Jay Leno Apologizes For Past Anti-Asian Jokes Amid Violence Against AAPI Community: “I Knew It Was Wrong”

Jay Leno has issued an apology for the numerous anti-Asian jokes he made over the course of his career.

“At the time I did those jokes, I genuinely thought them to be harmless,” he said in a joint statement released Wednesday with activist group Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA). Leno apologized verbally in a Zoom call with MANAA last month.

On Wednesday, Leno shared an extensive apology for his jokes in the joint statement. The release chronicles the various incendiary comments Leno has made, singling out a total of nine instances where Leno had joked about Asians eating dogs, from 2002 to 2012. He dismissed the racist remarks, explaining that he was “making fun of our enemy North Korea, and like most jokes, there was a rung 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. That is why I am issuing this apology,” Leno explained.  “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’s comments come nearly a week after the deadly shootings in Atlanta, in which a white shooter killed six Asian American women. His apology also comes as Hollywood stars are using their platforms to condemn the rise in violent acts against members of the Asian American community, specifically women and the elderly.

MANAA’s Rob Chan, who engaged in a conversation with Leno and MANAA Founding President Guy Aoki added: “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 AAPI community.”

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