WGA maintains hard line on Leno



UPDATED 9:20 p.m. PT Jan. 4

The WGA is contemplating disciplinary action against "The Tonight Show" host Jay Leno over allegations that he writes some of his material for the show.

"It's premature to speculate what action will be taken in this case," WGA West assistant executive director Jeff Hermanson said Friday.

"We have a constitutionally mandated procedure for dealing with allegations of violation of strike rules, and we don't comment on allegations that have been made but not yet proven."

Hermanson declined comment if Leno is currently being investigated, citing WGA's policy.

In response, NBC issued a statement late Friday: "It is unfortunate that the WGA is contemplating plans to 'investigate' Jay's authorship of his 'Tonight Show' monologue. The WGA agreement clearly permits Jay to create and perform his own monologue. The enforcement of strike rules against Jay in these circumstances would violate the federal labor laws."

The WGA's accusations were ignited by Leno's monologue on his first night back Wednesday, which he admitted on the show he had written.

Reps for WGA West on Thursday met with Leno "to clarify to him that writing for 'The Tonight Show' constitutes a violation of the guild's strike rules."

NBC jumped to Leno's defense, claiming that the host is legally allowed to write his monologue.

The conflict took another turn when word leaked out Thursday about a Dec. 31 meeting between Leno and WGAW president and former "Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" writer Patric Verrone and other WGA members, where Leno reportedly informed them that he would perform a monologue and didn't face objections.

Sources close to the talk show host had said that at the meeting, "the WGA said they were going to give him a pass because of his support for the strike."

That wasn't the case, according to Hermanson, who also was at the meeting. He calls the scuffle between Leno and the WGA "a misunderstanding," claiming that the guild members present at the meeting assumed that Leno's monologues would be ad-libbed, not written.

Leno's subsequent monologues are now being examined for signs whether they were prepared or improvised.

What writing duties late-night show hosts can perform during a writers strike has been the subject of debate.

The WGA has been adamant that, under its strike rules, hosts like Leno, who is a WGA member, cannot perform any "writing services" for their shows, including penning their own monologues.

Meanwhile, NBC has claimed that the hosts are exempt and are within their legal rights to write monologues according to WGA's 2004 collective bargaining agreement.

Hermanson on Friday accused the network of instigating a fight between the WGA and longtime member Leno.

"They're putting him in the middle," he said.

Additionally on Friday, SAG president Alan Rosenberg issued a statement urging guild members to boycott "Tonight Show," NBC's "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" and ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

"We urge our members to appear on the two programs that have independent agreements with the WGA, 'The Late Show With David Letterman' and 'Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson'," he wrote. "However, actors who are asked to appear on the struck network talk shows will have to cross WGA picket lines," something SAG is advising them against.

The three late-night shows without writers have struggled to book actors as guests. As a result, Leno and Kimmel, who both have been reportedly unhappy with the WGA's demand that they don't write their monologues, will appear on each other's shows Thursday. Additionally, on Monday, "Tonight Show" will feature presidential candidate Ron Paul.