Just days after Shane Gillis was announced as one of three new cast members on Saturday Night Live, the NBC sketch show fired the stand-up comic after past racial slur use by him was discovered. The controversial footage had been widely available online in podcast videos. At the time, NBC apologized for any deficiencies in their vetting system that allowed for Gillis to be hired in the first place.
At TCA today, NBC Chairman Paul Telegdy was asked about the debacle.
“I think what happened next (after reporters googled Gillis’ name and discovered the video), serves as a learning moment for a lot of people,” he said. “How quickly Lorne (Michaels) acted and subsequently what happened is a testament to how we act as a company.”
He addressed measures NBC is taking to prevent future incidents with proper vetting. “We are always looking to do better,” he said.
Telegdy talked about the “enormously fine line and gray area” between comedians’ right to free speech and “what we should hold them accountable for.”
“We acted fast, Lorne did the right thing, going forward we think we will rightly be accountable,” Telegdy said.
Just hours after Gillis was announced as a new SNL featured player, a 2018 YouTube video surfaced in which he uses a racial slur against Asians. The revelation triggered several days of continuous outcry. The comments on the now-deleted video from a podcast, Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast, were even more jarring since SNL that same day cast its first Asian-American cast member, Bowen Yang. (Gillis, Yang and Chloe Fineman were announced as the new featured players for the upcoming season.)
Subsequently, other questionable comments made by Gillis on other editions of the podcast were unearthed, which made him continuing on SNL even more controversial.