Jay Leno, the longtime “Tonight Show” host, apologized for his history of making jokes against Asians and said that at the time he “really thought they were harmless” but now expects forgiveness from Asians. American people.
The comedian said in a joint statement with the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, a watchdog group that tracks anti-Asian comments and incidents in the media and entertainment industries, that he had an attitude at the time that “some group he’s always complaining about something, so don’t worry about it. “Whenever the show got a complaint, he said, the response was split into two camps:” We have to deal with this, “or” Fuck it if they can’t take one. joke”.
“Too many times I sided with the latter, even when in my heart I knew it was wrong,” Leno said. “That is why I am issuing this apology. I do not consider this particular case to be another example of a cancellation culture, but rather a legitimate harm that I committed on my part. “
It was a recent realization. In 2019, Leno, who hosted “The Tonight Show” from 1992 to 2014, made an offensive joke against Asians while filming a commercial for “America’s Got Talent,” actress and producer Gabrielle Union told Variety.
MANAA, the watchdog group, had complained for decades about Leno’s jokes that were based on stereotypes of Asians, to no avail. Rob Chan, the group’s president, said in the statement that he was “happy that Jay was reaching out and that we will work together in the future.”
Mr. Leno is scheduled to host a rebooted game show, “You Bet Your Life,” beginning in the fall.
Leno’s apology came as Asian Americans have suffered increasing discrimination and racist language during the coronavirus pandemic, while also processing the trauma of a recent mass shooting in the Atlanta area in which six of the eight victims they were women of Asian descent. Mr. Leno said he would be “deeply hurt and ashamed if my words somehow did anything to incite this violence.”
Some Asian Americans have long argued that their concerns about anti-Asian discourse are often dismissed as trivial. Historically, Asian-Americans have been underrepresented in Hollywood and in comedy, and in 2016, a bit of comedian Chris Rock who drew on Asian stereotypes made it to the Oscars.
While late-night comedians choose a variety of targets, it’s not the first time Leno has been criticized for jokes that made him laugh at the time. Recently, a documentary about Britney Spears from The New York Times sparked increased scrutiny of jokes from various late-night hosts about her mental health. Leno has not apologized to the singer, although others, including Justin Timberlake and some publications, have said they regret his behavior.
Azi Paybarah contributed reporting.