Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rise in discrimination and racists attacks against Asian people worldwide. From the United States to England to Australia, people have been physically assaulted because of the racist “Wuhan Virus” narrative. The recent shooting in Atlanta that left eight people dead, six of whom were of Asian descent, has caused leaders to come forward with a “#StopAsianHate” campaign, and it seems it affected famed comedian Jay Leno to reflect on a few of his jokes from yesteryear.

Jay Leno, Asian Americans, Joke, Apology, MANAA
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For over a decade, civil rights groups have called out Leno and asked him to apologize for his language. Variety reports that even when he a judge on America’s Got Talent, he offended several people when he made a joke about Koreans using dog meat in their meals. “At the time I did those jokes, I genuinely thought them to be harmless,” reads a statement released by Leno and Guy Aoki, the leader of Media Action Network for Asian Americans. “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 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.”

“I am issuing this apology. I do not consider this particular case to be another example of cancel culture but a legitimate wrong that was done on my part. MANAA has been very gracious in accepting my apology. 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.”

In 2019, reports surfaced that Gabrielle Union had been dismissed from America’s Got Talent after complaining about Leno’s racist jokes.

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