HomeAsian AmericansJay Leno Apologizes for Decades of Asian Dog Eating Jokes

Jay Leno Apologizes for Decades of Asian Dog Eating Jokes

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Jay Leno has issued an apology for decades of jokes he made about the Asian community, Variety reports.

The former host of NBC’s The Tonight Show has been making jokes about the Asian community on air for years. And for years organizations like Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice pushed NBC to condemn the jokes or cut ties with Leno, according to The Guardian.

According to a press release from MANAA Leno made at least nine documented jokes about Koreans or Chinese eating dogs or cats from 2002 to 2012. Throughout those 10 years, AAPI viewers and media professionals expressed their own hurt of the jokes. But, the show continued to use them.

In December 2012, Asian Pacific American Media Coalition asked Leno’s advertisers to stop advertising with the show, according to the MANAA press release. The jokes stopped.

Unfortunately, the jokes appeared again in April 2019 when Leno was a guest judge on another NBC Show, “America’s Got Talent. Leno saw a picture of fellow judge Simon Cowell with dogs and joked to an Asian American staffer that it looked like something you would see “on the menu of a Korean restaurant.”

Fellow guest judge Gabrielle Union asked producers to report the incident to human resources, but it never reached the department, according to an article by Variety. NBC continued to work with Leno.

Now, in the wake of increased conversations about anti-Asian racism, Leno is apologizing for the jokes himself.

“At the time I did those jokes, I genuinely thought them to be harmless,” Leno said in a joint press Zoom call with Guy Aoki, the head of MANAA. “I was making fun of our enemy North Korea, and like most jokes, there was a ring of truth to them.”

Leno said that during the time he received criticism for the jokes, the “prevailing attitude” was to brush off the criticism because “some group is always complaining about something.” He said there were two sides: the “We need to deal with this” side or “Screw ‘em if they can’t take a joke” side.

“Too many times I sided with the latter even when in my heart I knew it was wrong,” Leno said. “That is why I am issuing this apology.”

Leno, who has often criticized “cancel culture,” insisted he was making an apology because he believed what he had done was wrong.

“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 continued. “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.”

Aoki, according to The Guardian, has accepted Leno’s apology.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Apologies are empty if they do not come with an action to undo the harm done. We must all always ask with every apology ‘and what will you do about it?’ in both our personal relationships and public ones.

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