Harris Katleman, former president of Twentieth Television, said that he regretted the critical comments he made to CNN about her before learning that she had lost her job.
"I don't want to kick her when she's down," Katleman said. "She lost a son to AIDS, her husband to cancer, and she had (breast) cancer herself. I feel badly for her."
"I always found her to be fair with me. I found that she uses pressure, but so does everyone in television," said Dick Guttman of the Beverly Hills public-relations agency Guttman & Pam. "This is a pretty competitive world, and people have to apply pressure."
NBC has not yet named a replacement for Kushnick, but the network expressed confidence in the triumvirate of Leno, producer Debbie Vickers and co-producer Bill Royce, a defector from "Arsenio Hall," to run the show. (Royce actually had quit on Friday over a dispute with Kushnick, and returned to the show only after she was fired.)
Leno, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, has remained curiously silent throughout the proceedings.
"Jay called me personally (Sunday night) to apologize," Kragen said. "He was very nice. He said, 'I just want you to know I had nothing to do with this. I feel real bad.' I told him, 'I never heard anything negative about you.' "
NBC was somewhat taken aback when Leno issued his statement Monday in support of Kushnick.
"Obviously, Jay felt compelled to publicly support someone who is and has been personally important to him," said Sue Binford, NBC's vice president of corporate and media relations. "Notwithstanding that, Jay has expressed to us his continued commitment to 'The Tonight Show.' "
A source close to Leno, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, "The image of Jay has been significantly hurt. Jay's been hurt by all of it. He's been hurt by her (Kushnick's) attitude toward Johnny Carson. That's not Jay's attitude, that's hers. Although he is very close to her personally, this is very difficult for him. In his own way he's happy about it."