Jay Leno Now Regrets Decades of Telling Racist Jokes Aimed at Asians

Jay Leno

Television host and comedian Jay Leno has apologized for decades of racist jokes he admittedly made about Asian people.

History of racism: The former late-night show host of “The Tonight Show” met with the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) to talk about his past comments that have been harmful to the Asian community, a press release from the advocacy group revealed.

  • MANAA, a group that seeks to improve the depiction of Asian Americans in the media, recalled the detailed history of racist jokes Leno made against Asian people between 2002 and 2012. 
  • One was about Koreans eating dogs in 2019 on the set of “America’s Got Talent,” as NextShark previously reported. 
  • In 2019, MANAA’s founding president Guy Aoki called out Leno for being “an unrepentant repeat offender and still has a bizarre fixation with Asians eating dogs.”
  • MANAA has reportedly made multiple attempts to have a direct conversation with Leno and NBC to address the issue over the years but failed to do so.
  • In February, Aoki, MANAA President Rob Chan and Vice President Lawrence Lim met with Leno over a Zoom call, where the comedian apologized and pledged to do better.
  • In a statement, Leno said he “genuinely thought [the jokes] to be harmless. I was making fun of our enemy North Korea, and like most jokes, there was a ring of truth to them.”
  • “At the time, there was a prevailing attitude that some groups are always complaining about something, so don’t worry about it,” he continued. “Whenever we received a complaint, there would be two sides to the discussion: Either ‘We need to deal with this’ or ‘Screw ‘em if they can’t take a joke.’ “

Change of heart: Leno stated that he now regrets making these jokes, noting that in the past, he mostly considered those who got offended as people who just can’t take a joke “even when in my heart I knew it was wrong.”

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  • “I do not consider this particular case to be another example of cancel culture but a legitimate wrong that was done on my part,” he explained.
  • Leno also expressed “shock and sadness” amid the rise of anti-Asian hate incidents in the U.S.
  • “I would be deeply hurt and ashamed if somehow my words did anything to incite this violence. With MANAA’s help, I would like to do what I can to help the healing process,” he said. 
  • Leno added that while MANAA accepted his apology gracefully, he hopes the Asian American community “will be able to accept it as well, and I hope I can live up to their expectations in the future.” 
  • Chan said that he’s “happy that Jay came around,” noting that the group will support Leno’s efforts to “do a better job at using his public platform to stamp out systemic racism towards the AAPI community.”
  • The group has helped Leno find an Asian American guest for the upcoming season of his reality show “Jay Leno’s Garage.”

Featured Image via America’s Got Talent

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