'America's Got Talent' judge scandal: How Gabrielle Union's sacking plunged the hit NBC show into a mire of sexism and controversy

Reports have said that it wasn't a happy ending and that Union and Hough were fired after Union expressed concerns over racially insensitive situations during her time as a judge.


                            'America's Got Talent' judge scandal: How Gabrielle Union's sacking plunged the hit NBC show into a mire of sexism and controversy
(Source: Getty Images)

Last week, after 'America's Got Talent' judges Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough bid an unprecedented goodbye, the show and its bosses have been in hot water.

Reports said it wasn't a happy ending and that Union and Hough were fired after Union expressed concerns over racially insensitive situations during her time as a judge. This included an alleged joke by Jay Leno, that was edited out of the episode set to air of August 6.

Variety reported that the two judges were also under scrutiny for their appearances and received "excessive notes" on them. Union's hairstyle changes were allegedly "too black" for AGT standards. Leno had allegedly joked about a picture with Cowell and his dogs and said that the dogs looked like something "on the menu at a Korean restaurant", which was seen as insensitive to Asians present as it perpetuates the stereotype of Asians eating dog meat. At the time that Leno cracked the joke, there was an Asian staffer present as well, Variety said.

AGT is known to keep its image squeaky clean — if you recall the Nick Cannon controversy where the comedian went on to say he was "punished for a joke". 

Host Jay Leno (R) speaks with Simon Cowell of "American Idol" during a taping of 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno', March 13, 2006, in Burbank, California. (Photo by Margaret Norton/NBC Universal via Getty Images)

According to Vulture, Union was also allegedly labeled as difficult after she asked contestants dressed in drag what their preferred pronouns were. Another incident involved a 10-year-old contestant named Dylan Gilmer. Union was told that she couldn't pick the black rapper because they needed something "that America can get behind."

Union's issues were also allegedly because of Cowell's smoking inside the Pasadena theatre, Vulture reported. The dressing rooms were separated by pipes and fabric and the smoke would seep into Union's room. It is illegal for an employer to allow smoking in an enclosed workspace.
 

Time's Up and other women from the industry like Ellen Pompeo and Patricia Arquette supported Union for speaking up and she received a flurry of supportive tweets from netizens. However, Hough denied having a negative experience. "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," said Hough who, along with Derek Hough is starring in the upcoming NBC special 'Holiday with the Houghs. "I’m looking forward to what the future holds," she said.

Julianne Hough attends the Season 14 Finale of "America's Got Talent" at Dolby Theatre on September 18, 2019, in Hollywood, California. (Getty Images)

NBC, Fremantle and Simon Cowell’s company Syco who are behind AGT, said in a recent statement that they were working with Union to sort out the issues. "We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture. We are working with Ms Union through her representatives to hear more about her concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps may be appropriate," reported Deadline.

In another statement to People, they said, "America’s Got Talent has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show. 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."

Union, meanwhile, tweeted on Thanksgiving, "So many tears, so much gratitude. THANK YOU! Just when you feel lost, adrift, alone... you got me up off the ground. Humbled and thankful, forever" and recently after the joint statement retweeted a post by writer Noelle Monique talking about what a "solid apology" means. "1. Sincerely admit wrongdoing directly to the offended party. 2. Be twice as loud correcting your mistake as you were making the mistake. 3. Lay out steps to correct your behavior in the future," the tweet said, adding, "Anything less is covering your own ass" to which Union said, "This! This! AND THIIISSSSSSS!!!!!!"

This feud seems far from over.

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