A pair of Asian American organizations have urged NBC to sever ties with Jay Leno, citing the comedian’s repeated offense toward the Asian community with his fixation on a racist stereotype.
In separate statements, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ) and the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) condemned the 69-year-old for joking about Koreans eating dogs, one instance of which allegedly occurred during his stint as a guest judge on the 14th season of “America’s Got Talent.”
While filming for a segment in North Hollywood, Leno joked that Simon Cowell’s pet dogs looked like something one would find “on the menu at a Korean restaurant,” four insiders present on the taping claimed — with one adding that he did so in the presence of an Asian staffer.
Former judge Gabrielle Union reportedly called out the racist joke — which never made it on the air — among other problematic incidents, allegedly leading to her untimely exit from the talent show.
So many tears, so much gratitude. THANK YOU! Just when you feel lost, adrift, alone… you got me up off the ground. Humbled and thankful, forever ❤
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) November 28, 2019
“Jay Leno is a repeat offender in denigrating a part of our Asian American community and it must stop,” said John C. Yang, president and executive director of AAAJ, according to Variety.
Yang claimed that Leno has exhibited a pattern of stereotyping Asians, with one incident taking place at the Olympics in 2002.
At the time, the comedian poked fun at South Korean skater Kim Dong-sung, who was disqualified after allegedly impeding U.S. rival Apolo Ohno.
“Kim Dong-sung was so upset, he went home, kicked the dog, then ate him!” Leno allegedly said.
Meanwhile, MANAA President Guy Aoki specifically called on NBC to “end its business relationship” with Leno, who still hosts “Jay Leno’s Garage” at CNBC.
“Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) has been well aware of Leno’s habit of making these jokes about ‘man’s best friend,'” Aoki said, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“Over a 10-year period, we and other members of the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (which has met with the networks since 1999/2000 to push for better inclusion and depiction of Asian Americans) met and corresponded with NBC executives about this.
“Then-NBC executive vice president of diversity Paula Madison also had a confrontation with the then-‘Tonight Show’ host, but the matter only got resolved after the APAMC’s second attempt to go after Leno’s advertisers in 2012.”
Aoki went on to point out that despite multiple meetings with NBC executives, Leno continued to be “an unrepentant repeat offender and still has a bizarre fixation with Asians eating dogs.”
On the other hand, Yang explained that Leno’s jokes are “so toxic because it is intended to minimize a community and somehow make that community seem less civilized.”
— Jay Leno (@jayleno) August 5, 2019
Following Leno’s remarks on Kim Dong-sung in 2002, NBC came to his defense with a brief statement “to assure the Korean community that it is not the intent of the show, Jay Leno or NBC to offend them.”
“By its nature, comedy can be impolite, and the humor on ‘The Tonight Show’ is no exception. People have different opinions about where the lines should be drawn,” the network added, according to CBS News.
NBC has not responded to the latest backlash against Leno.
Feature Images via Jay Leno’s Garage