NBC, Which has Awful History Protecting Women of Color, Launches Investigation Into ‘America’s Got Talent’ Following Meeting With Ousted Judge Gabrielle Union

NBC announced that it has launched a formal investigation into the toxic work environment and racist allegations actress Gabrielle Union experienced as a judge on the network’s variety show, “America’s Got Talent.” An NBC spokesperson told Variety that they would open a deeper investigation after the network and Union had a five-hour meeting about the allegations on Tuesday.“The initial conversation was candid and productive. While there will be a further investigation to get a deeper understanding of the facts, we are working with Gabrielle to come to a positive resolution,” an NBC spokesperson told the publication.

Union wrote on Twitter on Wednesday confirming the meeting and calling it “productive.” “We had a lengthy 5-hour, and what I thought to be, productive meeting yesterday. I was able to, again, express my unfiltered truth. I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change,” Union wrote.

Quick Facts about the Allegations:

  • On November 22, PEOPLE reportedthat Union and dancer Julianne Hough would not return as judges of AGT. The two had signed on to be judges in February, according to the publication.

  • Days later, Variety reported that Union expressed concerns over some racially insensitive comments she heard while she was a judge. One instance included guest host Jay Leno, who reportedly made a joke about a painting on display, saying the pets in the painting is something one would see “on the menu at a Korean restaurant,” according to Variety.

  • Union told producers who heard the joke while on set to report it to human resources. The issue of reporting it to HR was brought to an NBC executive, but it never reached the department and it was edited out of the episode which aired on August 6, Variety reported.

  • Union and Hough were also subjected to “excessive notes” on their physical appearance and what they wore on the show, according to the publication. Sources told that Union received a note several times about her rotating hairstyles, stating that the styles were “too black” for the audience of “AGT.”

  • Variety also reported that sources said Union had expressed concerns over a white male performer who was imitating famous singers. While changing into disguise as Beyoncé Knowles, his hands appeared to be Black. Union reportedly recommended to the producers that the contestant should be removed from the show’s lineup, but some of the producers disagreed and told her “We’ll take it out later,” according to the publication. Union continued to push on the matter, “saying the show’s live audience should not be subjected to something racially insensitive,” Variety reported. The performer was cut from the episode.

  • Hough, who will be starring in two NBC Christmas specials this year, denied that she had a negative experience on the show in a statement to Variety. “I had a wonderful time on America’s Got Talent, I loved working with the cast, crew, and producers. I am happy to continue my working relationship with NBC,” Hough told the publication. “I’m looking forward to what the future holds.”

  • On Wednesday, Hough, 31, weighed in on the situation and told PEOPLE that “everybody has a voice and should be heard.” “I would just say that — my goodness. I just believe and value at the highest regard that everybody has a voice and should be heard, first and foremost,” Hough told the publication. “And then I believe that the paradigm of the workplace and how you do business and work with people now, it’s shifting, and I think that the people that really want to see change happen are going to authentically and positively … do that. And so that’s all I really have to say about that.”

  • Following the news of Union’s experience at AGT, stars like Ellen Pompeo, Ariana Grande, Tracee Ellis Ross and Elizabeth Banks have praised Union for calling out NBC for its work environment.

  • TIME’S UP NOW launched a petition that called on people to “Stand with Gabrielle Union and Demand Accountability from NBC.” The petition states that “Union's experience shows that NBCUniversal still has a lot of work to do to change its culture, so discrimination, harassment, and retaliation are no longer tolerated at the company.”

NBC Doesn’t Have a Great Past When it Comes to the Treatment of Women of Color Who Speak Out

Union is just one of the many women of color who have been fired from the network in who had spoken out about inappropriate behavior by male colleagues. In an interview with The Washington Post in 2018, journalist Ann Curry said she had reported former Today show co-host Matt Lauer’s behavior to her managers back in 2012 after she was asked to leave the show.

Curry previously told the publication that a female staffer had approached her and said she had been “sexually harassed physically” by Lauer. The female staffer also had expressed her concerns to two NBC management employees. "A woman approached me and asked me tearfully if I could help her," Curry previously told The Post. "She was afraid of losing her job. ... I believed her."

Curry told the publication that she had confronted management about the issue, leaving the employee’s name out of it, but calling out Lauer.

"I told management they had a problem and they needed to keep an eye on him and how he deals with women," Curry previously said.

Curry left the Today show in 2012 with an emotional goodbye after spending 15 years on the show.

Journalist and TV talk show host Tamron Hall said she was fired from her job as NBC’s Today show host during the premiere of her new show on ABC in September.

“I go into work one day. I left fired. ‘Demoted’ I guess is what they called it. I called it fired,” Hall said, according to The New York Daily News.

Hall abruptly left the NBC morning show in 2017 and was replaced with Megyn Kelly, who is no longer with the network. Following the news of the toxic work environment Union experienced during her time on AGT, Hall said women who speak up in the workplace are the ones who are found to be difficult.

“[Difficult] is the go-to word. It’s a trope when it comes to women. We are difficult, Black women are angry and difficult,” Hall told PEOPLE. “I have in this business watched men storm out of rooms, puffing and huffing, and no one says anything. A woman speaks up, you’re difficult. We just did a show on likeability trap, that women are always in this likability trap.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.