Jay Leno has apologised for his long history of making anti-Asian jokes.
The comedian and former The Tonight Show host has previously faced a 15-year campaign by the activist group Media Action Network For Asian Americans (MANAA) after he made a string of derogatory comments about the Asian community.
Appearing on a Zoom call with Guy Aoki, head of Manaa, Leno said: “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.”
The comedian was most recently criticised in 2019 for reportedly joking that Koreans eat dog meat while he appeared as a judge on America’s Got Talent. The joke was reportedly uttered in front of an Asian staffer.
“At the time I did those jokes, I genuinely thought them to be harmless”, he said.
“I was making fun of our enemy North Korea, and like most jokes, there was a ring of truth to them.”
Leno added: “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.”
Aoki has previously condemned Leno’s actions and wrote a letter to The Tonight Show advertisers, claiming that Leno’s repeated jokes were causing Asian Americans to be “subjected to ridicule, disdain and abuse” which had “resulted in a rise in racial profiling and hate crimes against Asians, Asian Americans and immigrants”.
Aoki has since accepted Leno’s apology.