Twitter Reacts to Jay Leno's Apology for Racist Jokes About Asians

Jay Leno has issued an apology for a series of racist jokes he’s told for decades about Asians, but some aren’t buying it. 

The former late night host’s apology came after a meeting with Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) president Rob Chan, MANAA founding president Guy Aoki and vice president Lawrence Lim over zoom, after over 10 years of Aoki trying to secure a meeting with Leno to discuss his racist jokes. 

Aoki said he initially appealed to Leno’s new employers at Fox, where he hosts the game show You Bet Your Life, offering them an ultimatum of firing the host or MANAA would approach sponsors to boycott the project.

“At the time I did those jokes, I genuinely thought them to be harmless,” Leno said in a joint press release with Aoki, according to multiple reports. “I was making fun of our enemy North Korea, and like most jokes, there was a ring of truth to them.” 

The comedian continued, “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. MANAA has been very gracious in accepting my apology,” Leno added. “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’s apology, however, didn’t land with everyone. “So is your heart not in any way connected to your brain, mouth, ears, and body?” Little Fires Everywhere author Celeste Ng wrote on Twitter. “Nah, dude. Do better.”

So is your heart not in any way connected to your brain, mouth, ears, and body? Nah, dude. Do better. https://t.co/i0tlvZ5W2i

Journalist Yashar Ali pointed out that Gabrielle Union had spoken out about an offensive joke Leno told on America’s Got Talent in 2019. 

I'm glad Jay Leno has apologized but I'm old enough to remember when @itsgabrielleu was labeled as "difficult" by Simon Cowell and others for objecting to Jay's racist jokes about Asians.

My Story from 2019: https://t.co/7uvugbG6pz

Leno Apology: https://t.co/qMlWMOFkZ9pic.twitter.com/kdGwwG3m3X

See more reactions below. 

Apology not accepted. Thanks in part to dog-eating jokes by celebs like Leno, people felt emboldened to ask if my then toothless baby was eating dog meat yet. https://t.co/TBVbZh8JdA

Apologize with money or GTFO. I don’t give a shit if you feel bad when you’re not donating or helping. https://t.co/JS5h8twqaF

If you knew it was wrong, why would you continue to do it for decades? Leno isn't claiming he didn't understand it was wrong, he's saying he knew it was and did it anyway.

Jay Leno Apologizes Jokes About Asians: ‘In My Heart I Knew It Was Wrong’ https://t.co/GZpu1wwUaL

Leno’s comments come amid a spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans over the past year during the coronavirus pandemic. Many stars have spoken out condemning racist behavior towards the community. 

See more in the video below. 

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