NEW YORK – Jay Leno is ripping David Letterman in their decade-long feud over late-night supremacy.
"You'd think after all this time, it would be, 'Oh, well, he's successful, I'm successful, everybody is rich beyond their wildest dreams,' " Leno tells the April 13 issue of TV Guide, on newsstands Monday.
"I don't know why there has to be such animosity. It just seems odd to me."
The Leno-Letterman feud began in 1993, when NBC chose Leno to succeed Johnny Carson as host of the Tonight Show — snubbing Letterman, who jumped to CBS to establish The Late Show.
"Two guys went up for a job, and one guy got it . . . It wasn't my decision," says Leno.
"I didn't screw anybody out of anything."
Letterman was beating Leno in the ratings early on, but it didn't last long — for the past seven years, Leno has averaged about 2 million more viewers a night than Letterman.
Leno tells TV Guide that, while he often praises Letterman, he hears nothing but negative comments from Dave's camp.
"You'll never get a, 'Yeah, they did a pretty good show last week,' or, 'That was a pretty funny joke,' " Leno says of the Late Night staff.
"Plenty of times, I'll say, 'Oh, Dave had a funny thing last night,' or, 'He had so-and-so on last night, and he was really good with them.' "
But there's a reason for the hostility, says Letterman confidant Rob Burnett.
"We'd be more inclined to praise Jay if we didn't hear from people that, privately, he bad-mouths us at every turn," said Burnett, president of Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants.
Leno responds, "If there is any proof that I've said anything derogatory about them — in print or anywhere else — I'll certainly be the first to apologize."
Leno also comments sarcastically on the recent drama surrounding Letterman, who almost jumped to ABC — claiming he wasn't getting enough ratings support from CBS's prime-time schedule.
"The only reason we're doing well is because of this unbelievable, nonstop, 24-hour-a-day promotion that NBC does [for The Tonight Show]," he snips.
Leno, who's paid a reported $17 million per year, also says he doesn't mind making much less money than Letterman — who'll snag about $31.5 million per year under his new CBS deal.
"I take a certain perverse pleasure in doing more shows per year [than Letterman], for probably half of the money Dave makes — and the show is more profitable," Leno says.
"I don't know why it gets so nasty — I mean, I am very grateful to Dave. He did a lot for me when I started out."