Jay Leno apologizes for past jokes about Asian people

The former “Tonight Show” host says his change of heart is not “another example of cancel culture but a legitimate wrong that was done on my part.”

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Jay Leno met with the Media Action Network for Asian Americans to discuss the harm caused by his jokes.

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Jay Leno is apologizingfor decades of racist jokes he’s made about Asian people.

The former “Tonight Show” host recently met withthe Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA)to discuss how his past comments have been harmful to the Asian community, according to a press release from the advocacy group.

In the release, MANAA revisited a long and detailed history of racist jokes about Asians made by Lenobetween2002 and 2012, as well as a joke he reportedly made on the set of “America’s Got Talent” in 2019about Koreans eating dogs. The group states that, after multipleunsuccessful attempts to have a direct conversation withLenoand NBC throughout the years,MANAA leadershipfinally met with the comedian on Feb. 10 and received an apology and a pledge fromhim to do better.

Leno said in a statement that, when he made these jokes, he “genuinely thought them to be harmless.”

“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. “That is why 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.”

Leno’s apology comes in the wake ofthreeshootings nearAtlanta-area spas on March 16, in which eightpeople, most of them of Asian descent, werekilled. Additionally, Asian Americans have reported the single biggest increase in serious incidents ofonline hate and harassment, as slurs blamingpeople of Asian descentfor thecoronavirus pandemicspread over the past year, according to anew ADL survey shared exclusively with USA TODAY on Wednesday.

“I was shocked and saddened by what has been happening to my fellow citizens in the Asian community,” Leno said in the release.”I would be deeply hurt and ashamed if somehow my words did anything to incite this violence. With MANAA’s help, I would like to do what I can to help the healing process.”

Leno added that MANAA, which seeks to improve the depictionof Asian Americans in media,has “been very gracious in accepting my apology.”

“I hope that theAsian Americancommunity will be able to accept it as well, and I hope I can live up to theirexpectationsin the future,” he added.

MANAA president Rob Chan said in a statementthat he’s “happy that Jay came around” and that the comedian and MANAA “will be working together in the future.” According to the release, the group has already helped the comedian find an Asian American guest for theupcoming season of his reality show “Jay Leno’s Garage.”

“Welook forward to supporting Jay’s efforts to do a better jobat using his public platform to stamp out systemic racism towards the AAPI community,”Chan added.

Read more at usatoday.com.

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