Former America’s Got Talent judge Gabrielle Union claimed she was cut from the show after urging managers to report moments of “toxic culture,” including a joke from comedian Jay Leno she deemed offensive.
Union, the 47-year-old actress who joined the show as a judge for one season, claimed NBC allowed the show to maintain a toxic environment, according to a report from Variety. Both Union and host Julianne Hough were cut from the show after last season. Sources claimed the two were disgusted with how the show was managed and how they were treated.
Those close to the show claimed that Union and Hough were criticized for their appearance. Union, in particular, had been told that her hairstyles were “too black.”
Beyond the personal criticism, the two were upset with how other offensive issues were not addressed, including reports of an offensive joke made when Leno made a guest appearance on the show. While preparing for the show with Union and Hough, Leno walked past a painting of one of the show’s judges and executive producer Simon Cowell surrounded by his dogs.
Leno, 69, joked that Cowell looked at the dogs like they were “on the menu at a Korean restaurant.”
Union found the joke offensive, which referenced the largely overturned practice of consuming dog meat in some Asian countries. She demanded that Leno be reported, but that didn’t happen. Instead, Leno’s remarks were pulled from the Aug. 6 episode.
NBC had “very few Asian staffers” working on the show at the time of Leno’s remarks, something Union wanted to change.
Many people expressed outrage that Union may have been fired after trying to report these incidents.
Jay Leno made a racist joke about Koreans eating dog meat and when Gabrielle Union called him out, she got fired from America’s Got Talent. I’m sorry about your treatment Gabrielle but thank you much for standing up for people like me. We appreciate you and hope you get justice.
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) November 27, 2019
I so appreciate @itsgabrielleu for saying something – Asian stereotypes and jokes persist everywhere, including in Hollywood 🥵
— Esther Choo (@choo_ek) November 28, 2019
Gabrielle Union was fired from @nbc x @AGT for holding Jay Leno Accountable to a racist Joke.. One incident upon countless that have made the environment toxic to work at. While His joke was edited out, Gabrielle was punished for pointing out it’s harm.
— Love Trans People (@IndyaMoore) November 27, 2019
America’s Got Talent completed its 14th season in August with 10 million viewers tuning in for the last episode. Leno left The Tonight Show in 2009 after 17 years of hosting the program.
NBC has had several scandals in the past year relating to their treatment of employees. Several former staff members have come forward accusing the show of burying sexual harassment allegations by making employees sign nondisclosure agreements. The network announced in October that they would release employees from a portion of their NDAs if they wished to speak out.
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