By Lynette Rice
March 16, 2013 at 05:20 AM EDT
Hopper Stone

The Chairman of NBC Entertainment reportedly took issue with a series of jokes told by Jay Leno that poked fun at how NBC had recently fallen to fifth place behind Univision.

According to a report in the New York Times, a monologue given by Leno on Feb. 28 — which included jokes about NBC trailing Univision by saying “it’s so bad, NBC called Manti Te’o and asked him to bring in some imaginary viewers” — prompted top exec Robert Greenblatt to send a email of complaint to the late-night star.

NYT writer Bill Carter — who has written two books about the late night wars — quotes an executive who not only saw the correspondence between Greenblatt and Leno but said how the comedian strongly defended himself by citing a long tradition of late night hosts poking fun “at their masters.” To wit: ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel, for example, routinely brings the house down every May during the network’s upfronts by occasionally making fun of his employer. David Letterman is guilty, too, of mocking the suits above him at CBS.

It seems odd that an NBC exec would take a swipe at Leno — especially when he hosts one of the few shows that’s actually winning on NBC these days. (The other two are the nightly newscasts and Saturday Night Live). Though late night has a provocative new player in Kimmel at 11:30 p.m. on ABC, Leno continues to dominate among adults 18-49 and viewers — which leads many to believe that NBC wouldn’t dare mess with success, even though it has a real talent in Jimmy Fallon at 12:30 p.m. On the contrary, NBC insiders vehemently denied a recent published report that said NBC was already talking about a succession plan that involved moving Fallon to 11:30 once Leno’s contract expired in 2014.