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Shales: NBC, Not Jay, Biggest Loser in Late Night

Pulitzer Prize – winning columnist weighs in Jay-Conan. Plus: the NY Daily News defends Leno

Tom Shales wasn’t a fan of Conan O’Brien when Coco first debuted. He’s clearly changed his mind.

Finally weighing in on LateNightCrisis2010, the Washington Post columnist today blasts NBC for "an absolute, utter absence of class" and argues the network — not Jay Leno — is the biggest villain in the matter.

That doesn’t mean Shales is happy with Leno’s behavior.

"Leno remains disingenuous to an intolerable extreme," Shales writes. "He’s always playing the injured puppy — the good-hearted lug in the blue-collar shirt who gets trampled over by the big guys…. Leno, whom pop polls show to be the man most widely considered the villain of the piece, proudly boasted of hiding in a closet at NBC in Burbank and listening in on an executive phone conversation when his fate was being decided back in 1992. Now in 2010, he still seems Machiavellian."

Shales saves his toughest words for NBC and its chief, Jeff Zucker.

Calling Dick Ebersol’s anti-Conan broadside last week "a tawdry move typical of the absolute, utter absence of class among current NBC brass," Shales describes Zucker as "the widely despised man at the top… who has made a ridiculous mess of NBC’s once inviolate franchise, as well as of prime time."

Read Shales’ whole column here.

Meanwhile, for those on Team Leno looking for some love, Richard Huff — the esteemed TV editor of the New York Daily News — argues this whole thing isn’t Leno’s fault in a column from yesterday