Mike Fleming

The ongoing dispute between Howard Stern and Jay Leno got a new injection of bad blood when Stern acknowledged on his SiriusXM radio show that an NBC executive (where Stern moonlights as an America’s Got Talent judge) asked him to refrain from Jaybashing. The first thing that comes to mind is: did these NBC execs never listen to Stern’s radio rants on Leno before paying him somewhere around $17 million a year and moving that talent show from Los Angeles to New Jersey to accommodate his radio schedule?

Stern’s bad feelings about Leno go back to the time that the latter hired away Stern staffer “Stuttering” John Melendez without asking Stern if it was okay. Since then, the bashing has been relentless, particularly after Conan O’Brien was given the Tonight Show and was undercut by a Leno moved to prime time, which was a disaster that contributed to Jeff Zucker losing his job at NBC. Stern and all of the rival late night hosts, including David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel have all been vocal in their dislike over the way Leno handled things (though I never understood why nobody gave O’Brien the same kind of grief when, after taking an NBC buyout in the $30 million range, took the TBS job when George Lopez moved his chat show time slot to accommodate O’Brien, with Lopez’s show getting scrapped not long after). While the press is filling in the dog days of summer with speculation that Stern might not return to AGT or that NBC won’t want him, this seems a bit silly. Stern’s a good judge on that show, he seems to like it, and his humorous rapport with Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne is more fun to watch then most of the wannabes they are judging. It is impossible to imagine NBC would expect to throw a muzzle on Stern. While Stern has embraced some former enemies like Rosie O’Donnell and Chevy Chase on his own terms, he needs a few punching bags for his radio show and Leno will likely continue to be one until Stern retires. And any suggestion he stop talking is waving a red cape in front of a bull. Here’s a tape of Stern’s response, but don’t listen with the kiddies around because it’s uncensored: