Jay Leno breaks silence on 'America's Got Talent' drama, calls Gabrielle Union 'a great girl'

Jay Leno spoke out for the first time about Gabrielle Union's firing from America's Got Talent — but stayed quiet about his alleged inappropriate joke.

Last week, multiple reports claimed Union was not brought back as a judge on the NBC show after she raised concerns about workplace behavior and was labeled difficult. One example in a Variety story involved Leno, who appeared on one episode last season. He allegedly offended some staffers when joking Simon Cowell's dogs looked like something one would find "on the menu at a Korean restaurant." Union apparently asked producers to report the joke to NBC's human resources, but it was never escalated and the joke was cut prior to air. TMZ caught up with Leno on Sunday night and asked him why he thought Union got fired.

"I love Gabrielle Union, she's a great girl," Leno replied. "I really enjoyed working with her she's really good. She's good."

The paparazzo asked Leno if Union was treated fairly.

"I don't know, I wasn't — you know, I don't know," he said, adding, "but I think she's a great girl."

When asked directly about the purported joke, Leno stayed mum.

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'America's Got Talent' season 14 judges
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'America's Got Talent' season 14 judges
AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- "Auditions" -- Pictured: (l-r) Howie Mandel, Terry Crews, Gabrielle Union, Simon Cowell, Julianne Hough -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- "Auditions 2" Episode 1402 -- Pictured: (l-r) Howie Mandel, Gabrielle Union, Julianne Hough, Simon Cowell -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- Season: 14 -- Pictured: (l-r) Howie Mandel, Gabrielle Union, Simon Cowell, Julianne Hough, and Terry Crews -- (Photo by: Art Streiber/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- "Auditions 1" Episode 1401 -- Pictured: Howie Mandel, Gabrielle Union, Julianne Hough, Simon Cowell -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- "America's Got Talent Promo" -- Pictured: (l-r) Howie Mandel, Gabrielle Union, Julianne Hough, Terry Crews -- (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- "Judge Cuts" -- Pictured: (l-r) Howie Mandel, Gabrielle Union, Terry Crews, Dwyane Wade, Julianne Hough, Simon Cowell -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- "Auditions 4" Episode 1404 -- Pictured: (l-r) Howie Mandel, Gabrielle Union, Terry Crews, Julianne Hough, Simon Cowell -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
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Union, who was only a judge for one season, reportedly clashed behind-the-scenes with Cowell. Cowell's company, Syco Entertainment, broke its silence after an unflattering report from Vulture detailed alleged incidents that led to their strained relationship.

"We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture," Syco Entertainment, which produces AGTsaid in a joint statement with NBC and production company Fremantle on Sunday. "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."

In the wake of the reports, Union has received overwhelming support from her peers and fans. Grey's Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo slammed NBC for their "toxic" culture. Ariana Grande tweeted that NBC should "be better." Debra Messing, who stars on NBC's Will & Gracetweeted "This is disgusting behavior from a network that has been my professional home for decades. Yes, women become 'difficult,' when their insistence on a respectful and professional working environment, is ignored."

While Union has yet to address the controversy directly, she thanked everyone for their support.


SAG-AFTRA, the labor union that represents American actors and entertainers, has launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Union's departure.

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