Exclusive: Jay Leno Says He Never Gave Donald Trump Permission to Use His Letter

Jay Leno has categorically stated that he has not given Donald Trump permission to use any correspondence between the pair in the upcoming book Letters to Trump.

Former President Trump has announced he's releasing a new book featuring around 150 private letters dating back decades. However, he may face potential lawsuits in doing so. It is unclear whether Trump has the legal right to publish the letters without the sender's permission, and former Tonight Show host Leno has told Newsweek he did not grant Trump permission to share any letters from him.

Released on April 25, Letters to Trump promises to contain letters sent to him from a number of well-known figures and celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Princess Diana, Hillary Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and North Korea's Kim Jong-un. Clinton's office has also confirmed to Newsweek that they also did not give their permission either.

Newsweek has reached out to many of the people listed as being included in the book, and Leno's representatives were quick to confirm they had not granted Trump permission.

Donald Trump Jay Leno The Tonight Show
Donald Trump appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno several times between 1997 and 2010. Here they are pictured together in a show from September 7, 2004. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

"Jay did not release, nor authorize any use of any letter to Mr. Trump," a representative of Leno's from his production company, Big Dog Productions, told Newsweek.

However, the publishing company behind the book said there had been "actual or implied" permission from the letter senders who are private individuals.

The press release for Letters To Trump included Leno's name in the list of people whose letters appears in the book, though it's not specific about when the letter was sent. Leno's representative also stated that they weren't aware of what letter the book may contain.

Leno and Trump were seemingly friends at a point as Leno spoke on Trump's behalf in January 2007 when Trump received his Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Trump was also a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on several occasions between 1997 and 2010, and he was also a guest on the short-lived The Jay Leno Show.

Donald Trump and Jay Leno in 2007
Donald Trump and Jay Leno pictured together in January 2007, as Trump was honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. M. Tran/FilmMagic

Clinton's spokesperson confirmed that "of course he didn't" seek permission from Clinton before deciding to share their correspondence in Letters to Trump.

"Nothing says deeply-insecure-has-been quite like publishing private correspondence with the hope that people will believe you once garnered respect," Clinton's spokesperson Nick Merrill told Newsweek. "Feels like the adult equivalent of when a toddler proudly presents you with what they've done on the potty."

The principle that the writers of the letters, not the recipients, retain the copyright has been "well-established in copyright law" for hundreds of years according to Jane C. Ginsburg, professor of literary and artistic property Law at Columbia University School of Law in New York.

Ginsburg referred Newsweek to a famous case from 1741 in which poet Alexander Pope successfully sued Edmund Curll for publishing Pope's letters.

In a statement to Newsweek, a spokesperson for Winning Team Publishing, the publishers of Letters to Trump, detailed how Trump is able to publish a number of his correspondence.

"The book comprises of a unique collection of correspondence either from President Trump or from public officials both foreign and domestic, or from private individuals. For those in public office at the time, no copyright protection arises." The spokesperson added: "For the last category, Winning Team Publishing has either actual or implied consent for their publication."

As well as the notable people listed above, according to Axios, Letters to Trump will also feature letters from Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Mario Cuomo, Arnold Palmer, Liza Minnelli, Regis Philbin and more.

Letters to Trump, released April 25, 2023, will be the second collaboration between Winning Team Publications and Trump, who also released last year's photo-book Our Journey Together.

Update, 3/10/23, 10:30 a.m. ET: This article was updated to add quotes from Hillary Clinton's representative.