Respect

Jay Leno apologizes for years of telling anti-Asian jokes

getty: Jay Leno

Story at a glance

  • Variety reports Leno apologized during a Zoom call with the head of activist group Media Action Network for Asian Americans.
  • Leno said he didn’t consider his apology to be another instance of “cancel culture,” as it was a legitimate wrongdoing on his part.
  • The meeting between Guy Aoki and Leno comes as crimes and hate incidents aimed at Asian Americans have sharply risen over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

Comedian and former Tonight Show host Jay Leno has apologized for making jokes about the Asian community over the course of his career. 

Variety reports Leno apologized during a Zoom call with the head of activist group Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA). The group has been critical of the comedian over the years. 


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Leno was most recently criticized in 2019 for a joke he made about Koreans eating dog meat while on the set of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” 

“At the time I did those jokes, I genuinely thought them to be harmless,” Leno said during the call with MANAA leader Guy Aoki, according to Variety. 

“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,” he said. 

Leno went on to apologize and said he didn’t consider the instance to be another example of cancel culture but a legitimate wrongdoing on his part. 

The meeting between Aoki and Leno comes as crimes and hate incidents aimed at Asian Americans have sharply risen over the course of the coronavirus pandemic. A shooting spree last week at three Atlanta massage parlors left eight dead, six of whom were Asian women. Authorities are investigating whether the shootings constitute a hate crime.


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