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Korean dog joke cited as part of toxic culture at America’s Got Talent. Gabrielle Union protests, then fired

Trae Patton, NBC Photo

America’s Got Talent hosts Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough have been fired as judge’s of the popular show, reports Variety, amidst concerns of a “toxic culture” at the program.

A report from the entertainment publication points to an incident when Jay Leno joined the program as a guest host and made a joke about a painting of judge and executive producer Simon Cowell surrounded by dogs

Leno commented the pets looked like something you might find “on the menu of a Korean restaurant.” Individuals found the joke to be offensive, especially considering “the very few Asian staffers” working for the show. At least one of those Asians heard the joke.

Union is said to have encouraged producers to report the incident to HR, but sources tell Variety the incident never reached that level. The joke was edited out the episode before it aired.

Union declined to comment about the incident. A representative for Jay Leno did not return Variety’s request for comment nor did Simon Cowell’s Syco Entertainment,

“‘America’s Got Talent’ has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show,” NBC and series producer Fremantle said. “The judging and host line-up has been regularly refreshed over the years and that is one of the reasons for AGT’s enduring popularity. NBC and the producers take any issues on set seriously.”

Variety also reported that Union and Hough were upset about receiving excessive notes about their appearance. Union reportedly received notes that her numerous hairstyles were “too Black” for the audience.

NBA superstar Dwyane Wade defended his wife on social media.

For her part, Union said she’s been uplifted by all the support she’s gotten.

Hough had nothing but good things to say about working with NBC.

“I had a wonderful time on ‘America’s Got Talent,’ I loved working with the cast, crew and producers. I am happy to continue my working relationship with NBC,” she said. “I’m looking forward to what the future holds.”

She has two specials with the network planned for December.

She’ll co-star in Holidays With the Houghs with her brother Derek, and Christmas in Rockefeller Center in December.

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