NEW YORK - Before the season even started, “Saturday Night Live” let go one of its newly announced cast members following outrage that he used a racist slur against Chinese people and derided Asians in a 2018 YouTube video.
Shane Gillis was announced as one of the new cast members on Sept. 12 in a tweet from Saturday Night Live’s account. In the thread, dozens of people asked the sketch comedy show to address a video of Gillis referring to a city’s Chinatown as being “nuts” and using a derogatory word for Chinese people.
In a statement, “SNL” said Gillis would not be joining the team.
“We want ‘SNL’ to have a variety of voices and points of view within the show, and we hired Shane on the strength of his talent as a comedian and his impressive audition for ‘SNL,’” a spokesperson on behalf of Lorne Michaels said in a statement to CNN. “We were not aware of his prior remarks that have surfaced over the past few days. The language he used is offensive, hurtful and unacceptable.”
In response to being let go, Gillis issued his own statements on his Twitter account.
“I respect the decision (SNL) made. I’m honestly grateful for the opportunity. I was always a mad tv guy anyways,” he said.
On Sept. 12, Gillis responded to the backlash, saying he would apologize to “anyone who’s actually offended” by his comments.
“I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries. I sometimes miss,” he said. “I’m happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I’ve said. My intention is never to hurt anyone but I am trying to be the best comedian I can be and sometimes that requires risks.”
The clip that surfaced also showed Gillis complain that Chinese restaurants are full of "(expletive) Chinese. ... And the translation between you and the waiter is just such a (expletive) hassle."
Gillis said he's more annoyed by hearing an Asian trying to learn English when he's eating out than by any other "minority" playing music. He characterized that reaction as "nice racism, good racism," adding that whites would be a similar target if they were speaking English "over there," not specifying where he meant.
The other new "SNL" cast members announced are Bowen Yang, who joined the show last season as a staff writer and is co-host of a podcast, "Las Culturistas," and Chloe Fineman,, who's been a regular performer with the Groundlings improv company. She and Gillis were featured as "New Faces" at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal.
"Saturday Night Live" has taken heat over the years for an overall lack of ethnic diversity, with scant Asian representation among its cast members or hosts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.