Jay Leno Apologizes for Past Jokes Targeting Asian Communities

In a recent Zoom call with Media Action Network for Asian Americans, Jay Leno issued an apology for his remarks towards Asian communities.

By Mike Vulpo Mar 24, 2021 7:51 PMTags

Jay Leno is apologizing for jokes he has made throughout his career that targeted Asian communities. 

According to multiple reports, the former Tonight Show host was able to have a Zoom call with Media Action Network for Asian Americans. While speaking to the activist group's leader Guy Aoki, Jay admitted some of his past comments were wrong.

"At the time I did those jokes, I genuinely thought them to be harmless," Jay shared via Variety. "I was making fun of our enemy North Korea, and like most jokes, there was a ring of truth to them." 

He continued, "At the time, there was a prevailing attitude that some group is always complaining about something, so don't worry about it. 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.' Too many times I sided with the latter even when in my heart I knew it was wrong."

Since 1992, MANAA's mission has been to address the negative Asian American stereotypes perpetuated by the media. The non-profit organization based in Los Angeles aims to advocate for positive portrayals of Asian Americans in media.

Stars React to Gabrielle Union's America's Got Talent Firing

According to Jay, MANAA has been "gracious" in accepting his message. "I am issuing this apology," he explained. "I do not consider this particular case to be another example of cancel culture but a legitimate wrong that was done on my part…I hope that 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."

E! News has reached out to Jay's rep for comment.

Trae Patton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the rise in crimes targeting Asian Americans was also addressed during Jay's zoom call with the leader of MANAA.

"I would be deeply hurt and ashamed if somehow my words did anything to incite this violence," Jay shared on the call via THR. "With MANAA's help, I would like to do what I can to help the healing process." E! News has reached out to MANAA for additional comment.

Back in November 2019, the former late-night host was accused of making an inappropriate joke directed at Asian cultures while serving as a guest judge on America's Got Talent.

"I've always held him in high regard, but I was not prepared for his joke," former America's Got Talent judge Gabrielle Union later told Variety. "I gasped. I froze. Other things had already happened, but at this point, it was so wildly racist."

While Jay has yet to publicly comment on Gabrielle's claims directly, NBC and America's Got Talent producers, Fremantle and Syco Entertainment, launched an investigation surrounding Gabrielle's exit from the show.

"The investigation has shown that the concerns raised by Ms. Union had no bearing on the decision not to exercise the option on her contract," NBC, Fremantle and Syco shared in a statement to E! News after the results were revealed. "NBC, Fremantle and Syco share Ms. Union's dedication to diversity and inclusion in the industry. We continue to remain committed to having an inclusive environment for everyone associated with the show, and to upholding AGT as one of the most diverse programs on television."

(E! and NBC are part of the NBCUniversal family)

E! News renews our commitment to amplify the voices of our AAPI colleagues, partners and friends, and pledge to fight with them against hate.