“I genuinely thought them to be harmless.”
You know Jay Leno.
But you may or may not know that the veteran comedian and TV personality has, at least since the early 2000s, made racist jokes about Asian people.
In fact, the advocacy group Media Action Network for Asian Americans has been in contact with NBC — Leno’s primary broadcast partner — since 1999 to push back against Leno’s reputation as “an unrepentant repeat offender.”
According to People, a recent press release from MANAA claims that the organization told producers of Leno’s upcoming game show You Bet Your Life that they’d be contacting advertisers about Leno’s history of racist jokes against Asians.
So, Leno decided to apologize.
“At the time I did those jokes, I genuinely thought them to be harmless,” Leno said during a call with MANAA leader Guy Aoki, according to the press release.
“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,” Leno continued. “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.”
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