Jay Leno Apologizes for Remarks to Ryan Phillippe

04/01/2008 at 05:20 PM EDT

Jay Leno Apologizes for Remarks to Ryan Phillippe
Jay Leno
Margaret Norton/NBC
Jay Leno apologized Tuesday for on-air remarks he made during a chat with Ryan Phillippe that were then criticized by gay activists and others.

"In talking about Ryan's first role, I realize that what I said came out wrong," the host of NBC's Tonight Show said in a statement to PEOPLE. "I certainly didn't mean any malice. I agree it was a dumb thing to say, and I apologize."

Last week, while talking with Phillippe (whose appearance was keyed to his new movie Stop-Loss), Leno, 57, said to the actor, "Can you give me, like – say that camera is your gay lover ..." (Phillippe's first role was as a gay character on a soap opera).

Leno then went on to say, "Can you give me your 'gayest look?' "

"Wow," replied Phillippe, 33. "That is so something I don't want to do."

On Tuesday, the gay rights group GLAAD condemned the remarks.

"We are proud of Ryan for refusing to participate in Leno's thoughtless attempt at humor," said GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano. "Under the guise of comedy, the talk-show host is demonstrating a lack of respect for the gay community and insensitivity to both his co-workers and the audience, to whom he owes an apology."

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