Ellen Pompeo Sends Scathing Message to NBC After Gabrielle Union Gets Fired from AGT
"I support [Gabrielle Union's] commitment to speaking up to injustice. It takes courage," Ellen Pompeo tweeted
A day after Union, 47, spoke out about her recent and controversial departure from the NBC reality competition series after only one season, Grey’s Anatomy star Pompeo came to her fellow actress’s defense in a series of tweets.
“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. I support @itsgabrielleu commitment to speaking up to injustice. It takes courage” Pompeo began, noting former Today show anchor Matt Lauer‘s firing for allegations of sexual misconduct.
In a second tweet, Pompeo, 50, said that she was specifically talking to “white girls” — asking them to “stand with your sisters on the front lines.”
“This is a teaching moment..It’s important..white girls I’m talking to you..whether you truly understand what racial injustice is or not..that you stand with your sisters on the front lines. Don’t cut side deals & don’t not get involved because it isn’t your issue..because it is,” she wrote.
“Workplace cultures will continue to be toxic until there is unity and solidarity among all women. If you go for self in these moments you undermine the work we are out here trying to do. Obviously this network feels like they can operate like this and it’s okay,” she continued.
Pompeo acknowledged that there have been issues on her own show at rival network ABC.
“Also I feel important to mention our problems on the Greys set and every set has them…some kind of issue …there’s lots of people in a workplace.. point is… exec producers and the NETWORK @abc cared enough to help us make change support is crucial,” she tweeted.
News broke last week that Union and Julianne Hough — who both joined the season 14 AGT judging panel back in February, taking spots vacated by Mel B and Heidi Klum — would not be returning for the show’s 15th season.
On Monday, blog Love B Scott reported Union had allegedly spoken out about “problematic” situations on set before her departure.
A day later, a report by Variety made further allegations, with multiple sources telling the publication that while working on the show, Union had expressed concerns over racially insensitive situations during her time as a judge, including a joke guest judge Jay Leno allegedly made that was later edited out of the episode.
She and Hough, 31, were also both subject to “excessive notes” on their physical appearance, sources alleged in Variety‘s report.
A spokesperson for NBC and production company Fremantle responded to such claims with a statement on Tuesday to PEOPLE, saying: “America’s Got Talent has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show. 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.”
In a statement to Variety, dancer/actress Hough denied that she had a negative experience working on the show.
“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,” said Hough, who is set to star in two upcoming NBC Christmas specials. “I’m looking forward to what the future holds.”
Representatives for Hough, Union, Leno, and Simon Cowell‘s Syco Entertainment, which produces AGT, did not respond to PEOPLE’s requests for comment.
Continuing her tweets on Thursday, Pompeo encouraged her female followers to watch Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston’s new AppleTV+ series The Morning Show — which explores the fallout of newscaster Mitch Kessler’s (Steve Carell) termination for sexual misconduct — instead of Cowell on AGT.
“With that said GIRLS….instead of wack jugglers and messy Simon Cowell watch @ReeseW and Jennifer Anniston in The Morning Show!! Soooo much better,” the Grey’s star said about the show, which mirrors Lauer’s 2017 ousting as well as other allegations against prominent men in the TV and film industry. “Hard to believe these networks are still getting away with this. Our work continues @itsgabrielleu❤️.”
Pompeo concluded, “Oh and Happy Thanksgiving Thankful for all the women out there who refuse to put up with bulls—. ? ? ? ❤️?.”
According to Variety‘s report, during a taping of AGT over the summer, guest judge Leno allegedly made a joke about a painting on the wall that featured Cowell — who serves as a judge and executive producer of AGT — surrounded by his dogs.
Sources on the series told the outlet that Leno allegedly joked the dogs looked like something one would find “on the menu at a Korean restaurant,” alluding to the stereotype that all Asian people eat dog meat.
Multiple people who were on set during the joke, Variety reports, including one Asian staffer, were offended and made uncomfortable by it.
Union also soon learned of the joke and allegedly urged producers to report the joke to NBC’s human resources department in an effort to bring awareness to the problematic issue, three sources told Variety. Despite her push, several insiders told the outlet that it was never addressed by HR. It was eventually cut by producers from the Aug. 6 episode.
In another instance, sources told Variety that Union found herself again speaking up against racial insensitivity when a white male contestant auditioned with an act where he portrayed people of color and impersonated singers through multiple quick costume changes.
During his performance, the man impersonated Beyoncé and, according to Variety‘s sources, emerged with black hands. The audition didn’t sit well with Union, and she allegedly addressed the matter with a segment producer and an executive producer, explaining that the audience should not have to watch something so “racially insensitive.”
After the actress requested that they remove the audition from the show, the producers allegedly told her, “We’ll take it out later.” Like Leno’s dog joke, the contestant’s audition was also reportedly cut from the show.
Variety‘s report went on to describe claims that Union was allegedly told that her ever-changing hairstyles were “too black” for AGT‘s audience, while Hough reportedly received constant criticism on her hair, makeup, and wardrobe.
On Wednesday, Union broke her silence, sending a message to her Twitter followers and thanking them for their support during this difficult time.
“So many tears, so much gratitude,” she tweeted. “THANK YOU! Just when you feel lost, adrift, alone… you got me up off the ground. Humbled and thankful, forever.”
Union also seemingly referenced the ordeal on her Instagram Stories earlier in the day with a video of herself working out alongside husband Dwyane Wade, who publicly supported her in a series of tweets earlier in the day.
“When the world feels like it’s falling apart. Try to find your peace,” she captioned the clip.