NEW YORK – Eliot Spitzer, whose 2008 resignation as New York’s governor amid a prostitution scandal provided no shortage of fuel for gibes to late-night TV comics, ventured into the lion’s den Friday, appearing on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”

Spitzer appeared on Leno’s show in California less than 24 hours after a four-day flurry of canvassing for 3,750 valid petitions to run for city comptroller — submitting over 27,000 signatures to the city Board of Elections late Thursday night ahead of a midnight deadline.

And Leno, who has poked at Spitzer’s reentrance to New York City’s politics since the former attorney general announced Sunday he was running to be the city’s comptroller, asked him straight up: “Why enter at the 11th hour?”

Spitzer said that after all he’d done in the past five years he finally thought, “You know what, there’s a position there, which I’ve written about, thought about, the Controller’s position, from which I think I can actually serve,” he said. “And I said to myself I want to contribute through public service.”

Leno’s show has been a memorable forum for public figures’ atonement moments, as when actor Hugh Grant made his first TV appearance after he was arrested with a prostitute in 1995.

Leno admired Spitzer for his work as attorney general going after Wall Street and the mob and then asked him how he could “make this big a blunder,” referencing the prostitution scandal.

“People who fall prey to hubris, end up falling themselves,” Spitzer said, adding there was no good explanation for his behavior. “And this is something that I think infected me.”

Remini expresses thanks after split with Scientology

LOS ANGELES – Actress Leah Remini is expressing appreciation to fans and others following word of her decision to leave the Church of Scientology.

In a statement issued Thursday by her talent agency, the former “King of Queens” star said she was grateful to the media, her colleagues and fans around the world for their “overwhelmingly positive support.”

The statement made no mention of Scientology, and the APA talent and literary agency said Remini had no further comment.

But a person familiar with Remini’s decision said the statement referred to her break with the church and public reaction to it.

– From news service reports