Comedian and former Tonight show host Jay Leno was a guest judge at America has talent last season, and her appearance led to a complaint by Judge Gabrielle Union for an anti-Korean joke she considered offensive. Some believe this led to AGT producers fired Union after only one season on the show, and Leno recently spoke for the first time about his involvement in the controversy.
Leaving the Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, California, on Sunday night, Leno met several reporters and photographers hoping to get more information about the AGT controversy from Leno's point of view.
An offensive joke by guest Jay Leno, points out that Gabrielle Union's hairstyles were "too black,quot; and an inclination to edit offensive content instead of addressing real-time problems, some things I learned in many conversations with people close to # America has talent. https://t.co/pmXupTNC8Q
– Matt Donnelly (@MattDonnelly) November 27, 2019
Leno didn't say much, but he praised Union.
"I love Gabrielle Union, she's a great girl," Leno said. "I really enjoyed working with her, she is very good."
Leno dodged most of the questions asked and didn't want to talk about how AGT Union treated. He said he didn't know anything about the situation, but reiterated that Union was a "great girl."
When the journalists asked him if he regretted the anti-Korean joke, Leno pretended to joke that he was giving an answer, but he was not really speaking.
ICYMI, Leno was a guest judge in April. And, while recording a segment with Union and Julianne Hough, the 68-year-old man joked about a painting by Judge Simon Cowell surrounded by his dogs. Four people who were on the set said Leno joked that the painting looked like something you would see "on the menu of a Korean restaurant."
According to Variety, the "very few,quot; Asian members of the AGT The joke offended the team and the creative team because it perpetuates the stereotype that Asians eat dog meat. While dog meat is consumed in Korea and other Asian nations, the practice has declined in recent years thanks to animal rights activists and younger citizens.
Union reportedly complained about Leno's joke and a "toxic environment,quot; on the set, and after the season ended, his contract was not renewed.
Union's husband, Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, confirmed his dismissal on Twitter and wrote that he was proud of his wife for being selected as a judge in AGT. And, he is even more proud that she defends what she represents, "which is the United States."
The new season of America has talent – with two new judges joining Cowell and Howie Mandel – will be released in the summer of 2020.