Two Asian American advocacy groups have blasted comedian Jay Leno and demanded that NBC sever its ties with the former "Tonight Show" host.
According to Variety, the Media Action Network for Asian Americans took offense with a joke Leno made about Koreans eating dogs in August in a taped recording of "America's Got Talent." The joke never aired, as it was edited out from broadcast.
The president of Media Action Network, Guy Aoki, accused Leno of having a long history of making jokes that denigrate the Asian community. "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 U.S.," he said.
Aoki also accused Leno of having "a bizarre fixation" with Koreans eating dog meats and called on NBC to drop the "Jay Leno's Garage" series from CNBC.
A 'repeat offender'
John C. Yang, the head of another advocacy group, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, also ripped Leno. "Jay Leno is a repeat offender in denigrating a part of our Asian American community and it must stop," he said in a statement.
Yang also accused Leno of stereotyping Asians throughout his career, Variety reported. "[W]hether it is his use of this offensive stereotype to talk about a Korean skater's Olympic loss in 2002 —'Kim Dong-sung was so upset, he went home, kicked his dog, then ate him!' — or his apparent recent comment backstage at 'America's Got Talent' where he remarked that pets in a photo looked like something one would find 'on the menu at a Korean restaurant.'"
Yang told Variety that Leno's jokes are "so toxic because it is intended to minimize a community and somehow make that community seem less civilized."
Gabrielle Union reported Leno to NBC executives
Variety also reported that Gabrielle Union, the former "America's Got Talent" judge and wife of retired NBA star Dwayne Wade, brought Leno's joke to the attention of NBC executives and demanded an investigation by the company's human resources personnel.
"We applaud Gabrielle Union for not only calling out Leno's behavior for what it is, but also more importantly for her willingness to stand up for a fellow community of color," Yang concluded.
Presumably, Leno's remarks were in reference to what USA Today described in March as Korea's "centuries-old practice" of consuming dog meat. "About 2.5 million dogs are raised in South Korean dog farms each year. About 1 million are killed and eaten," the publication said. However, USA Today also cited a poll showing that most Koreans do not eat dogs and stated that the practice is declining.
An NBC spokesperson declined to comment to Variety and said the network is currently investigating the matter and other accusations of "toxicity" at "America's Got Talent."