Jay Leno regrets making 'racist' jokes on Asians, Internet says 'took a mass murder for him to apologize'

Jay Leno regrets making 'racist' jokes on Asians, Internet says 'took a mass murder for him to apologize'
Television host Jay Leno has told multiple jokes that have Asian Americans as the punch line (Getty Images)

Over the course of his career, television host Jay Leno has told multiple jokes that have Asian Americans as the punch line. When on a recent Zoom call with the leader of the activist group Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA), Guy Aoki, the comedian spoke about the targeted jokes he had made in the past.

Variety reported that the writer, whose jokes were driven by stereotypes, didn't find making the jokes at the time an issue. “At the time I did those jokes, I genuinely thought them to be harmless. I was making fun of our enemy North Korea, and like most jokes, there was a ring of truth to them.”

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“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 added.

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While the apology seemed to some as a little too late, many were annoyed that the host of NBC's 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' was speaking out about it now, after the recent Atlanta tragedy. The shooting rampage at three Asian-owned spas in Georgia killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women.

'I am issuing this apology'

Since the recent Boulder shooting that targeted Asian Americans, there has been a heightened response within the community as they demand justice and equality. The Covid-19 pandemic caused a "surge" in violence against the community, according to The Hill due to the fact that some blamed China for the virus.

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During the Zoom conversation, the host tried to make amends saying, “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. 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.” 

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The New York Post reported that Leno's outright offensive jokes "prompted MANAA to undergo a nearly 15-year-long campaign to pressure NBC to cut ties with him." Many remember his recent 2019 incident that occurred on the set of 'America's Got Talent' where the host mocked Asian communities — specifically the Koreans — for eating dog meat. 

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In this handout photo provided by Host Jay Leno, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of The Tonight Show, announces that in 2009, he will be turning over the mike to NBC's Conan O'Brien, after what will be a 17 year run as America's Late Night Leader. (NBC/Paul Drinkwater/Getty Images)

Aoki also asked for Leno to apologize about a 2012 incident where he had written an "open letter" to the advertisers of 'The Tonight Show'. The activist group's leader wrote, "Many Americans are unable to distinguish between persons of Korean heritage living in North Korea, South Korea or the US, or between Asians and Asian Americans generally."

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"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 US. 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."

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After this Zoom call, Aoki has reportedly "accepted" Leno's apology. MANAA President Rob Chan also released a statement on Wednesday, March 24, lauding the host's change of heart, saying, “I’m happy that Jay came around and that we will be working together in the future. We look forward to supporting Jay’s efforts to do a better job at using his public platform to stamp out systemic racism towards the [Asian-American Pacific Islander] community.”

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'It took a mass murder for Jay Leno to apologize to Asians?'

One user wrote, "After the whole tonight show debacle ten years ago, any sincerity from Jay Leno is moot point. F*ck that asshole." Another added, "Jay Leno is a tool always has been always will be. Wasn’t an issue back when he was hosting the tonight show but now he wants to “apologize” to make it seem like he cares. GTFO."


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Chat show host Jay Leno arrives for the Premiere of HBO's Documentary "My Uncle Berns" on July 20, 2004, at the Museum of Tolerance, in Los Angeles, California (Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)

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"Wow! It took a mass murder for Jay Leno to apologize to Asians? When is he going to apologize to women for all of his demeaning jokes?" said another user. Another adamantly added, "On behalf of this Asian person, nobody else, I hereby declare that I do not forgive @jayleno for his anti-Asian jokes & I absolutely do not accept his terrible “apology”. All you other Asians can do/say whatever you want about it, but I say F*ck you, Jay Leno. You racist p**ck."

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People wasted no time in trolling the host, with one user writing, "Ohhh so I probably have Jay Leno to thank for those times that my white elementary school classmates harassed me about "eating dog meat," cool cool cool."

Another added, "in this article he both says “in my heart I knew these jokes were wrong” AND in reference to his jokes about Koreans eating dog meat that “like most jokes there was a grain of truth there” so Jay Leno as always and still can go and f*ck himself."

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'What's Jay Leno apologizing for?'

 

It seems there were also people that didn't think the Internet was right in canceling the host. One user wrote, "neighborhood i grew up in, we all joked about our ethniticity. Laughter eases tension. People are too serious today."

Entrepreneur Donald Trump on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" on January 13, 2004, at the NBC Studios, in Burbank, California (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

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Another added, "Holy f*ck, I am not a big Jay Leno fan. But his jokes are harmless and it did not f*cken lead to radicalization or contribute to the rise of asian hate crime. What is with this f*cken reach???"

A user added, "What's Jay Leno apologizing for? When I lived in China I stopped asking what I was having because it was always something like "water roach" or "snake bile." I guess it's hard to have sucked on chicken feet once or twice in your life and not have a sense of humor. #JayLeno."

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