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Jay Leno angers members of Sikh community with Mitt Romney joke

January 24, 2012 | 10:55 am
Jay Leno has members of the Sikh community angered over a joke he made on the "Tonight Show"

Jay Leno: edgy controversy magnet? Enemy of religion?

Maybe the "Tonight Show" host made a New Year's resolution to tick off someone other than fellow talk-show hosts, because it's just a few weeks into 2012 and he's run afoul of a sizable religious community: the Sikhs.

Last week, Leno was doing a bit about the GOP presidential candidates' homes and showed photos of the real-life homes of Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich. But when it came to Mitt Romney, who has a summer home on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, Leno instead showed a photo of Sri Darbar Sahib, the golden temple in Amritsar, India, which is the holiest site in the Sikh religion.

To most (non-Sikh) viewers, the gag was a harmless riff on Romney's immense wealth, but a number of Sikhs were not amused. And now one group has an online petition to formally voice their concern to NBC.

The protesting Sikhs aren't launching the petition based on one joke either. According to them, this isn't the first time Leno has made jokes about the religion: "Previously, in 2007 he called Sikhs 'diaper heads.' In 2010, he remarked, falsely so, in his monologue that President Obama could not visit Sri Darbar Sahib because of requirements of wearing a turban. Clearly, Jay Leno's racist comments need to be stopped right here."

To date, over 3,000 people have signed the online petition, with comments such as: "There's a lot of other things to make fun of in this world. Why he picks something over someone's religion or beliefs. NBC needs to take action against him."

But Leno's troubles don't end there. The BBC reports that Vayalar Ravi, India's minister of overseas Indian affairs, has vowed to take up the complaint with the U.S. State Department, saying, "It is quite unfortunate and quite objectionable that such a comment has been made after showing the Golden Temple."

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-- Patrick Kevin Day

Photo: Jay Leno signs autographs for fans on Hollywood Boulevard. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times

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