What he meant to say

Foot-in-mouth police snag a Backstreet Boy; scads of terror-themed entertainment pushed back; Bob Hope feeling healthier, sadder.

Topics: Jay Leno, Celebrity, Jennifer Lopez, Arnold Schwarzenegger,

Kevin Richardson has fallen into the same trap that snared poor Bill Maher the other day. And now, like the “Politically Incorrect” host, the Backstreet Boy has been forced to chew himself out — or face the wrath of the American public.

Richardson didn’t mean any disrespect to the nation, he said, when he made the following statement to a Canadian interviewer in the aftermath of the attack: “I just think we are a little bit of an arrogant nation and maybe this is a little bit of a humbling experience … what has our government done to provoke this action that we don’t know about?”

The tentatively put-forth query apparently raised the ire of some of his more patriotic compatriots. And so, Thursday morning, Richardson took to the airwaves to clear things up.

“My thoughts weren’t put together quite properly,” the penitent pop star explained to Z100′s Paul “Cubby” Bryant. “We had been doing about five interviews in Toronto, Canada … and as I was sitting there listening to the rest of the guys talk, I just got overwhelmed with anger and frustration, on ‘how can this happen in our country, in this nation that we live in?’”

What he meant by “arrogant,” he said, was that “we’ve been a little overconfident, we’ve maybe taken our freedom for granted, taken our security for granted.”

Fair enough.

“I apologize if I have offended anyone, any of the families of the victims, if my statement seemed insensitive, but I was reacting out of anger and out of frustration, and I was emotional,” Richardson continued. “I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t love this country … I’m proud to be an American. I apologize if my comment was untimely.”

Apology accepted.

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Voice of reason

“I just wasn’t comfortable with the concept. What would we have done for six hours? Go to the tote board? Answer phones? You certainly can’t do a lot of comedy.”

Jay Leno on why he declined to co-host Friday’s big telethon with Conan O’Brien, in the New York Daily News.

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They’ll be there for you … but they’ll be a little different. An upcoming episode of “Friends” in which Monica and Chandler spend hours cooling their heels in an airport waiting for their honeymoon flight to take off — and griping about it — will be rewritten and reshot in light of the terrorist attacks. “Two weeks ago, that would have been ridiculous,” the show’s executive producer, David Crane, told the Philadelphia Inquirer last week. “It’s not ridiculous now.”

Delayed “Wing”? Aaron Sorkin has requested that the season premiere of “The West Wing,” currently scheduled for Wednesday, be pushed back a ways, the Los Angeles Times reports. Sorkin said he was concerned at how the show’s political tone would go over on a sad and shocked nation.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, man of action. The “Terminator” star told Jay Leno the other night that the move to postpone his upcoming flick “Collateral Damage” indefinitely came from him. “As soon as this happened the first thing I did was I went to the phone and I called Warner Brothers,” said Schwarzenegger. “I called the producers and the studio executives and I said let’s get together for a meeting right away because I think our movie has to be postponed.”

Also on hold: “Bad Company,” though whether stars Chris Rock and Anthony Hopkins were the ones to call it off is open to question. Nevertheless, Disney has decided not to release the film, which features a conflict between the CIA and a band of villainous terrorists, in December as planned. The film is now slated to hit theaters in 2002.

And another one: “Tick-Tock,” a terrorist-themed thriller starring Jennifer Lopez as an FBI agent. The movie, which apparently had no small number of bombs in it, will not shoot in December as planned. The screenplay is currently being retooled in light of recent events, Variety reports, but Sony reckons the public will be ready to embrace the rewritten script by June of next year.

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Hope in a crisis

The good news: Bob Hope is home and feeling better after his recent bout with pneumonia.

The bad news: He’s been glued to the TV.

“He’s absolutely devastated by” news of the attacks, the 98-year-old entertainer’s spokesman, Ward Grant, told the Associated Press last week. “This country is in his heart. I know of no more patriotic person than Bob Hope.”

According to Grant, Hope is hoping to get well enough to lend a hand in the relief efforts — perhaps a benefit? — soon.

In the meantime, he says, “It is time to hug your neighbor and embrace your nation.”

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Miss something? Read yesterday’s Nothing Personal.

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