Jay Leno has apologised for making racist jokes about Asian people.

Jay Leno

Jay Leno

The 70-year-old TV star now recognises he was wrong to make jokes during his comedy routines that perpetuated racist stereotypes, including suggesting Korean people eat dog and cat meat.

Jay - whose offensive jokes drew criticism from the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA), the activist group, for more than a decade - said: "At the time I did those jokes, I genuinely thought them to be harmless. I was making fun of our enemy North Korea, and like most jokes, there was a ring of truth to them."

Jay defended his insensitive jokes for years, but now admits he "knew it was wrong".

The stand-up comedian - who hosted 'The Tonight Show' between 1992 and 2009 - said: "At the time, there was a prevailing attitude that some group is always complaining about something, so don’t worry about it.

"Whenever we received a complaint, there would be two sides to the discussion: either ‘We need to deal with this’ or ‘Screw ‘em if they can’t take a joke.’ Too many times I sided with the latter even when in my heart I knew it was wrong."

Jay's comments come amid a recent spike in attacks on Asian-Americans.

And the TV star hopes members of the community will be able to accept his apology.

In a joint statement with the activist group, he explained to Variety: "I do not consider this particular case to be another example of cancel culture but a legitimate wrong that was done on my part.

"MANAA has been very gracious in accepting my apology. I hope that the Asian American community will be able to accept it as well, and I hope I can live up to their expectations in the future."

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