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Fired ‘Tonight’ Producer Helen Kushnick Appears on ‘Donahue’

November 5, 1992

NEW YORK (AP) _ It was one thing to get fired as Jay Leno’s executive producer. But the negative press that has dogged Helen Kushnick since leaving the troubled ″Tonight Show″ in September has been worse, she said.

″They (NBC) didn’t have a right to portray me as some kind of a nut,″ said Kushnick, who gave the network a large share of the blame for her image as an unstable, ruthless powermonger.

During Wednesday’s taping of Phil Donahue’s talk show, Kushnick said she played by the same rules observed by her male counterparts in the entertainment industry.

That claim conflicts with accounts of a booking policy that banned artists from Leno’s couch who appeared on competing talk shows. But Kushnick told Donahue she had had no such policy, and denied widely published reports that she nixed country singer Travis Tritt after he appeared on the rival ″Arsenio.″

The ″Donahue″ episode is to air Friday.

Although insisting that Hollywood has a boys’ club mentality, Kushnick denied reports that she had filed a sex-discrimination lawsuit against her former employer. However, she left open the prospect of legal action, and spoke of meeting with an attorney.

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