Howard Stern is weighing in on Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough’s recent departures as judges on NBC’s America’s Got Talent.
During his SiriusXM show Monday, the radio host was quick to speak out against judge and AGT creator-producer Simon Cowell.
“He sets it up that the men stay no matter how ugly [the men] are, no matter how old they are, no matter how fat they are, no matter how talentless they are,” Stern said of Cowell selecting the judges panel.
Stern further reiterated that Cowell “replaces the hot chicks with hotter chicks and younger chicks.” “Howie’s [Mandel] doing a fine, serviceable job — why don’t they change him? And why don’t they change Simon? … This is the ultimate example of a boys’ club.”
Stern served as a judge on AGT for four seasons before exiting the show in 2015. Mandel is the longest-serving judge, having joined in 2010. Prior to Union and Hough joining season 14, singer Mel B and model Heidi Klum served as judges with Mandel and Cowell from seasons eight through 13.
After NBC confirmed that Union and fellow newcomer Hough would not be returning to the show, a report of “toxic culture” and public outcry from Union’s husband Dwyane Wade over her dismissal have prompted renewed speculation over the show’s treatment of people of color and calls for a boycott on Twitter.
The accusations, laid out in a Nov. 26 Variety piece, focus on a cut controversial joke made by show guest Jay Leno in which he commented that a painting of dogs with creator Cowell looked like it belonged “on the menu at a Korean restaurant.” Union was also allegedly told on several occasions that her hairstyles were “too black.”
Of Leno’s joke, Stern advised Union to let Leno “live in peace.” “Let’s go on record as telling people that one million dogs are still eaten annually in South Korea, and if Gabrielle Union wants to effect positive change, maybe focus on the horrors of Korean dog farms and let the old irrelevant comic live in peace,” he said. “She wants Jay beaten in the streets. I think maybe Jay makes a point.”
The backlash against the NBC show continued over the weekend with Time’s Up and other Hollywood actresses are throwing their support behind Union, and SAG-AFTRA confirming on Sunday that the union has launched an investigation into the star’s departure from the series. On Monday, Time’s Up launched a petition urging NBCUniversal leaders to take Union’s allegations seriously and to take concrete steps to foster a safe and equitable workplace.
“We take issues of workplace health and safety very seriously,” Tina Tchen, Time’s Up president and CEO, said in a statement to THR. “We immediately reached out to Ms. Union’s representatives when these reports came to light. It is our practice to work closely with members who reach out to us and their representatives in instances like this, as that usually affords the best protection and best resolution for the affected member.”
The statement continued, “For certain matters, our investigation and enforcement needs to happen independently and we are prepared to handle this issue accordingly, as warranted. Our enforcement action is usually handled confidentially to protect the member involved, and we typically do not publicize these matters unless the member requests that we do so. While we have taken steps to investigate this matter, we have nothing to report now.”
Amid the backlash, producers Fremantle and Syco broke their silence on the controversy over the weekend, saying in a statement that they would be working with Union’s representatives on the matter: “We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture. 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.”
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.