Amid the firing of “America’s Got Talent” judge Gabrielle Union, investigative journalist Ronan Farrow said of his former employer that the public can see “what happens when you sweep these kinds of problems under the rug.”
Union, who was newly hired for the 14th season of the NBC show, will not be not returning for the upcoming 15th season. Her contract was not renewed after a season in which there were several issues that she was involved in, according to allegations reported by Variety last week.
In one of the incidents, sources alleged to Variety that comedian Jay Leno had joked about a painting featuring dogs, saying that they were something you’d find “on a menu at a Korean restaurant.” Union allegedly urged producers to report the quip on the basis that it was insensitive and had offended staffers of Asian backgrounds.
Variety also reported that Union and longtime “AGT” judge Julianne Hough — whose contract also wasn’t renewed for season 15 — often received “excessive notes” on their appearance. One of those notes allegedly informed Union that her frequently changing hairstyles were “too black” for the “AGT” audience.
Farrow guest co-hosted “The View” on Tuesday, where he responded to the latest “AGT” allegations.
“It’s no secret that I’ve done a bunch of reporting on a number of media companies,” Farrow began. “It is thanks to some very brave sources, including a lot of whistleblowers within NBCUniversal.”
“It is very clear that source after source is saying there is a systemic cultural problem with this kind of toxicity at NBC,” he said, adding that the problem can be seen “across the board” at other networks.
Farrow went on to say: “I think we’re seeing the consequences of what happens when you sweep these kinds of problems under the rug.”
NBC and series producer Fremantle issued a joint statement to ABC News about the Variety report:
“‘America’s Got Talent’ has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show,” the statement said. “The judging and host line-up has been regularly refreshed over the years and that is one of the reasons for AGT’s enduring popularity. NBC and the producers take any issues on set seriously.”
NBC, Fremantle and Syco Entertainment also released a follow-up statement on the report:
“We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture,” the statement said. “We are working with Ms. Union through her representatives to hear more about her concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps may be appropriate.”
A spokesperson for Jay Leno did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
Union has yet to publicly comment on the Variety report, but on Wednesday, she posted a message of gratitude on Twitter.
So many tears, so much gratitude. THANK YOU! Just when you feel lost, adrift, alone… you got me up off the ground. Humbled and thankful, forever ❤— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) November 28, 2019
“So many tears, so much gratitude. THANK YOU!” she wrote. “Just when you feel lost, adrift, alone… you got me up off the ground. Humbled and thankful, forever.”
Union also received an outpouring of support from fellow celebs, including from actress Ellen Pompeo and radio personality Howard Stern, who co-host Abby Huntsman pointed out is influential enough for people to listen to what he says.
“We are still at a cultural moment where…we just don’t listen to women enough,” Farrow said in response to Huntsman.
Co-host Sunny Hostin questioned why complaints like Union’s aren’t sent to the highest levels of corporate governance.
“There can be an extra layer of resistance to change when you either have a board that is stocked with people who will protect those guys in powerful positions, or you have a family-owned company, which is the case with Comcast, which owns NBC and NBCUniversal,” Farrow said.
Farrow’s book “Catch and Kill” is about his reporting on stories that helped fuel the #MeToo movement, included allegations that NBC had multiple non-disclosure agreements with women who had alleged sexual misconduct by former “Today” show host Matt Lauer.
In a memorandum to NBC News staff released in October, NBC News president Noah Oppenheim said that, contrary to Farrow’s assertions, “there is no evidence of any reports of Lauer’s misconduct before his firing, no settlements, no ‘hush money’ – no way we have found that NBC’s current leadership could have been aware of his misdeeds in the past.”
Oppenheim asserts that “Farrow’s effort to defame NBC News is clearly motivated not by a pursuit of truth, but an axe to grind. It is built on a series of distortions, confused timelines, and outright inaccuracies.”