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Gabrielle Union’s AGT Firing Sparks SAG-AFTRA Investigation

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  • SAG-AFTRA, a labor union representing actors, has launched a probe into Gabrielle Union’s complaints while on the set of America’s Got Talent, as well as her subsequent removal from the show. 
  • Reports say that Union urged producers to report a racist joke made by Jay Leno to HR, tried to prevent a racially insensitive act from performing, was told her hairstyles were “too black,” and was vocal about other issues with the show and the culture it created.
  • The show opted to not continue with Union’s contract, ending her arc as a judge after just one season.

SAG-AFTRA Probe Launched

The Screen Actors Guild announced that it is investigating the controversies surrounding Gabrielle Union, NBC, and America’s Got Talent. 

Last week, it was revealed that Union was let go after appearing as a judge for one season. Reports from Variety and Vulture soon followed saying that Union was frequently vocal about addressing issues on set. She allegedly encouraged producers to report a joke many found racist, and tried to remove a performer whose act she found racially insensitive. According to Vulture, her complaints were among the reasons NBC’s America’s Got Talent decided to drop her.

“We take issues of workplace health and safety very seriously. We immediately reached out to Ms. Union’s representatives when these reports came to light,” SAG-AFTRA said in a statement published in full by Deadline on Sunday. “While we have taken steps to investigate this matter, we have nothing to report now.”

Deadline’s report said that the investigations are still in their early stages. Their source, however, acknowledged that this investigation is “a high profile and probably high wire act.”

SAG-AFTRA’s announcement came just hours after NBC published a statement of their own regarding the matter. The network claimed to be working with Union’s team to address her concerns.

“We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture,” their 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.”

In what many saw as a response to NBC, Union shared a tweet that gave instructions on how to form a proper apology. 

Complaints in Variety Report

Union’s concerns painted the image of a toxic culture at America’s Got Talent. First unraveled in a report from Variety, it appeared that Union was seeking solutions to these issues to no response. 

One incident involved a joke made by comedian Jay Leno, who was a guest judge in one episode. Four people told Variety that while taping, he pointed to a photo of America’s Got Talent’s producer and judge Simon Cowell surrounded by his dogs. He said it looked like something “on the menu at a Korean restaurant.”

Some of the workers at America’s Got Talent found this joke to be offensive to Asian cultures, with the report also noting that one of the show’s few Asian staffers was present at the time.

Union allegedly encouraged producers and an NBC executive to report the joke to Human Resources, but nothing ever came of it. The joke did not make it into the episode. 

In another case, while taping auditions, one white contestant did rapid costume changes as he impersonated celebrities. While performing as Beyonce, his “hands appeared black.” Finding this racially insensitive, Union tried to convince producers to take him off the line-up, saying the live audience should not have to see this. They disagreed and sent him on stage, though he did not appear on television.

Variety’s report also said that Union and Julianne Hough, who was brought on to judge at the same time as Union and was also let go from the upcoming season, received constant notes about their appearances, hair, and makeup.

Union was reportedly told several times that her rotating hairstyles were “too black” for America’s Got Talent’s audience. One executive disputed this claim to Variety, saying notes on appearance were not given that frequently and only once were judges given notes on “hair continuity.”

Hough, who has a few projects with NBC in the near future, said she had a positive experience on America’s Got Talent and, “loved working with the cast, crew and producers.”

“I am happy to continue my working relationship with NBC. I’m looking forward to what the future holds,” she added.

Vulture Report Includes More Complaints

A few days after Variety’s report went out, a second report from Vulture was published, also laden with riffs between Union and producers. Union, who is allergic to cigarette smoke, complained to staff about Cowell’s habit of smoking inside the theatre, which had only separation curtains and no walls. Even though California law prevents an employer from allowing indoor smoking, producers insisted nothing could be done about Cowell’s smoking. He had reportedly been doing it for years despite complaints, including ones from NBC executives and a fire marshal. 

Producers were also said to have been irritated by Union asking contestants who were competing in drag for their preferred pronouns.

