Gabrielle Union Leaves ‘AGT’ After Reporting Jay Leno’s Racist Korean Dog Joke
By Carl Samson
December 2, 2019
Jay Leno allegedly suggested that Koreans have an appetite for canines, an archaic, racist stereotype some Asians still have to deal with to this day.
The 69-year-old comedian reportedly made the “joke” in an unreleased segment of the 14th season of “America’s Got Talent,” where he worked as a guest judge in April.
While filming in North Hollywood, Leno reportedly set his eyes on a painting, which shows executive producer and judge Simon Cowell with his dogs.
The guest judge then joked that Cowell’s pets looked like something one would find “on the menu at a Korean restaurant,” four sources present on the taping told Variety.
A source said that the joke was especially offensive to “the very few Asian staffers” of the NBC show, one of whom was present when Leno cracked it.
The guest judge also made the joke in the presence of Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough, whose recent exits as judges shed light on the show’s alleged “toxic culture.”
Union allegedly “urged producers” to report Leno to human resources for making the joke, with one NBC executive specifically hearing the issue.
However, the matter never reached the department.
Leno’s joke was eventually cut from the episode that aired on Aug. 6.
Some believe that Union — who had a three-year contract with NBC — was fired for calling out the incident, which happens to be only one of the alleged others.
In one incident, Union referred to a White male contestant from Italy as performing with “blackface hands” when he slipped on a pair of black gloves to do an impression of Beyoncé, sources told Vulture.
In another, judge Howie Mandel allegedly suggested that a South African choir made of Black members “sing something from ‘The Lion King.’”
Insiders claimed that both Union and Hough’s contracts could have been renewed, but NBC asserted that they have simply “rotated out.”
“‘America’s Got Talent’ has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show. The judging and host line-up has been regularly refreshed over the years and that is one of the reasons for AGT’s enduring popularity,” the network said in a statement. “NBC and the producers take any issues on set seriously.”
Union has since received an outpouring of support from the public and other celebrities on social media, including Jameela Jamil, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ellen Pompeo, Debra Messing and Ariana Grande.
Without addressing the specifics of her NBC exit, Union expressed gratitude to the support she’s been receiving:
Asian Twitter users thanked her in return:
While Union has not spoken more on the developments, on Dec. 1, she commented “This! This! AND THIIISSSSSSS!!!!!!” on a Twitter post from freelance writer Joelle Monique on the steps to making a proper apology:
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