After a heart-to-heart via Zoom with the leader of Media Action Network for Asian Americans, Jay Leno apologized for telling jokes over the years that used Asian people as punchlines.
According to Variety, Leno spoke with Guy Aoki about some of the material over his decadeslong career.
“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.”
The former “Tonight Show” host 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.”
Leno said of his 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.”
Variety noted that MANAA had considered a boycott of Leno’s Fox show “You Bet Your Life” or asking for his firing, but that preceded the conversation and the apology, which Aoki reportedly accepted without further comment.
ABC News has reached out to Leno’s representatives for comment.
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