SANTA MARIA, Calif. – Michael Jackson (search) wants Jay Leno (search) to stop with the jokes, but the "Tonight Show" host argues the First Amendment bars public figures from seeking a gag order based on their dislike of comments about them.
Leno, who has been called as a witness in Jackson's child molestation trial, is seeking an exemption to Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville (search)'s gag order barring parties and potential witnesses from speaking about the case, citing his right to free speech.
Jackson attorneys said Leno should be included in the order, arguing the jokes have no important social or political value.
In a filing Wednesday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, attorneys for Leno said the humorous commentaries should be protected by law.
"Indeed, it is simply false that Mr. Leno's use of humor to engage in social commentary is somehow less valuable and worthy of First Amendment protection than other forms of speech," the filing said.
Leno attorneys cited two cases, including the 1988 case in which the Rev. Jerry Falwell sued Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt for publishing a parody suggesting the minister lost his virginity to his mother in an outhouse. The Supreme Court ruled that even pornographic spoofs are protected by the First Amendment.
Leno himself has said Melville's gag order restricts him from telling Jackson jokes — but doesn't stop him from writing them.
Friday night, he called on actor Brad Garrett, co-star of "Everybody Loves Raymond," to tell the jokes.