movie that he did with Pat Morita-much less the title of it? Nope, didn’t think so.
    Until I got wind of his utterly foul shiv-in-the-back remarks about Bill Cosby, I considered myself a definite
    fan of Jay Leno’s. Now I can truly appreciate why Howard Stern referred to him as a shill for stealing
    John Melendez from his radio show and Conan O’Brien for maintaining that he was just waiting in the
    wings to reascend the throne to higher than ever ratings when NBC pink-slipped him as short-lived host
    of “The Tonight Show”. Here’s hoping all of that bad karma will one day come back to kick Leno in his ass.

  10. DinoLarson says:

    It is a huge stretch of credibility to think that a high-profile man could somehow get away with 35 ‘rapes’ by drugging the ‘victims’ over, apparently, a couple of decades.

    Whats a far, far, far greater stretch is to believe that NOT 1 OF THESE WOMEN FILED CHARGES AT THE TIME OF THE SUPPOSED OCCURRENCE when SOME proof might have been gathered.
    Not 1.
    Not 1 of these 35 had incontrovertible proof at the time of the alleged ‘incident’.
    Now?
    Now all they have is a sympathetic liberal media and battalions of feminists.

    I think a penalty flag is in order.
    “Piling on”.

    • cdhaskell says:

      The 35 ladies wait too long before bring their crime to light. The law can’t touch him because the crime was way past the crime. Everyone is having a field day with this story. Taking to court will become a bigger joke and it will take forever for the case get finally settle.

  11. ralphswanson says:

    Women are already believed more readily then men are. We tend to believe popular celebrities more than strangers. The law requires that a person should be presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law after being the opportunity of a defense. Jay is pandering to feminists by claiming this is a women’s rights issue.

  12. Elissa Foster says:

    Wow! I have changed my impression of Jay Leno! You will have to decide if that is good or bad…..

  13. Robin says:

    Dear Variety,
    Please get a new copy editor. Can you see the typo in the following sentence:
    “You to go Saudi Arabia and you need two women to testify against a man. Here you need 25.”
    If you don’t, you should go to back school. ;)
    Sincerely,
    Robin

  14. JohnF says:

    Let me be the devil’s advocate and ask the question a different way .. why is it so hard to believe Mr. Cosby. Exactly what proof do you have that Mr. Cosby is guilty of every thing he has been accused of.

    This isn’t a courtroom, Mr. Leno. This is trial by public opinion, which I personally find abhorrent. There is no moderator or judge, no rules. It’s just people like you blathering about something with a minimal amount of facts, and no mechanism to cross-examine the accusers. There is no evidence that both parties can examine and refute or corroborate, only a bunch of busy-body public figures whose opinion isn’t any more valid than any other man or woman on the street,

    To your point about the 2 women v/s the 25 .. if you can find any two people that were present at any of the encounters that agree on what happened, please let us know. Until then, they are still just he-said-she-said incidents, with no legal merit. There have been no charges filed, no rape kits used, no one physically examined afterward. Evidently, at the time, they didn’t think it was worth the effort. Now that it’s a public free-for-all, everyone is piling on that has ever ‘felt funny’ around Mr. Cosby.

    With no facts supporting either case.

    If a friend of mine tells me that someone lied to them, I will consider it. If 25 friends tell me the same thing, I’ll be a bit more careful.

    But, until he lies to me, it’s just opinions. And I will refuse to treat someone any less civil until I have a good reason other than a bunch of busy-bodies.

    I will withhold any judgement of either side (you know .. it is possible to not completely believe any of them, or did that option escape you) until there are at least some facts that can be shown to be accurate, instead of only personal anecdotes.

    And I wish that you, and other public figures like yourself, would just shut up about something that you know absolutely nothing about, except what you have read in the media. We’ve read it too, and don’t need your help by piling on.

  15. bsrasmus says:

    You would only need one woman if she actually had evidence. Accusation is not evidence, even if there are 250 accusers.

  16. Julie says:

    I love Jay Leno. He’s my hero.

  17. Dean Chapman says:

    Leno is one of the few people on tv or screen I would like to meet. I would love for him to call me say he had a couple days to ride and come get on one of my bikes and do the Dragon .

  18. Rob91316 says:

    With a headliner like “I don’t know why it’s so hard to believe women,” Leno isn’t going to sway any of Cosby’s supporters to the other side. Anybody with half a brain knows that women ROUTINELY lie, manipulate, turn on the water-works at will, and engage in sundry other forms of emotional and/or material blackmail and subterfuge (including abuse of the legal system) to get what they want — often to the point of deluding themselves into believing their own fairy tales so that they can justify their unsultry behavior in their own minds.

