Following news that “America’s Got Talent” judges Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough would not be returning to the reality singing competition for a second year, NBC and Union’s husband Dwyane Wade reacted to a report from Variety that alleges “toxic culture” on the set.
“America’s Got Talent has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show,” NBC and production company Fremantle said in a joint statement sent to USA TODAY. “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.”
Variety reports that a culture of toxic, racist jokes and “excessive notes” about physical appearance were pervasive before the two freshman judges’ contracts were not renewed. USA TODAY has reached out to representatives for Hough and Union for comment.
Union’s husband, basketball star Wade, responded to the news on Wednesday in a series of tweets praising Union’s for her time on the show.
“ ‘Men lie, Women lie, numbers don’t’ Over this past year I’ve been approached by many people saying that my wife @itsgabrielleu is the main reason they’ve started watching #AGT or that they love her insight and sincerity on the show,” he wrote. “So when I got the news that my wife was being fired—my first question was obviously why!? I am still waiting on a good answer to that question. But if anyone knows @itsgabrielleu or have heard of her you know she’s an advocate for our community and culture.”
Wade added he was proud of his wife for being selected as a judge in the first place and for “standing up for what she stands for and that’s US.”
“So to (cheers) to you… on not losing sight of the lessons we’ve talked about teaching our daughter and for kicking ass while you were on that platform,” he concluded. “Number 1 judge on one of the biggest shows in the world.”
According to Variety, issues raised include comments on Union’s and Hough’s appearances. Variety quoted four unnamed sources as saying Union was told several times that her hairstyles were “too black” for the show. Hough reportedly was “consistently” given critiques on her appearance, though she said in a statement to the outlet that she had a “wonderful time” on the “AGT” set.
Union and Hough joined the show for Season 14, replacing the vacant seats left by judges Mel B and Heidi Klum. Judges Simon Cowell and Howie Mandel, plus host Terry Crews, are expected to return next season, Variety previously reported.
As producers noted in their statement, this is not the first changeover for the long-running franchise, summer’s top series. Crews replaced former host Tyra Banks last season, who in turn replaced Nick Cannon in 2017. Previous judges also include Piers Morgan and Howard Stern.
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