It’s well known that Howard Stern spent a fair amount of his shock-jock career running the “ultimate boys’ club” on his radio show, where he rated women’s bodies, talked about the size of their breasts and generally extolled the ideal of the young “hot chick.”
But Stern now speaks of himself as being woke, and is calling out another powerful man in media, Simon Cowell, for running a “boys’ club” at “America’s Got Talent.”
Stern, a former “America’s Got Talent” judge, has accused Cowell, the NBC show’s producer and current judge, of upholding the sexist “hot chick” ideal. Stern furthermore blames Cowell for creating the reported conditions that led to Gabrielle Union being fired as a judge, along with the ensuing controversy.
“How is it that that freak Simon Cowell has orchestrated this?” Stern asked on his SiriusXM show Monday, The Wrap reported. Stern then answered his own question by describing how Cowell created sexist double-standards on the family-oriented talent show.
“He sets it up that the men stay,” Stern said. “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.”
“What he manages to do on all his shows is he constantly replaces the hot chicks with hotter chicks and younger chicks,” Stern continued. “Howie’s (Mandel) doing a fine, serviceable job — why don’t they change him? And why don’t they change Simon? … This is the ultimate example of a boys’ club.”
It was announced on Nov. 22 that Union and another female “AGT” judge, Julianne Hough, would not be returning for next year’s Season 15. Multiple reports described Union’s behind-the-scenes complaints to Cowell and other producers about racism, sexism and other “toxic” workplace issues.
According to reports by Variety and Vulture, Union complained about Cowell smoking indoors, which is illegal in California workplaces, and a remark she deemed to be racist that was made by guest judge Jay Leno during a taping. Leno, the former host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” made a joke about dogs being on the “menu at a Korean restaurant.”
According to Vulture, another clash between Union and the producers involved a 10-year-old black rapper, whom the producers reportedly said was not a performer that “America can get behind.”
In addition to those issues, Variety reported that Union and Hough received constant, or even “excessive,” feedback on their hair, make-up, wardrobe and overall appearance.
The Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists announced Monday that it was looking into the allegations. NBC and Cowell’s production company said in a statement that they had reached out to Union and to her representatives to hear more about her concerns.
“We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture,” the statement said.
Stern never worked with Cowell during his four seasons on “America’s Got Talent.” Cowell replaced him as a judge when Stern left in 2015.
Meanwhile, Stern, 65, has since said in interviews that he is no longer the raunchy shock jock he once was. Fans agree, with some lamented the fact that he has lost “his edge”
When Stern was challenged by Terry Gross on “Fresh Air,” who said he was basically teaching young men how to leer at women, the radio host explained that in his 20s and 30s, he was trying to “celebrate sex.” But he acknowledged that some of the “harsh” ways he talked about women, continuing through the 2000s, now “troubles” him.
“This was my thinking back then: Hey, I am not going to hide what men are thinking. I’m not going to BS the women in my audience. … Let women hear what real guys sound like. … So I thought I was performing a public service. I thought I was like, ‘Hey, guys are jerks and you need to know it!’ But hey, I’m a jerk, too — and I was a jerk.”
Stern added to Gross: “A lot of that stuff I can’t stand now. It’s too harsh. And if I hadn’t changed, if I had become a 65-year-old guy fawning over women, it would have been pathetic and sad, and I would have ended up an oldies act.”