When issuing his apology, the former host of ‘The Tonight Show’ hopes that ‘the Asian American community will be able to accept it’ and that he can ‘live up to their expectations in the future.’
- Mar 25, 2021
Jay Leno has apologized for making “wrong” jokes about Asians for years. Having been criticized for decades over his derogatory remarks, the former host of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” expressed his remorse while claiming that he “genuinely thought them to be harmless.”
When speaking to Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) leader Guy Aoki in a February Zoom call, the 70-year-old acknowledged his racist comments. One in particular was his joke about the stereotype of Korean people eating dogs that he made on the set of “America’s Got Talent” in 2019. “At the time I did those jokes, I genuinely thought them to be harmless,” he began, according to a MANAA press release.
“I was making fun of our enemy North Korea, and like most jokes, there was a ring of truth to them,” the TV host continued. “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. I do not consider this particular case to be another example of cancel culture but a legitimate wrong that was done on my part,” the comedian added. “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 came years after Aoki slammed him for his offensive jokes about Koreans that he uttered from 2002 to 2019. “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,” the advocacy group leader first said in a statement 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.,” Aoki further noted. “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.”