Vulture said a boiling point was reached when Union and producers were discussing contestants they wanted to see continue on the show, including a ten-year-old black rapper whom Union found exciting. The producers, however, told Union that the show needed to pick an act “that America can get behind.” They suggested a dance troupe from Texas that consisted of white performers. 

Vulture said that Union “Felt producers were implying that American audiences couldn’t get behind a 10-year-old black rapper, a viewpoint she felt was racist.”

After Union was working on the show for two months, Cowell allegedly sat her down and said that if she had any concerns, she should bring them up with him and not NBC executives, which Union thought was odd, and looked like he was trying to cover things up. Vulture’s report also included sources who said that Union frustrated Cowell and that she was let go from the show for being “difficult.”

NBC explained their reasoning for letting go of Union and Hough in Variety’s initial report. 

“‘America’s Got Talent’ has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show,” they 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.”

Celebrities Stand With Union

Many celebrities spoke up to defend Union and call out NBC for not taking action.

“It’s unfortunate that @nbc the same network that protected disgusting men like Matt Lauer and punished women for speaking out or not putting up with it…has not changed their practices or culture,” Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo said. 

Popstar Ariana Grande shared more of Pompeo’s remarks and told NBC to “be better.”

Jameela Jamil, an actress on NBC’s The Good Place said Union should be brought back to America’s Got Talent.

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (Vulture) (Variety)

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Chris D’Elia Accused of Soliciting Child Pornography in New Lawsuit

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  • Comedian Chris D’Elia was sued in California on Tuesday for sexual exploitation and soliciting nude photos from a minor.
  • The lawsuit alleges that D’Elia “constructed a manipulative, controlling, and abusive dynamic” in order to get dozens of nude photos from a girl he knew was 17 at the time.
  • It also says he invited the minor to his hotel room before one of his shows, where she performed sexual acts at his request.
  • D’Elia’s spokesperson denied the accusations, which come just two weeks after D’Elia addressed months-old claims that he had sexually harassed underage women. He claimed sex “controlled” his life and admitted to having “a problem” but maintained all his relationships had been consensual and legal.

Chris D’Elia Accused of Soliciting Child Pornography

A federal lawsuit filed in the Central District of California on Tuesday accuses comedian Chris D’Elia of sexual exploitation and soliciting nude photos from a minor.

The allegations stem from 2014 when Jane Doe, now 24, was just 17-years-old. The lawsuit says D’Elia, who would have been 34 at the time, “constructed a manipulative, controlling, and abusive dynamic” in order to solicit the photos and pressure Doe into sexual encounters. 

According to Doe, their interactions began in September of that year when she contacted him on Instagram, thinking he would never reply. D’Elia, however, allegedly responded to her message right away and asked her to come to one of his shows. When she agreed to see him perform at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, she says they exchanged information on Snapchat. 

Once the two started communicating on Snapchat, the lawsuit claims that the messages D’Elia sent “became sexual very quickly.” He allegedly started to ask for nude photos of her, and if she did not reply, he would persist. While she tried to avoid sending the photos, the lawsuit claims he was “aggressive.” She eventually sent him 5-10 explicit photos before she met him. 

According to the lawsuit, when D’Elia came to perform in Connecticut in November, he invited Doe to his room before the show. Because she was nervous about the situation, Doe brought a friend with her, but D’Elia allegedly demanded that the friend leave or else he would not let Doe inside. 

Doe’s friend left and the lawsuit claims that D’Elia then began to request sexual favors from Doe within minutes of her arrival. It alleges that the two had sex while D’Elia knew her age. It even adds that during the acts, he repeatedly asked her to tell him she was 17 and still in high school, with him allegedly saying that this was “hot.”

Doe says that he invited her back to his hotel after the show and they had sex again. After this, she says she left feeling “disgusting and defeated.” The lawsuit says this was her first sexual encounter of any kind and she had not even kissed anyone prior to meeting him, leaving her unsure what to think or do in the situation. 