    This is why women who cry “rape” and “sexual harassment” are put under harsh, intense scrutiny in our justice system — because so many of these types of claims are ultimately proven to be bogus. I work in the legal field and have long since lost count of the false sexual assault cases that have crossed my desk, usually filed by a vengeful woman who got dumped by a guy or by a money-grubbing gold digger out to extort a few bucks from a vulnerable, love-sick sugar daddy.

    As a consequence of this culture of manufactured victimization that women have perpetrated on society, many victims of REAL sexual assault do not come forward — because they prefer to forego getting justice for themselves, rather than be subjected to the further denigration and humiliation they will face in the courts in their pursuit of justice. But they have no one to blame for this unfortunate scenario than their fellow women-kind, whose centuries-long pattern of lying/scheming/vengeful/man-trapping/gold-digging ways have forced society as a whole to question everything that comes out of a woman’s mouth unless there is concrete, objective, substantiating evidence to back it up.

    Women are their own worst enemies — and there is not a day that goes by that I do not appreciate and embrace the beautiful blessing that has been bestowed upon me to have been born a gay man, which effectively insulates me from having to deal with the opposite gender B.S. that I constantly hear about from my heterosexual male friends and family members (further cemented by what I see on a daily basis in the media and in the work I do).

    If women want to be taken seriously, it is incumbent upon them to look in the mirror and effectuate change from within by ditching the self-entitled “victim” mentality they are so quick to latch onto every single time they don’t get their way. Grow up, ladies, and then maybe the Bill Cosbys of the world won’t be able to so easily get away with their sexual predation of women.

    • Karen T. says:

      Wow, hate women much?

    • veganjules1 says:

      Wow. Well put my friend.

    • Digital Jedi says:

      Okay. A few people are having a hard time seeing Cosby in any other light, than the one he’s been in for more than 4 decades. That’s understandable. That wasn’t an excuse for raging misogynists to go run to their side.

    • Yep all 29 of them. One big fucking massive conspiracy. Ever heard of Occam’s Razor? Google it. We have theory one; that 29 women are somehow all colluding and lying about RAPE or theory two; he did it.

      • Kevin says:

        While we’re tossing around worn out internet-argument one-shots why don’t you try Googling the ad populum fallacy. Yes, twenty nine women can all be lying about the same thing, and no, that doesn’t require a conspiracy on any of their parts.

    • NRelease says:

      Actually, you are wrong. Very wrong. Women are not believed in this day and age because men continue to be in power. If men would stop the mentality that women are objects, and stop looking at them as belonging to them, property, put on earth for their personal pleasure, ONLY then will women be heard and listened to. When men stop telling women what they can do with their reproductive organs. When men stop calling strong women bit*hes and applaud men when they do the same things. When men stop pointing at a woman and saying she must be on the r*g because she is upset over something stupid I did… ONLY then will women be believed.

      • Kevin says:

        “Women are not believed in this day and age because men continue to be in power.”

        Which explains why nobody believes these women and their unsubstantiated accusations, right? Why nobody is piling on the “I hate Cosby for being a rapist” bandwagon?

        These women were believed before they even spoke. That’s why “listen and believe” is such dangerous garbage.

    • GKN says:

      Because men don’t lie/scheme/seek revenge/entrap or gold-dig, Rob? Sounds like your attraction to men has gotten the better of you, and your judgement. No one ignores the fact that the type of women you describe exists, but whoa – that was one big spew of misogyny you just vomited forth. (All the fault of women, yes we know…)

  19. Chris says:

    Leno is one smart cookie. Knowing when to bow out–especially in comedy–is so essential to a happy and graceful afterlife. If only Bob Hope, Milton Berle and Jerry Lewis had understood that.

  20. Mark Wilson says:

    This is coming from the guy who hid in a closet to find out if he was getting the Tonight Show or Letterman. Not standing up for Cosby. I think there is enough smoke that something happened. I just think people forget about Jay. He stood up for his staff to get two years pay but when he came back and shafted Conan and his staff who was he thinking about?

  21. JUS says:

    I think it is very difficult to gauge a person’s’ personal motives, but under all of the the show biz hype, Jay Leno is a decent person I would like to know.

