Jay Leno, a comedian and former late-night host, has expressed regret for several jokes told over his career targeting people who are of Asian descent.
During his career as host of NBC's "The Tonight Show," Leno made inappropriate jokes about Korean people eating dogs and allegedly made a similar joke, which didn't make it to television, during a guest appearance on "America's Got Talent," according to Variety.
That specific news led to calls by Asian advocacy groups for NBC to not work with Leno anymore.
In a press release released by Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA), Leno said, "At the time I did those jokes, I genuinely thought them to be harmless. 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.
"That is why I am issuing this apology," he continued. "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."
"I'm happy that Jay came around, and that we will be working together in the future," MANAA president Rob Chan said in a statement. "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."
In the last year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, hate crimes against Asian Americans have spiked.
Last week, two shootings in Atlanta left eight people dead. Six of the victims were Asian women.