NBC Exec: Conan, Letterman “Chicken-Hearted,” “Gutless” In Attacks On Leno

NBC Universal Sports chairman Dick Ebersol — fed up Thursday after a week of hearing Jay Leno ripped by his late night peers — called Conan O’Brien and David Letterman “chicken-hearted and gutless to blame a guy you couldn’t beat in the ratings.”

“What this is really all about,” Ebersol told the NY Times, “is an astounding failure by Conan… we bet on the wrong guy.”

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Ebersol said O’Brien didn’t make the necessary adjustments — in particularly, how to appeal to audiences in the Midwest — NBC brass advised him to, three weeks prior to switching from his longtime 12:35 p.m. EST slot to the Tonight Show.

“I like Conan enormously personally,” Ebersol said, “[but] he was just stubborn about not being willing to broaden the appeal of his show.”

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Ebersol, a confidante of NBC head Jeff Zucker, insinuated O’Brien is not taking responsibility for his seven-month slide in the ratings.

“Jeff and I are big boys — when we do something big in the public forum and it doesn’t succeed, we know we’ll be the butt of criticism — but you don’t personally attack someone who hasn’t done anything,” he said, referring to Leno.

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