That's because when Mudd pointed out the mistake involving his great-grandfather, Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, and his role in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Leno called him in Saginaw to personally apologize.
Leno made the miscue in late January while interviewing actor Harrison Ford, who soon will begin filming "Manhunt," a movie about the Lincoln assassination.
The "Tonight Show" host said that for years, newsman Roger Mudd worked to clear his grandfather's name. But it really was Thomas Mudd's father, the late Dr. Richard D. Mudd of Saginaw, who spent years seeking exoneration. Roger Mudd is a distant relative.
Dr. Samuel Mudd of Maryland set assassin John Wilkes Booth's broken leg after the shooting. Mudd was convicted of complicity and was imprisoned for nearly four years before being pardoned by President Andrew Johnson. But the government never completely cleared the doctor.
Thomas Mudd sent a letter to the show's producers pointing out the mistake. On Feb. 2, Leno called Mudd, a historian and preservationist, to apologize.
"I'll tell you one thing, he's a real gentleman," Mudd told The Saginaw News for a story published Tuesday.
The two talked about cars because they both own vintage Saabs.
"He could have had his secretary call, if anyone called at all, but no. He called me directly and said, `This is Jay Leno. I want to apologize."'
Although Leno said he would not have time to apologize or correct the mistake on the air, Mudd said he understood that and still is a Leno fan.
Mudd fears the movie, due out in 2007, will be a sensationalized account of Lincoln's death that will accuse his great-grandfather of taking part in a Confederate conspiracy.
"I'm getting ready for battle," Mudd said. "There is not one shred of evidence linking my great-grandfather to a conspiracy plot, and all of this Mudd-bashing is not funny to me."