LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Comedian Jay Leno issued an apology Wednesday for past jokes about Asians and Asian Americans.
Media Action Network for Asian Americans said the former “Tonight Show” host expressed his remorse in a recent Zoom call between himself and the group’s leadership.
The Asian American advocacy group said it has spent years complaining about Leno’s comments.
In 2002, the 70-year-old comedian joked about Chinese people and about Korean people eating dogs. Those comments were said to have continued over the years.
Leno said that at the time, he thought the comments were harmless but he acknowledges that he was wrong.
“At the time I did those jokes, I genuinely thought them to be harmless,” Leno said. “I was making fun of our enemy North Korea, and like most jokes, there was a ring of truth to them.”
“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.”
“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,” 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.”
Leno is set to host a new version of the 1950s game show “You Bet Your Life” this fall.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)