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In a statement about the former Tonight Show host, the organization references Leno’s August appearance on America’s Got Talent and a racially insensitive joke he made regarding Koreans eating dog meat. While the joke was cut from the variety show’s broadcast, it was included in a report about Gabrielle Union’s outcry over the show’s problematic workplace culture during production of season 14 (The Hollywood Reporter confirmed the joke was uttered). Union was dismissed after one season on the NBC show alongside fellow freshman judge Julianne Hough.
MANAA’s founding president Guy Aoki shared in a statement that the organization is asking for “NBC to end its business relationship” with Leno, as CNBC has also aired several seasons of Jay Leno’s Garage.
NBC declined to comment.
“Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) has been well aware of Leno’s habit of making these jokes about ‘man’s best friend,'” Aoki said in the statement. “Over a 10-year period, we and other members of the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (which has met with the networks since 1999/2000 to push for better inclusion and depiction of Asian Americans) met and corresponded with NBC executives about this. Then-NBC executive vice president of diversity Paula Madison also had a confrontation with the then-Tonight Show host, but the matter only got resolved after the APAMC’s second attempt to go after Leno’s advertisers in 2012.”
The statement adds that despite multiple meetings with NBC executives, including “admonishment from a high-ranking NBC executive and two advertiser campaigns,” Leno has “been an unrepentant repeat offender and still has a bizarre fixation with Asians eating dogs.”
Aoki explained the significance of these jokes, revisiting a 2012 letter to The Tonight Show advertisers.
“Many Americans are unable to distinguish between persons of Korean heritage living in North Korea, South Korea or the U.S., or between Asians and Asian Americans generally,” Aoki had written in 2012. “Therefore, when Mr. Leno jokes about North Koreans and the consumption of dogs and cats, he perpetuates a persistent belief held by many Americans that Asian Americans and Korean Americans are perpetual foreigners who bring their objectionable dining habits to the U.S. We are not accepted as real Americans; rather, we are subjected to ridicule, disdain and abuse, which has resulted in a rise in racial profiling and hate crimes against Asians, Asian Americans and immigrants.”
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