NBC tells Page Six that an investigation into alleged racism on the set of its long-running show “America’s Got Talent” uncovered no wrongdoing.
The network launched the probe after former judge Gabrielle Union, 47, claimed in November last year that, among other things, show insiders complained that her hairstyles were “too black” and it was reported that a young black contestant was removed from the show because it needed a performer that “America could get behind.”
But on Wednesday — the same day that Variety published a lengthy interview with Union about her experience on the show — a rep for the network and the show’s producers told us that a lengthy investigation had cleared the network and its producers.
In a statement to Page Six the rep said, “When we heard Ms. Union had concerns about her time on the show, we took them extremely seriously.”
The rep indicated that, after the allegations surfaced, the network and producers — Fremantle and Syco — “immediately engaged an outside investigator who conducted more than 30 interviews to review the issues raised by Ms. Union.”
“While the investigation has demonstrated an overall culture of diversity, it has also highlighted some areas in which reporting processes could be improved,” the rep stated.
But the rep added that the investigation has “revealed that no one associated with the show made any insensitive or derogatory remarks about Ms. Union’s appearance, and that neither race nor gender was a contributing factor in the advancement or elimination of contestants at any time.”
Union also claimed in the Variety interview that she’d been let go by the show back in September — along with fellow judge Julianne Hough, 31 — after a season on the show because she’d spoken up about what she called a “toxic environment” on the set.
But the spokesperson said, “The investigation has shown that the concerns raised by Ms. Union had no bearing on the decision not to exercise the option on her contract.”
Meanwhile, in the interview Variety published on Wednesday, Union claimed that judge and series creator Simon Cowell, 60, “poisoned” her by illegally smoking indoors during production.
She told the outlet that on her first day on set in 2019, she was enveloped in a cloud of cigarette smoke — to which she’s been severely allergic her entire life.
Union said that she broached the incident with producers, who said that complaints had been made in the past — but that nothing would be done to rectify it.
When asked to comment, a show source told Page Six that Cowell started smoking outside two days after Union’s initial complaint.
But Union told Variety: “I couldn’t escape. I ended up staying sick for two months straight. It was a cold that lingered, and turned into bronchitis, because I couldn’t shake it. It impacted my voice, which affects my ability to do my job.”
Union said that her constant runny nose upset Mandel — who has been open about his struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder and germaphobia — who sat next to her. Mandel did not comment to Variety.
“It was challenging to tend to my illness without being made to feel like I’m responsible for my own sickness. It put me in a position from day one where I felt othered. I felt isolated,” she told the magazine, “I felt singled out as being difficult, when I’m asking for basic laws to be followed. I want to come to work and be healthy and safe and listened to.”
Union joined Hough as one of two new judges to replace long-running judges Heidi Klum and Mel B in the spring of 2019.
“I signed up for the experience of being a part of a show that hails itself as the biggest stage in the world. Super diverse, and one about giving people an opportunity to shine where they otherwise probably wouldn’t,” Union said in the Variety interview, adding “What could go wrong?”
But Union, who’s married to NBA pro Dwyane Wade, said she found herself struggling after she discovered a string of alleged problems on the set.
“Do I cave? I didn’t feel like myself; I’m shape-shifting to make myself more palatable. I’m contorting myself into something I don’t recognize. I had to look at myself and say, ‘Do you want to keep it easy? Or do you want to be you, and stand up?’ Because I’m not the only one being poisoned at work,” she said.
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