Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Jay Leno issues apology to Asian American community for long history of racist jokes

Jay Leno
Jay Leno
Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for David Lynch Foundation

After years of being criticized for a long history of telling racist jokes about Asian people, Jay Leno has now issued an apology. Per The Hollywood Reporter, Leno recently participated in a Zoom meeting with several leaders of the Media Action Network For Asian Americans, and has now offered his apologies to the Asian community for various jokes made at their expense across his long tenure on TV.

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During the call, Leno issued an apology for a long history of targeting Asian people and stereotypes for jokes, stretching all the way back to his near-two-decade run on The Tonight Show, and inclusive of a 2019 incident in which he made an offensive joke about Korean people during a filming of America’s Got Talent: “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.”

Leno added, “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.”

Leno’s apology comes at a time when violence against Asian Americans has hit an unsettling and horrifying peak, spurred on by Trump-spewed grotesqueries that categorized COVID-19 as the “China virus,” and reaching new and awful heights with the murders that targeted six Asian American women in Atlanta on March 16. Members of MANAA, which has long been critical of Leno, emphasized to him on the call that, “There’s often no negotiating with these assailants. Sometimes, they don’t communicate with their victims. They see an Asian face and—instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt that they might have things in common—only see them as foreigners to whom they attach negative stereotypes, and attack them.” Leno responded by stating that, “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.”