US talk show host Jay Leno has apologised for joking about actor Ryan Phillippe’s first role as a gay teen. He made the remarks in an on-air interview with Phillippe on The Tonight Show on March 19.

The men were talking about Phillippe’s acting break on the soap One Life to Live in which he played US daytime television’s first gay teen character.

Phillippe became irritated when Leno urged him to turn to the camera and give viewers his “gayest look.” Leno continued to goad him on, leading to the actor threatening to leave.

“We are proud of Ryan for refusing to participate in Leno’s thoughtless attempt at humour,” said Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) President Neil G. Giuliano at the time.

“Under the guise of comedy, the talk show host is demonstrating a lack of respect for the gay community and insensitivity to both his co-workers and the audience, to whom he owes an apology.”

On Tuesday, Leno finally issued a statement apologising for his remark: “In talking about Ryan’s first role, I realise that what I said came out wrong. I certainly didn’t mean any malice. I agree it was a dumb thing to say, and I apologise.”

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