Sharon Osbourne weighs in on Gabrielle Union, 'AGT' controversy: 'I left because of NBC'

(Photo: Getty Images)
(Photo: Getty Images)

Sharon Osbourne is speaking out about Gabrielle Union's departure from NBC's America's Got Talent. Osbourne, who served as a judge on the talent competition show from 2007 through 2012, said she had her "own problems" with the network but that she had a positive experience overall.

"It's hard, because everybody's experience on a show is different, and I was at that show for six years," Osbourne explained on Monday's episode of The Talk. "I didn't get let go; however, I left. And that's the truth. And I left because of NBC, not because of the show. However, I had my own problems with the network."

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Osbourne noted that she enjoyed the people she worked with at AGT.

"I don't know about any of her concerns about the show. Obviously, there wasn't anybody of color on the panel when I was there, so I honestly can't say," she added. "But when I was there it was, you know, a great, great show to work on. The crew and everybody were amazing to me — everybody, except the network. I can only speak from my experience."

The Talk co-host concluded by emphasizing, "It was a great show to work on, but everybody's experience is different."

Osbourne has had her own issues working with Simon Cowell but said in October their feud was over. Reports claimed Union was fired after she was perceived as difficult by Cowell and his team of producers for speaking up about workplace concerns.

One incident allegedly involved an inappropriate joke made by Jay Leno that offended some staff members of Asian descent. When Union urged producers to flag the incident to HR, it was never escalated. Union allegedly received notes that her hairstyles were "too black" for the show's audience. She also reportedly ruffled feathers after complaining about Cowell's habit of smoking indoors, which is against California state law.

Howard Stern, who was a judge on AGT for four seasons from 2012 through 2015, didn't hold back when discussing the controversy on his SiriusXM radio show Monday.

"How is it that Simon Cowell has orchestrated this?" he said on The Howard Stern Show. It was announced last month that both Union and Julianne Hough would not return for season 15. They served as judges for only one season.

"He sets it up that the men stay, no matter how ugly they are, no matter how old they are, no matter how fat they are, no matter how talentless they are," Stern continued, later claiming it’s "obvious" that AGT switches out female judges for "hotter chicks and younger chicks."

Union and Hough were brought on last season to replace longtime judges Mel B and Heidi Klum. Howie Mandel is the show's longest-serving judge, having joined in 2010. He will return next year along with Cowell and host Terry Crews.

Cowell's company Syco Entertainment, which produces AGT, released a joint statement with NBC and production company Fremantle over the weekend.

"We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture," the statement read. "We are working with Ms. Union through her representatives to hear more about her concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps may be appropriate."

A source told Entertainment Tonight that although Union is "done with AGT," she hopes to "work with NBC to help improve the culture surrounding the show and studio."

"Gabrielle has always been an activist and wants to make positive change so nothing like this happens again," the source added.

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