  22. Evie says:

    Jay has been married to a fine woman for a long time – he understands women and I applaud him for his very thoughtful comment!

  23. winomaster says:

    If you need to understand why Cosby is suddenly, at this late date, under a swarm of attacks, understand this: Cosby has not been shy of speaking candidly about the shortcomings of the black community. With the recent protests, some might say that Cosby is under attack to prompt him to keep his head down and his mouth shut.

  24. winomaster says:

    The attitude of society is based on a broad understanding of the nature of women. It’s unfortunate that women are too often not reliable in their statements, but what men and women alike realize is that this this represents a fact. I would suggest that womens’ unreliability is a factor of their more emotional nature. Another feature of womens’ nature is something that prision personell can confirm…women are more violent than men. Again, it is because they are more emotional.

    • mipling says:

      @winomaster: Fantastic; another boring, misogynistic neckbeard. Sorry your girlfriend broke up with you in the eighth grade, but it’s probably time to move on.

      Also, please explain to me how women are more violent, when 90%+ of violent crime is committed by men.

  25. tom 21 says:

    I don’t know, maybe ask the Duke University Lacrosse team of a few years ago….

    • mipling says:

      One case is not a reason to discount ALL victims’ stories, especially when 25 women have accused a single man. You are part of the problem.

  26. veganjules1 says:

    I believed all Cosby’s women until I saw how easy and knee-jerk it was for a woman I was in a tense situation with to fabricate ‘harassment’ and ‘stalking’ when NOTHING of the sort was occuring. So lets go for some EVIDENCE. I’m not going to believe accusations of anyone.

    • Dizzie says:

      How is someone supposed to produce evidence???? I have a stalker and no one believed me because he’s such a ‘nice guy’. He is an abusive a-hole! His mother is a psycho to boot. How do I prove that to protect myself? The only way to prove it is to know it’s going to happen and record it or something…but then people would want to know how you knew it was going to happen and blame the victim for setting up the abuser and/or violating privacy etc. So victims are screwed. He’s still stalking me, yes I reported him. The cop knew I wasn’t lying after talking to both of us and seeing the games he was playing (manipulating authority etc.) but what can they do? Nothing. I could get a restraining order or whatever but as my stalker says “a piece of paper won’t stop him.”…I’d like to know what evidence one could produce? SOME people may be liars, but not everyone is. Some legitimately need help. Abusers are good at playing the ‘victim’ making their true victims look like liars/the bad one. It’s hard to know right away who the liar is but over time it’s revealed. It’s sickening that people first victim blame with out evidence to the contrary but expect the victimized to magically produce proof of their victimization when most of it is probably emotional damage. I have no idea if these ladies were abused or not. I have NO evidence saying they weren’t so I have to be neutral. I’m not going to attack Bill NOR the ladies. Only they know the truth. It doesn’t matter what I think anyway as I wasn’t involved. The truth is the truth no matter who believes it or not. I HOPE that he didn’t do that crap…but if he did, he’s going to have to deal with the consequences.

      • veganjules1 says:

        Hi Dizzie. Continual annoyance is harassment legally, at least here in New York. Get an audio or video (hidden in some eye glasses?) recording device if you can afford one and speak with a good legal advisor or lawyer. If you can catch him in at least 2 consecutive cases of annoyance that would be enough to get a harassment order I believe, or more depending on the quality of evidence. In the past I’ve carried a recording device hidden in a pen when I believed someone was trying to falsify something against me (not sexual assault related). I lost the pen unfortunately. I’m very sorry you’re being harassed and threatened. Unfortunately. I’ve also found this, though I’m not saying it applies to your case at all. It’s just so difficult to tell, especially when people aren’t looking for the truth: http://ncfm.org/2009/01/issues/false-accusations/

    • mipling says:

      Your anecdotal “evidence” is no reason to discount victims, and that is frankly a disgusting mentality to assume. Just because you dealt with a terrible person doesn’t mean all women are liars out to make a profit. You also claim that it’s so “easy” for a woman to make these claims, but have you even seen how much these women’s names are being dragged through the mud? How about the fact that 97% of rapists don’t go to jail? Or even the millions of rape kits since the 1980s that it was recently revealed have never been tested. It’s not “easy” to make these claims at all; in fact, I would argue that it’s one of the most difficult decisions a person can make.

      • veganjules1 says:

        I don’t know what to say. It’s impossible for me to tell who is the victim. I guess we have to protect ourselves from predators and from being falsely accused because it happens on both sides. I am inclined to believe 35 people. But that not one of them filed at the time of the crime, come on. I’ve never been through the process, but why is it so hard?