Over the following months, the lawsuit claims that D’Elia would limit his communication with Doe as a tactic to pry more photos out of her. It says he would demand she send explicit photos or he would unfollow her on social media until she compiled. The lawsuit says that over the course of six to seven months, she sent him over 100 explicit photos and videos, roughly half of which were taken while she was a minor. 

The lawsuit says Doe “suffered significant emotional, physical, and psychological harm as a direct result of Defendant D’Elia’s predatory conduct.”

D’Elia Says He “Has A Problem”

These allegations come nearly nine months after several women accused him of sexual harassment and predatory behavior. Many said they were underage at the time he harassed them. 

After months of silence, D’Elia recently addressed those allegations in a 10-minute video on February 19. He apologized and said he had been seeking help. 

“I mean sex, it controlled my life,” he said. “It was the focus, my focus, all the time. And I had a problem. I do have a problem.” 

However, he denied ever breaking the law in his sexual encounters. 

“I stand by the fact that all my relationships have been consensual and legal,” he said. 

A spokesperson for the comedian told the Los Angeles Times that the accusations in the lawsuit are false. 

“Chris denies these allegations and will vigorously defend against them in court,” they said. 

Jane Doe is seeking unspecified damages. 

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Hollywood Reporter) (USA Today)

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Paris Hilton Recalls “Cruel” David Letterman Interview: “It Was Like He Was Just Purposefully Trying To Humiliate Me”

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  • Footage of David Letterman’s 2007 interview with Paris Hilton resurfaced last month, showing him repeatedly pressing Hilton about her time in jail.
  • Despite Hilton’s visible discomfort and repeated attempts to avoid the topic, Letterman continued to ask about it for six minutes of the eight-minute-long segment.
  • Hilton addressed the clip on Monday during her “This is Paris” podcast, noting that Letterman’s team had promised he would not bring the subject up at the time.
  • “It was like he was just purposefully trying to humiliate me,” she said. “I thought he would keep his word on this and I was wrong…he just kept pushing me and pushing me and I was just getting uncomfortable and I was so upset.”

Letterman Interview Goes Viral

Paris Hilton called a 2007 interview she did with talk show host David Letterman “cruel” on Monday’s episode of her podcast “This is Paris.”

The clip started going viral in February as the “Framing Britney Spears” documentary prompted many to look at the culture of misogyny that dominated media in the 2000s. Many began to see the careers of young starlets of that era in a new light, including Spears, Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and more. Some started sharing old footage of these stars being mistreated or berated by prominent media figures. 

In this 2007 clip, Letterman repeatedly asks Hilton about her time in jail even though Hilton asks to change the subject multiple times. Still, he spends over six of the eight minute segment hounding her about her experience. 

How’d you like being in jail?” He asked her almost immediately. “God that was just a horrible thing, wasn’t that horrible?

Hilton persistently asked to talk about her upcoming movie and fragrance, which she was on the show to promote in the first place. Letterman instead had her detail the meals she ate, asked if she made friends in jail, and pressed on several other aspects of her sentencing. 

“I’ve moved on with my life. So I don’t really want to talk about it anymore,” Hilton said at one point. 

“Well I appreciate that, but this is where you and I are different,” Letterman responded. “This is all I want to talk about.” 

He then insisted that she might be able to serve as some kind of warning and example for other young people. 

“Do you get correspondence like that from kids and teachers and clergymen and stuff?” he asked.

I’m going on to the next question. I’m over it,” Hilton replied. 

Letterman then told her that “in all seriousness now, this could be your legacy.

He continued to bring the subject up for another minute until Hilton told him she was starting to regret appearing on the show.

“Now you’re making me sad that I came here because you’re hurting my feelings,” she said. 

Hilton Recounts “Cruel” Interview

The clip generated a lot of outrage from people who were upset that Letterman was hounding a young woman who had just gone through a rough time. Others took issue with the fact that he blatantly refused her requests to change the subject. Now, Hilton has shared her own thoughts on the expereince.

