"It just felt like the tone went very quickly from, 'Take your time, we understand this is a tough decision,' to you know, 'Let's go,'" O'Brien said. "And that probably helped me a little bit feel like, 'You know what? This environment doesn't feel right and I've been with these people a long time. And I don't like, I really don't like the way this is going.' And when it started to get toxic and I started to feel that I'm not sure these people even really want me here. Let's just…I can't do it."
Asked if he thinks they wanted him to leave, O'Brien said, "Uh, yeah, that's crossed my mind. Again, I don't know how thought out this whole thing was. But if they wanted me to leave, it worked."
"This was just really, really hard for him. It was watching someone's heart get broken," O'Brien's wife Liza told Kroft.
Liza O'Brien was one of his main confidants and closest advisors during the debacle.
Asked if she approved of everything her husband did, she told Kroft, "A hundred percent, yeah."
"You thought he should've left?" Kroft asked.
"Absolutely," she replied.
Asked what she thinks of the way her husband was treated by NBC, O'Brien said, "From my perspective, it felt like they never really gave him the job. That they said, 'We're going to give you this job in five years,' and they keep him with the company, and they, you know, he said, 'I won't go anywhere else, and I'll keep working for you, and I'm in it for the long haul.' And it felt like they lost their nerve to really make a change and that was too bad. It was a shame, 'cause it would've been great to see what he could've done if he had had their full support, and had some more time."
"You've got this non-disparagement agreement," Kroft remarked.
"Do you have a copy? 'Cause I haven't read it in awhile. I keep one in…my wallet," O'Brien joked.
"You do?" Kroft asked.
"Any time people come up to me, 'Hey, so what's the deal with Jay Leno?' 'Hold on a second. He's a fine and good man.' There we go, put that away," O'Brien joked.
"Can I assume that this interview would take a different tenor if that agreement did not exist?" Kroft asked.
"No, I don't think it would," O'Brien said. "The biggest thing people come up and say to me in gas stations and restaurants, I have so many people say this to me, 'Hey partner, you got screwed.' I don't, and I always tell them, 'No, I didn't. I didn't get screwed. I'm fine. It just didn't work out.'"
"Well, you did get screwed," Kroft remarked.
"You think I got screwed?" O'Brien asked.
"Well, I think most people think you got screwed. I mean, Jay Leno thinks you got screwed. Jay Leno thinks he got screwed," Kroft said.
"How did he get screwed again?" O'Brien asked, laughing. "Explain that part to me. I'm sorry. Jay's got 'The Tonight Show.' I have a beard and an inflatable bat. And I'm touring city to city. Who can say who won and who lost? I'm laughing 'cause crying would be sad."