  27. Dick Delson says:

    Cosby is a total jerk. My friend and client Robert Culp gave Cosby his break on the “I Spy” television series. At the time, no African-American had ever had a starring role on a TV series. Culp said he would not do the show unless Cosby was his co-star. Years later, Culp had a sudden heart attack and died in L.A. I arranged a tribute for him at the Director’s Guild theater on Sunset Blvd. Cosby at first refused to attend, but was pressured into attending. While speaker after speaker got up to talk about Culp, Cosby sat across from me in silence. I don’t know if he did the things all the women accused him of doing, but I do know he’s an ingrate

  28. wayne klein says:

    Here’s the deal doubters: Most of these women have no legal case against Cosby so why would they lie? Why is it that women are always the liars when it comes to rape charges?

  29. Bill says:

    I can hardly wait until Leno is accsused of something of which he cannot prove his innocence but yet for which he has never been arrested nor charged let alone convicted.

    • JakeJ says:

      When a couple dozen women accuse him of the same thing that occurred over decades, then he can start worrying about it. I’m sure he’s not losing sleep over the possibility.

  30. Jerome Almon says:

    Soon to be released VIDEO will prove these women are LYING-it is stunning as these cases-

    The reason it is so difficult to believe women in THIS situation is that:
    -Janice Dickinson is lying according to HER own autobiography
    -False rape charges against Dallas Cowboys Michael Irving, Eric Williams, rapper DMX, NBA stars Chris Webber 7 Juwan Howard, football player Brian Banks, NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly’s son, false charges against Seattle Seahawk Mashaun Lynch

    -Susan Smith, Tawana Brawley

    And let’s not forge the fact that this COULD NOT happen WOULD NOT happen as stated-it is IMPOSSIBLE

    • JakeJ says:

      And how many of the people you listed were accused by DOZENS of women? Over the course of decades? I know, ZERO. Cosby has been paying these women off for a long time and knew how to arrange it so they’d have no proof of his crimes. He’s no doubt intelligent but he counted on them not having the power to take him on. But with numbers, he’s finally being exposed.

    • mipling says:

      Oh yes, because some football players were falsely accused *definitely* means these women are lying. That isn’t at all a ridiculous leap of “logic” to take.

      Anecdotal “evidence” means nothing. Sure, some people lie about these things (less than 8% of all accusations, if you were wondering), but do you really think it’s that far-fetched that some famous men would abuse their power with rape and violence? For every football player you name who was falsely accused, I can probably name another who actually was found to participate in rape, domestic violence, etc. Considering the statute of limitations is up for a lot of Cosby’s victims, these women have absolutely nothing to gain from accusing him.

  31. bsbarnes says:

    Thank you, Jay Leno, for your perspective on Bill Cosby. If Jay Leno and Bill Maher both agree that something is rotten is Cosbytown, I believe that Bill is going down for the count.

  32. Lisa says:

    You need two women for every man in Saudi Arabia, here you need 25 women, but where’s the man? Maybe Leno can be that man because it looks like no other man is stepping up to defend the women.

  33. ChokeValve says:

    Jay Leno’s skill set is so solid. I laugh that he tries to play the “worn out” comedian line straight. No one else out there has the smoothness of experience. I used to think Letterman was cool – about 20 years ago. Now he’s just such a rich jerk.

    • JakeJ says:

      He was worn out by the 90s. Compare how edgy and creative he was on his appearances on Letterman in the 80s to the predictable hack he became on The Tonight Show and it’s like a different person. Yes, he became “smooth” but it was depressing for anyone to watch who knew how brilliant he once was. He got his ratings, but he showed more than anyone that there is absolutely no correlation between ratings and quality.

  34. Bob C. says:

    Class act, that Leno! Except when he was still hosting his show he got regular haircuts. In this shot, he looks like a white-haired Anne Ramsey in “Throw Momma from the Train.”

  35. cdhaskell says:

    Bill Cosby look and sound like father of the years. The ladies sound like they waited until it is too late to bring up what he did to them. The police can’t charge him with anything. The ladies should sues him but it will take forever to get justice.

    • Simon C. says:

      I admire Leno’s perspective. He is a realist who knows who he is; hard to come by in the biz.

      • jhs39 says:

        He studiously avoided controversy on The Tonight Show until he had an end date–then he finally loosened up when addressing controversial subject matter.

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