Following a recent announcement that celebrity judges Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough would be leaving NBC’s America’s Got Talent, there have been multiple reports that the pair’s departure comes amid allegations of a toxic culture on set.
Variety first reported that Union and Hough were allegedly victims of a toxic culture that tolerated racist jokes, barbed comments about physical appearance, and completely ignored their concerns.
In April of this year, Jay Leno was a guest host on the show when he made a racist joke offending other cast members. Referring to a nearby painting of Simon Cowell with some dogs, four sources told Variety that he suggested that the dogs looked like something you would see on the “menu of a Korean restaurant.”
While the line was cut from the episode when it aired in August, rumors are flying that this incident is all part of a toxic culture that pervades the variety show behind the scenes, belying the shows’ squeaky clean image.
Gabrielle Union was apparently constantly criticized on the show for having hairstyles that looked “too black.” Whereas Juliana Hough was also said to be subjected to continuous criticism on hair, make-up, and wardrobe.
It is believed that Union made a number of complaints about racist and insensitive jokes, which were ignored. In another instance, she made a complaint about a white performer who supposedly impersonated Beyonce as part of their routine. It was reported that Union asked that the act be cut after noticing their hands appeared black during the routine.
Nick Cannon was the host of America’s Got Talent for seven seasons but quit abruptly in 2017. Nick announced his departure via Facebook post where he took aim at AGT and NBC, with claims that the network was trying to censor him outside the show.
NBC and show makers said, in a joint statement, that the program had a long history of inclusivity and diversity, and added that judges were regularly replaced to keep the show fresh.