Nick Cannon Quits America's Got Talent Over Racial Joke Controversy
One of the summer TV season's biggest shows will have a new host this year, with Nick Cannon revealing in a lengthy social media statement that he is leaving America's Got Talent after hosting the hit series for eight of its 11 seasons. The actor/comedian/musician was reportedly threatened with termination after the debut of his new Showtime stand-up comedy special, Nick Cannon: Stand Up, Don't Shoot, featured a joke at NBC's expense, which the network claimed was in breach of his contract. Here's part of the comedian and host's statement below.
"I write this from a deeply saddened and dolorous mindset. After days of deliberating over some extremely disappointing news that I was being threatened with termination by Executives because of a comedy special that was only intended to bring communities closer together, I was to be punished for a joke. This has weighed heavy on my spirit. It was brought to my attention by my "team" that NBC believed that I was in breach of contract because I had disparaged their brand. In my defense, I would ask how so? Or is this just another way to silence and control an outspoken voice who often battles the establishment. Recently many of my mentors have cautioned me that soon "The System" would come down on me because I was speaking too many truths and being to loud about it. I had no idea that it all would hit so close to home. I find myself in a dark place having to make a decision that I wish I didn't have to, but as a man, an artist, and a voice for my community I will not be silenced, controlled or treated like a piece of property. There is no amount of money worth my dignity or my integrity. I have loved hosting America's Got Talent for the last 8 seasons, watching talented, brave, and courageous Americans accomplish their dreams in front of millions has been nothing but a joy, and everyone has been a pleasure to work with but my soul won't allow me to be in business with corporations that attempt to frown on freedom of speech, censor artists, and question cultural choices."
TMZ reported on Friday, just hours before the special aired on Showtime, that the network had considered firing Nick Cannon after hearing about the joke, where he claimed that NBC wanted him to "lose his black card," insinuating that they wanted him to use "less swagger" on the show. The network caught wind of the joke while he was promoting his special on Howard Stern's Sirius radio program, and thought he was disparaging the network, which is not allowed through his contract, since he has a clause that states he cannot say anything about the network without their approval. However, the network decided it was just a passing comment by Nick Cannon and the network didn't want to ruin their relationship with Nick Cannon, so he was not fired, and the "black card" joke stayed in the special. The AGT host went on to say in his Facebook statement, though, that this is not the first time the network has tried to silence him.
"Not to get too detailed but this isn't the first time executives have attempted to "put me in my place" for so called unruly actions. I will not stand for it. My moral principles will easily walk away from the millions of dollars they hang over my head. It's never been about the money for me, what is difficult to walk away from is the fans, the people who love me on the show. This hurts tremendously. I felt like I was apart of the fabric of our great nation every summer, representing every culture, age, gender, and demographic. Now for the rug to be pulled from underneath me and to be publicly reprimanded and ridiculed over a joke about my own race is completely wrong and I have to do something about it. I have fought many battles in my career and have never been afraid to go up against the system. I have mulled over my process for days and felt it was best to once again speak my mind about an unjust infrastructure that treat talent like they own them. Maybe it was my mistake for signing the contract in the first place, in which I will take full responsibility and have already taken action to restructure my own team of advisors. I now have to set out on a journey of freedom as an artist. As I was quoted in a recent interview, 'You can't fire a Boss!' and that is the essence that I possess. So I wish AGT and NBC the best in its upcoming season but I can not see myself returning. As of lately I have even questioned if I want to even be apart of an industry who ultimately treats artists in this manner. Most of us don't realize that there are 6 major corporations that control 90 percent of media in America and the amount of minority executives is dismal. With this being the case, true equality in our industry is impossible. There will always be a 'do as I say' mentality that mirrors society's perception of women and minorities, and only a few will stand up against it. I proudly stand as one of those few, and will gladly take on whatever repercussions that come with it. I love art and entertainment too much to watch it be ruined by controlling corporations and big business. I believe It's our duty as artists to make a difference and create change even if it's one act at a time. Dr. King said it best, 'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.'"
TMZ's report stated that Nick Cannon will start shooting the 12th Season next month, but that doesn't seem to be happening now, unless NBC can somehow convince the host to return, which seems unlikely. It remains unclear whether or not the network is already looking for a new host to replace Nick Cannon, who started hosting the show in 2009 during the fourth season. Regis Philbin hosted the first season of the show back in 2006, with Jerry Springer hosting the second and third seasons before Nick Cannon was brought on. The show's current roster of judges, which includes Simon Cowell, who replaced Howard Stern last season, Howie Mandell, Mel B. and Heidi Klum, have not spoken about Nick Cannon leaving America's Got Talent, and NBC hasn't released an official statement yet either. It remains to be seen how quickly another host can be found, or if this will affect the production schedule for this season of AGT.