Gabrielle Union's 'America's Got Talent' Exit Could Be a 'Wake-Up Call' for Simon Cowell, Source Says
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Simon Cowell is dealing with the fallout following Gabrielle Union's exit from America's Got Talent.
After it was announced that Union and fellow judge Julianne Hough would not be returning for the 2020 season of the popular talent show competition, Variety published a report last week claiming that 47-year-old Union had expressed concern about the show's "toxic culture" to NBC's Human Resources department before her ousting. NBC and Fremantle, the production company behind AGT, responded to the report with a statement praising AGT's long history of "inclusivity and diversity," and explaining that its judging lineup is regularly "refreshed." However, Union's husband, Dwyane Wade, later claimed on Twitter that the actress was fired, and since then, a number of stars have publicly shown their support for Union.
While 60-year-old Cowell -- who created AGT in 2006 as part of the global Got Talent franchise -- hasn't personally commented on Union's exit, a source tells ET that his close friends hope the scandal will change his ways.
"Simon created AGT and no one gets in his way, but people close to him are hopeful this is a wake-up call to him and NBC that a change needs to happen," the source says.
The source claims that Cowell has "a long track record of firing mostly women for his own personal reasons or for feeling like they are too old." Aside from Union and Hough, female judges over the show's history have included Brandy Norwood, Sharon Osbourne, Mel B and Heidi Klum. Male judges have included Piers Morgan, Howard Stern, Howie Mandel and Cowell himself.
ET has reached out to Cowell's reps as well as NBC for comment.
Meanwhile, Union's AGT ousting has now sparked a SAG-AFTRA investigation. ET has learned that NBC, Fremantle and Syco are also retaining outside counsel to assist them in learning more about the facts in this matter, starting with hearing from Union, which they expect to happen this week. According to our source, Union is open to working with NBC when it comes to making changes in its workplace culture.
"Although Gabrielle is done with AGT, she wants to work with NBC to help improve the culture surrounding the show and studio," the source says. "Gabrielle has always been an activist and wants to make positive change so nothing like this happens again."
Two former AGT judges have already weighed in on the controversy. On Monday, 65-year-old Stern -- who was on the show from season 7 through 10 -- slammed Cowell on his SiriusXM show.
"He sets it up that the men stay no matter how ugly [the men] are, no matter how old they are, no matter how fat they are, no matter how talentless they are," Stern said, referring to how Cowell casts the show's judges. "What he manages to do on all his shows is he constantly replaces the hot chicks with hotter chicks and younger chicks. Which is so obvious."
Osbourne also weighed in on the controversy during Monday's episode of The Talk and said she had her "own problems" with NBC. Osbourne, 67, was a judge on the show from season 2 through 7.
"It's hard, because everybody's experience on a show is different, and I was at that show for six years," she said. "I didn't get let go. However, I left. And that's the truth. I left because of NBC, not because of the show. However, I had my own problems with the network."
"I don't know about any of [Union's] concerns about the show," she continued. "Obviously, there wasn't anybody of color on the panel when I was there, so I honestly can't say. But when I was there it was, you know, a great show to work on. The crew and everybody was amazing to me, everybody, except the network."
Interestingly enough, back in March, Osbourne claimed on The Talk that she was fired from another of Cowell's shows, The X Factor U.K., because he thought she was "too old."
"I was signed, and I had to go to England, and then Simon Cowell changed his mind and thought I was too old,” she alleged, claiming that the incident caused her to miss out on being one of the judges on Fox's hit, The Masked Singer. "Simon goes, 'She's old. We need somebody young.'"
"So if you want young, fire yourself and get rid of those man t**s," she added.
For the latest on the AGT drama, watch the video below:
Eva Longoria, Ellen Pompeo and More Stars Rally Around Gabrielle Union After 'AGT' Exit
Jay Leno Breaks His Silence After Gabrielle Union's 'AGT' Exit
Gabrielle Union Says 'Support Is Everything' After Celebs Rally Around Her Amid 'AGT' Exit