The heiress said that she only agreed to sit down for the interview because her PR team worked out a deal with the show to make her stint in jail an off-limits topic. 

“I felt like it was a safe place because I had been going on Letterman for so many years and, you know, he would always have fun with me and joke around but, you know, I thought he would keep his word on this,” she said on her podcast. “And I was wrong.” 

“So there was not supposed to be one question and then he just kept pushing me and pushing me and I was just getting uncomfortable and I was so upset,” she continued. 

Hilton said that after the interview was done, she walked off stage to her sister with tears in her eyes. 

“It was like he was just purposefully trying to humiliate me,” Hilton explained. “And during commercial breaks I would be like, ‘please stop doing this, like you promised me you wouldn’t talk about this. That’s the only reason I came on this show. Please don’t bring it up again.’ He’s like ‘okay’ and then [he would] again.” 

“It was just very cruel and very mean,” she said.

Hilton explained that after the interview, she told Letterman she would never return to his show because he had “crossed a line” with her. She said the host ended up sending her wine, letters, and continuously apologized until she agreed to go on his show again to promote another fragrance. Hilton said her next appearance on the show was far more pleasant. 

She also said she is glad that the world is a more understanding place when it comes to topics like mental health, the MeToo and Times Up movements, and other subjects, meaning something like this would likely not happen again.

“I’m so happy that it’s different today,” she said. “Just for people who are coming up in the industry, who are new to this. You know, I wouldn’t wish what happened to me upon anyone, not even my worst enemy.”

See what others are saying: (USA Today) (The Independent) (Paper Magazine)

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Taylor Swift Slams “Ginny & Georgia” for “Deeply Sexist” Joke About Her

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  • Netflix’s new series “Ginny & Georgia” is facing criticism for featuring a joke about Taylor Swift’s dating history.
  • “You go through men faster than Taylor Swift,” a character in the show said, which the singer’s fans have denounced as a misogynistic remark. 
  • For many, the joke is especially frustrating because Swift has long been critical of this narrative and sexism in general in several interviews, songs, and even her own Netflix documentary: “Miss Americana.” 
  • “2010 called and it wants its lazy, deeply sexist joke back,” Swift tweeted Monday, adding, “Also, @netflix after Miss Americana this outfit doesn’t look cute on you 💔 Happy Women’s History Month I guess.”

“Ginny & Georgia” Sparks Outrage

Singer Taylor Swift criticized Netflix’s new series “Ginny & Georgia” on Monday for including a “deeply sexist” joke about her dating history.

In one episode of the show, which debuted last week, the character Georgia asks her daughter Ginny if she has broken up with her boyfriend.

What do you care? You go through men faster than Taylor Swift,” Ginny replies.

After seeing this, were quick to defend the singer, slamming the remark as misogynistic and causing the phrase “RESPECT TAYLOR SWIFT” to start trending Sunday.

It even prompted fans to point to a 2017 episode of” Degrassi: Next Class,” which is also co-produced by Netflix, along with other companies.

In that episode, a character says, “Taylor Swift made an entire career off of her exes.”

“RESPECT TAYLOR SWIFT” Becomes Trending Topic

For many fans, these types of jokes are especially frustrating because Swift has long been critical of this narrative and sexism in general.

She’s addressed it in several interviews, songs, and even her own Netflix documentary: “Miss Americana.” Some online even pointed out that Swift trusted Netflix with that documentary as well as the concert film for her Reputation tour.

Swift took to Twitter Monday to address the joke herself.

“Hey Ginny & Georgia, 2010 called and it wants its lazy, deeply sexist joke back,” she wrote.

“How about we stop degrading hard working women by defining this horse shit as FuNnY. Also, @netflix after Miss Americana this outfit doesn’t look cute on you 💔 Happy Women’s History Month I guess”

Now, many are calling on Netflix and the series to apologize. Others are pointing to other stars who are often shamed for their dating history in the media, including Ariana Grande and Lori Harvey.

See what others are saying: (Cosmopolitan) (CNN) (PEOPLE)

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