"He went and took that show back and I think in a similar situation, if roles had been reversed, I know — I know me, I wouldn't have done that," O'Brien says in a 60 Minutes interview airing Sunday at 7/6c on CBS. "If I had surrendered The Tonight Show and handed it over to somebody publicly and wished them well — and then ... six months later. But that's me, you know. Everyone's got their own, you know, way of doing things."
O'Brien, 47, left NBC in late January as part of a $45 million deal that reinstated Leno as Tonight host in March, following the failure of The Jay Leno Show in prime time. O'Brien says if he had been in Leno's shoes, he would have left the network. "Done something else, go someplace else," O'Brien tells 60 Minutes' Steve Kroft. "I mean, that's just me."
After deciding to put Leno back in late night, NBC originally asked O'Brien to move The Tonight Show back 30 minutes so that Leno could return to his longtime 11:35/10:35c post. O'Brien says he chose to leave the network rather than make room for Leno because he felt his relationship with NBC had already deteriorated beyond repair.
"I think this relationship is going be toxic and maybe we just need to go our separate ways," he tells Kroft. "That's really how it felt to me ... and I started to feel that I'm not sure these people even really want me here ... I can't do it [anymore]."
O'Brien's rep denied reports that Max Weinberg and O'Brien would be parting ways, noting that plans for the TBS show are just getting started. Former bandmate Al Kooper suggested to City Pages that Weinberg had been let go.
Neither O'Brien nor Weinberg have publicly commented on their future working relationship. A month before The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien ended, Weinberg premiered The Max Weinberg Big Band, and his official website says more tour dates will be announced.
Weinberg's rep declined to comment.